Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Recruitment: None of HR's Business.

Ever participated in an online chat with a group of like minded professionals? (No, I don’t mean that sort of chat, thank you very much. None of that in these hallowed surroundings)

I mean one where a group of individuals get together to thrash out an issue together, generally for an agreed period of time, and with contributions from just about anyone with an opinion.

Let me tell you what happens when people get together (like last night) to discuss the issue of recruitment.

Normally the debate is chaired by someone with a vested interest in the issue being discussed. So you think you’re involved in an open debate, whereas in reality it’s a thinly disguised marketing activity on behalf of the person chairing the debate. (Sorry Bill . . .)

Next thing that you’ll notice is that the issue up for debate will be totally non-controversial. Something along the lines of “Has recruitment got anything at all to do with HR, or wouldn’t it really be better to hand it all over to us guys in the recruitment industry”.

Nothing at all contentious there then.

You will by this stage also have noticed that the assembled multitudes are predominantly from the recruitment profession, who hover like vultures around the (perceived, in their view) expiring body of the HR community. The reason for this is pretty simple. Recruiters use social media and, incidentally, think that anyone who doesn’t use it is sinful, wicked, out of touch, misguided, demented, and generally a bad sort. HR professionals on the other hand, generally are not such big fans of social media. So it's not so much a debate as a slagging off of HR without them being there to add their tuppenceworth.

The debate will normally commence with a few of the recruiters making carefully considered arguments about the relative merits of differing strategic HR models, citing various luminaries such as Ulrich, Legge, Tyson and Storey. Actually, I’m lying here, as most of the guys in the recruitment camp have never heard of any of these theorists, mainly as they have zero experience of working in HR, so they wouldn’t understand a well thought-out HR strategy if it bit them on the leg.

The contribution of the recruiters is more likely to be along the lines of, “I’m not sure what HR is all about, and as far as I’m concerned, they can do away with it.” They also seem to have the view that the main function of HR is to slow things down and provide tortuous advice on employment law. “Less input from HR is always good, as they only ever slow the process down” is the sort of comment that is thrown into the mix. Basically it’s the same sort of twaddle that you hear from The Man In The Pub on a Friday night.

Let’s throw in a question at this stage (HR Professionals only!) Have you even consciously slowed managers down in their endeavours to recruit?

If you’re lucky, you’ll get one of the big guns from the recruitment industry making a profound (i.e. HR Case Studies code for “utter nonsense!”) comment such as, “of course recruiting isn't an HR function, it a business delivery function.” This is the sort of statement that makes you wonder where you lost the plot in the world of HR, especially if you are an HR generalist who is seen by those who you work alongside as crucial to the provision of a comprehensive HR service including employee relations, learning and development, performance management and (Whoops! Nearly forgot! Recruitment)

The saddest thing about all this is that the guys who really matter are not even involved in the debate. I’m talking about the managers who are calling for a joined up recruitment service provided by someone who understands their business and can partner with them to acquire the necessary talent to make the business plan a reality.

If there are any of you managers out there, you’re views are more than welcome.


  1. Ha - well observed Graham - I see you didn't have a stab at the people involved in this chat who were straggling both sides of the fence as this is what they have done professionally!

    I agree - the people who weren't in the conversation need to be but please HR stop whining and stop with your recruitment snobbery - most recruitment detractors in HR are the people that don't get it or want to "lower" themselves to understand it - their perception of recruitment is the Arthur Daly style wide boy from Essex in a cheap suit trying to flog you a Telesales bod!

    I have a family member who is a senior HR person who just doesn't see it being anything to do with her - I always argue if you do it "right" at the start then the problems you spend most of your time dealing with ie performance, engagement,retention will be lessened - but hey what do I know?!

  2. Am I missing something here? Isn’t Recruitment a specialism within the diverse and wonderful discipline that is Human Resources (think there might be a rather large clue in the title). In my experience, within an organisation, the recruitment team does function in the way you propose – very much in partnership with the business.

    The issue seems to be when you step outside and enter the world of the Recruiter – as that is all that a lot of them seem to be. Throw enough candidates at a vacancy and hopefully some will stick, take the fee then onto the next campaign. It’s not about longer term attraction strategies or successful onboarding experiences but purely about bums on seats and money in the bank.

    So let them have a moan about the world, we all do it, it’s good for the soul. But just remember they are only tinkering round the edges of what HR would call recruitment!


  3. Excellent Post Graham and Brilliant Comment from Anon. Not much more that can be added to that, really says it all.

    Point of order on terminology
    Agency = faux sales person
    In-house Recruiter = Recruiter (further qualified herein)
    HR = HR (nothing to do with recruitment)

    In my experience HR Generalists don’t tend to think the same as the in-house Recruiting teams and typically lack the interest skills, time and support to do the job properly and therefore rely on the use of agencies that would rather that they didn’t get involved.

    Unfortunately companies that recognise that it is a specialised process that needs to be managed to ensure quality of hire and enhancement of the candidates and employer brand seem top generally forget to invest in Recruiting properly and it is given to the HR Dept for one reason or another. Most then think it is easy and thus don’t take it seriously giving it the respect it needs. It is the HR departments that want to take control but don’t know what they have to actually do with the responsibility that hinder a process and potentially do more harm than good. Those that do take it seriously invest in specialist teams. However that doesn’t guarantee a quality delivery model.

