The Talent Warehouse Mentality – How Commoditizing the Recruiting Process Can Sacrifice Professional Quality

Picture of Richard Smith
Richard Smith

As a business seeks to expand its brand and increase shareholder value, the development and execution of a new or updated organizational strategy comes into sharp focus for many of its senior leadership. Countless man-hours are devoted to an analysis of past performance and future opportunities in the form of consultants and financial number crunching. The business is moving forward, and the executives typically want to progress quickly.

During this time of transition, many human capital aspects are overlooked or not considered to the depth that is required. Internal communication protocols, accountability summaries, re-org charts are all important to the execution of that organizational strategy. It’s no surprise that companies often lose up to 20 percent of its talent to voluntary and involuntary attrition because of widespread changes made quickly and wrapped in a sea of uncertainty.

During my time as an external consultant and operational executive, I have seen a recurring challenge that organization’s struggle with that often derails or delays their success. I call this the “Talent Warehouse Mentality” where the focus of talent acquisition is placed on the speed of getting people in the door over the quality of those particular professionals.

Here’s what I’m hearing:

  • We should engage a firm with a reputation in the functional area where we need an executive. This way we can find the person faster.
  • Why can’t we fill this position in less than the three months you indicated is necessary? Aren’t there qualified people easily available for this role?
  • We must meet this deadline in placing these positions. The business won’t wait for us!
  • Is this interview guide really necessary?
  • Who wouldn’t want this opportunity with my company, especially since unemployment is so high?
  • Will this person fit into our company culture quickly?

The underlying thought here is you can go to the “Talent Warehouse,” find a top-qualified candidate and have them start right away (within a month) and add value to the company. This just isn’t generally the case unless both you and the candidate are in the right place at the right time. If you find yourself and your hiring managers going down this path of “speed first” recruiting, here are a few ways to positively influence your company’s approach to talent acquisition.

  • Define the organizational talent gap; skill set requirements and needs/wants assessments for each position.
  • Use a competency-based approach to hiring that will make it easier to develop a well-defined job description and interview questions.
  • Develop a consistent and repeatable interview process for your interview teams that include the hiring manager and any key peers.
  • When using personality and skills assessments, don’t weigh them more heavily than any other part of your process. Assessments should be an input equal to all others.
  • Do not impose time limits to filling the position; that can take the focus off of hiring the right person and place the focus on making a deadline.
  • When using outside search services, find a professional who employs a consultative approach to search whereby finding the right person is equal in importance to finding the right fit.
  • When selecting your hire, don’t make an offer before you are ready. BE ABSOLUTELY SURE.
  • Don’t value internal talent more highly than external talent. Hire the best person who can move the company strategy forward.

Culture Fit is an area that I want to break out separately. Fit is the reason I have heard most often as the reason that an organization hires or doesn’t hire someone: “They just fit better.” “I don’t see their personality fitting here.”  I would offer my strongest caution here. I am not advocating you hire someone who is clearly the polar opposite of what you’re looking for in an employee, but I am saying that different is good. Different because your business demands it. Different because what got you where you are now, won’t get you to where you want to go tomorrow. More of the same doesn’t incite creativity, innovation and conflict (the good kind).

When faced with the pivotal moment of pondering culture fit, think not about what won’t work but how this possibly can work. Are there ways that HR can assist with integration? Will leadership support the diversity of thought this person brings and assist others in seeing the value they offer?

Talent doesn’t exist in a warehouse, a commoditized item to be picked off a shelf, and your approach to hiring should reflect this reality. Organizations that engage talent as a key element of a successful business strategy will have better long-term performance. Take the time you need to hire that right professional. Fill in with high level temporary help, or whatever you need to do to give you some breathing room. You’ll be glad you did.

© Benton+Bradford Consulting