Talent acquisition today: what about strategy?

Anthony Haynes writes: On 26 September we showcased Angela Cripps’ series of posts on the question of key competencies for recruitment consultants. And on 3 October we reviewed her list, adding suggestions of our own. Here we explore one of our suggestions more fully, namely strategy.

In our experience at FJWilson, strategy is a source of strength in talent acquisition.

Admittedly, ‘strategy’ is difficult to define. We think of it as something like a pattern — the thing that makes the whole add up to more than the sum of the parts.

For a growing business, it’s always tempting to follow leads wherever they may arise. For anyone with a sales mentality, that’s a natural thing to do. But it’s also dangerous — because if you do follow leads regardless of where they arise, one ends up with a scatter-gun business in which sales never come to form any kind of pattern. The result is dissipation of energy — the whole ends up as less than the sum of the parts.

If the scatter-gun approach could be called the ‘gatherer’ approach (like plucking nuts or berries wherever one happens upon them), our own ideal could be called the ‘farming’ approach. We decide what we’re going to grow in our fields, as it were, and devote our energy to tending them to increase the yield — to everyone’s benefit.

Our business has two well established fields: membership organisations and training providers (though the ‘field’ metaphor breaks down, since they overlap in a way that physical fields cannot!).

Pursuing a strategy requires discipline. To help maintain that discipline we use other successful, longer-established businesses as beacons to follow For example, we’ve posted before (Apr 3) about the example of SML as told, inspiringly, by Simona Sikimic. Sophie Macpherson, the founder of SML, set out to plough the field of recruitment in arts world and has stuck to her strategy with evident success.

In our experience, implementing a strategy in talent acquisition requires two kinds of operation:

1. declining a sales opportunity;

2. exiting from markets that don’t fit the strategy.

Though both feel  counter-intuitive at the time (‘Aren’t we just walking from a sale?”), in every case we’ve found such decisions a source of strength in the long run. Making disciplined decisions on a strategic basis is, we suggest, both a sign and source of confidence.

The benefits of developing a strategy seem to accrue quite naturally. You come to know a market, not merely in some objective sense — how many players, how many employees, average salary levels etc. — but also intuitively, developing a sixth sense for employers’ needs, candidates’ strengths, and the culture that they share.

We’d love to hear of other perceptions of strategy in talent acquisition — in particular, how all this looks from an employer’s perspective…

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