Recruit. Develop. Retain. These key human capital activities are most often thought of as linear and time sequential: First we recruit, then we develop, and finally we retain.
But that’s not the whole story. The business outcomes tied to these activities usually are in separate departments with separate authority and responsibilities. We must objectively consider the organizational structures in a networked world that is becoming increasingly nonlinear.
These issues are not about technology. They are about organizational design and culture. Organizations struggle when challenged by their leaders — or, more fundamentally, by their markets — to break with the past. It is both difficult and risky to advocate the restructuring of authority and responsibility, especially when it’s one’s own authority and responsibility being put under the microscope.
Let’s look at a case study. One major corporation I know of is asking itself: “What does it mean for business outcomes if we substitute development for recruiting?” Before we can answer this question, we first must look at the elements involved in recruiting.
A typical external job posting for a leadership position might read: “Required: bachelor’s degree with three to five years of experience.” In fact, the leadership of the particular company in question requires that at least half of those recruited hold a bachelor’s degree.
However, as baby boomers retire, this group of candidates is becoming increasingly small, with competitors attempting to mine the same pool. It’s at this point that other parts of the organization might begin to wonder: Why don’t we shift at least a part of the salary monies being spent for college graduates to educate highly motivated employees without college degrees?
There are several roadblocks stopping this organization and most others from doing just that. First, the company must compare the business outcomes of recruiting versus developing. Such an experiment would involve at least several hundred individuals randomly selected from both populations: the recruiting pool and the development pool. The measured data then must be compared using rigorous statistical techniques of multivariable analysis. Such analytic skills are hard to come by within typical recruiting and development functions. Also, such an experiment would require the recruiting branch to agree to shift some funds from its budget to help fund the research.
Perhaps the greatest barrier, however, is the fact that success in this experiment likely would mean reallocating some of the recruiting budget to development. This is not likely in most corporate cultures: The silos rule.
There’s another nonlinear aspect involved in the recruiting versus development issue that is worth noting. It’s related to the current health care debate.
Until recently, many of us had lost sight of the reason why the health care benefit — and its sister, tuition assistance — were implemented in the first place. The bottom line is both benefits were originally created as recruiting tools: They were cost-effective ways to attract and retain high-quality talent in lieu of paying more in salary. Today, part of the debate is over whether companies can afford the health care benefit in the face of exploding health care costs. While tuition assistance is not being subjected to the same extent of scrutiny, it is being questioned.
The idea I’d like to leave you with is to consider the nonlinear relationship between recruitment and development within an organization. These functions represent a continuum, not a straight shot in time or impact. Further, development is key for both ends of this continuum.
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