Talent Acquisition: Earning a Seat at the Table

ThinkstockPhotos-462411043As resourceful as talent acquisition (TA) is to a company, you have to prove your value and that of TA before you can even consider fraternizing with the big wigs. You can no longer think of yourself and your team as just doers, but as leaders. In environments where TA is a supplier of updates on tasks or executing on initiatives that others create, you have to understand the larger picture and ask yourself these questions:

How does talent acquisition fit into the company’s strategy? How will decisions made by other lines of business affect talent acquisition? What can we do to impact other business units’ success? What are the risks associated with not voicing concerns in a quantifiable and impactful way?

In order to get to the root of this and start setting your place among your peers or higher ranking business leaders, you need to start by acknowledging why Talent Acquisition has not been at the table in the past. If you are in an environment where you have been with a company for a while and TA is an afterthought or only called upon as needed, getting included in these conversations now will take more time but it can be done. Here is how:

  • Know your business: Some people will say “TA is TA is TA” — well that is true to an extent. But, having the right talent at the right time in an apparel company in the design area versus a call center will affect a company’s revenue differently. As leaders, we need to understand what our business does, the seasonality of the work, changes in demand or sales, areas of opportunity and long-term plans. If you focus only on the work that TA has at any given moment you will never get out of the rut of being considered a transactional business area.

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  • Understand how you or your business area relates to the overall business strategy: Ensuring proper placement of employees within the company based on individual strengths is critical to the success of most rollouts. Planning for these hires is critical. With the right insight and tools, successful hiring strategies can easily help various areas of the business. One way to make an impact is to work with finance to appropriately forecast costs associated with the hiring process. Accounting for larger expenses like relocation for executives, adequately calculating when payroll costs will start for a new hire, and appropriately forecasting expenses associated with bringing someone on board will get the CFO on your side VERY quickly. Talent Acquisition activity is very measurable.
  • Listen:  One of the best pieces of advice for earning your seat at the table is to listen, then think, then speak. Make sure you are carefully taking into consideration all of the stakeholders’ points of view before formulating your response. It is natural to think of “how will this affect me or my team” and offer knee-jerk reactive comments but the more you listen, the better you will get at understanding why decisions are made or why certain actions are taking place. The more you do this, the better you get at identifying motivators.
  • Contribute: You need to contribute in order to make an impact. Ensure that what you provide to others is worth listening to. Before speaking ask yourself “how is what I am about to provide going to impact the people in this room (or on this email)?”
  • Identify and practice appropriately articulating risk(s): The worst thing you can do is just shoot down someone else’s idea without respectfully acknowledging their input first. A simple “I see what you are saying, but…” can often diffuse  resistance to what you are about to say, but be sure what comes next provides an alternate solution. When countering strategies, plans or ideas, be sure to include risk avoidance strategy information as well. Do not leave the conversation with “we tried that and it didn’t work” or “no, you are wrong.” You want to be sure to identify the risk and provide a solution to overcome it or an alternative in a way that does not condescend or rudely respond to someone else’s concept. Be solutions oriented and make them part of your solution as well.
  • Collaborate: Many hands make light work, right? When you learn how to work well with other leaders in the organization you are setting a precedence for your ability as a leader. You can start the process by working with one leader, like the Finance executive above, then as your reputation (and confidence) grows you will be able to work easily with other leaders on new initiatives and projects.
  • Learn: Remaining humble and learning from mistakes goes a long way. When we accept accountability and apply learnings we are able to approach our next endeavors much more prepared. By being honest with ourselves about results and their impact we can make the next experiences even better than the ones before.

This is just the beginning. A new corporate recruiting model is required to optimize recruiting performance. Senior managers outside of HR are increasing attention to talent and its importance in driving superior business practices, but it’s your job to prove it.

Sometimes we have to start with smaller wins and work our way up to the board room. By remaining curious in our approach to how things are done, why we do them, what we can improve on and who we can partner with to make an impact, there will always be room for you at the table.

Katie Calhoun

Katie Calhoun
from Katie Calhoun, Director, Client Services, at Seven Step RPO.

Katie Calhoun

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