    From personal experience I have come to understand and have said on a number of occasions that companies with in house recruiters are the tip of the iceberg in the corporate space; those companies that have sophisticated In-house teams are the pinnacle of the tip of the iceberg. This leaves a wide range of competencies, abilities and trust within the whole business structure. However they are generally clubbed together much like agencies are but certainly not with the same poison stigma attached to them.

    I am sure that the views; agency, HR and In-house recruiters have of each other differ through the pillar of sophistication. They have their place and they have their value to the business which again differs by magnitude to the expectations set and respect given to each. In a sophisticated environment HR are somewhat irrelevant and don’t tend to add any value to the recruiting process. The Recruiters own the entire recruitment lifecycle from TDP to after start employee engagement. In these same teams IF agencies are needed at all it is a measured decision and managed within strict guidelines and SLAs based on a considered case by case business decision and not for convenience.

    It is at the low end of the sophistication pillar where the challenges occur. Agencies are used as a convenient source of CV’s, unsophisticated to the point that anyone can engage with them; hiring managers, HR generalist or dedicated members of a recruiting team that act as CV administrators, none deliberately adding any real value to the company and its business model.

    Graham rightly pointed out that the people that really matter were not represented, i.e. the hiring manager community. Not quite true. The candidate is the most important element in the whole discussion or business process. But that is another comment on another day. Not sure the value of having a hiring manager in the discussion, very few of them know how to recruit. All will tell you they know how to recruit or interview. Why not? They were candidates once and all know the best agencies. I have only ever met one hiring manager who has proven me his is the case. Most would just call an agency and take what was sold to them in the shortest amount of time. However the point is well made that they would prefer to work with a Recruitment team or an individual who has a level of business acumen and can add value when planning and delivering, someone who understands the challenges as well as the influences in the market at any time.

    Don’t even get me started on HRBPs who think they can recruit.

    Enough said I think

    Oh thanks for thinking I'm of the Big Guns and quoting my tweet.

  4. Graham

    "Recruiters use social media" - no they don't. Consultants offering services to recruitment use social media. Most agency side recruiters think social media refers to the output from a left wing publisher.

    "HR professionals on the other hand, generally are not such big fans of social media." - correct.

    Resourcing is simply part of the wider people agenda, which sits with HR. In larger companies, the specialisms are afforded specialists - not only in recruitment but also in reward, OD, LD, ER etc etc. In smaller organisations generalists tend to do it all.

    HR people are not stupid. some can do these specialist tasks when necessary. some cant. Some recruiters can recruit. some cant.

    Most HR critics have never worked in an organisation big enough to understand the full quota of an HR function responsibilities.

    Lisa's comment about HR professionals seeing recruiters as "recruitment is the Arthur Daly style wide boy from Essex in a cheap suit trying to flog you a Telesales bod!" is absolutely true because an awful lot of agency recruiters are indeed Arthur Daly types trying to flog you something.

    Competency aside, HR types dont have a good opinion of recruiters because recruiters have treated them with contempt for years and years instead of respecting their role in the organisation. On top of that the quality of service has been so poor that tolerance levels have been breached.

    The recruitment industry has shot itself in the foot and only has itself to blame for its demise.

  5. Your all being incredibly general,for what ever reason your over looking the finer details of a well run - proactive and successful organization (its a cle-shay ) but time is money, - in business you get the bold - full of ideas decisiveness confidence and drive, they like things to happen quickly so they can get on to the next project..they make money, then you get your expressive's, feelings on the sleeve,they show their emotion, they tend to be fun and good sales people,also not obsessed with bureaucracy,time and unnecessary pedantic detail. - 3rdly we have your steadies, their often boring - there clever,they can argue asses and manage allot of problems calmly and competently , they grind hard in administration, they are the lubrication in the engine of a well run business, they tent to be patient loyal,compassionate,they worry they look after their the groundsman of a company. they make things easer for the 1st two kinds of people -that is their job,if the 1st two are not happy, positive,ambitious and acomidaited with business proceedings ..and left to do what they do best,a job that requiers some balls, business slows down, the company makes less money - that isn't an option . ever .

    Finally we have our technical people, accountants and analysts, mathematicians,IT guys - they have their obvious jobs - rarely complain,when they do it's bloody well thought out, and completely genuine - or... they fix it themselves... and if your company has squabbles like I'm reading, either your markets shit,your feeling competitive pressure, or your CEO's impotent or lost his mind, it means your organizations lost focus - many things can contribute to this. Some of the rubbish and unnecessary thoughts wasted in which I've read on this page I just happen to of stumbled upon this morning,makes me think your not cut out to do business - my advice, quit your day job and work with some of your own demographic,become a child minder - because you don't have the ability to see a broad picture - Arthur Daley types,anyone who comments on someone's manner in the way Graham chose to is a moron who cant see past the lens of his glasses let alone the tip of his nose - do you know where sales resistance comes from people ???? insecurity - if your HR manager asks if its a sales call every single time someone tells he/she that somebody wants to speak to them on the phone... it means their frightened, intimidated and lack self belief, they get worried they might get tricked - into buying something so you'd rather bubble your self - so don't you ever criticize a.. ''wide boy'' because he/she will have more balls then in the foam pit they used to have at my local McDonalds - and you wish you had what they had... and they don't envy you in any shape or form. so you'd rather shun them online.. because they have character and you have safety.. ironically it shows ''who got the better deal'' when god was flogging personalities -

    good day, and Graham if you had spent more time with your friends,meeting as many new people as you could have, learning how to laugh and be funny - frankly you'd be a richer man today