The panel by Peter Gold

It has been a few days since #MBuzz, hosted by Monster. I like the format of this event. It is half conference (the Q & A part anyway), and half unconference, in that anyone can talk and give an opinion. The plus side of this is that the discussion will take a few twists and turns, with points coming up that wouldn’t have in a conference format. The downside to having a panel facing an audience is that the panel are the focus of attention is always on the panel, and if much of the audience holds an opposing viewpoint it can get a bit hostile. A bit them versus us. The benefit of the unconference format is that the conversation can move from one person to the other, and no one person is on the receiving end of all the attention. The audience on Thursday evening was mostly agency recruiters, where as the panel was made up of some senior talent acquisition professionals. I thought the event raised some very important questions that highlight some of the challenges businesses face right now around the area of turfism.
Turfism is destructive in business, but it is easy to see how the current economic climate has created a situation where everyone wants to protect their position and their worth, and to fight off what they see as insurgency from other departments.

Agency recruiters have always had a tenuous relationship with HR departments with mutual distrust on both sides. The reasoning behind this is that HR departments have been set up to be the bastion of hiring activity, and to “protect” the line from making deals outside of the agreements the organisation has asked them to set up by way of PSL’s. As a trainer, I taught recruiters to try to avoid HR and always talk direct to the hiring manager wherever possible. The HR department was seen as the “enemies” to recruiters doing business. At the same time as spreading this gospel through training, I also wore an HR hat in the business, and my job was to manage the agreements (at a fixed fee) with the Rec to Rec agencies, and to make sure that the branches did not fix their own deals.

The majority of in-house recruiters start life as agency recruiters. In the UK, internal sourcing is a new function set up over the last year or so. The switch

One of the panel, Rob Jones, made an excellent point in his summing up, which I think gets to the heart of the conflict. The function of HR in an organisation is greatly misunderstood. The perception of HR as an admin dept whose purpose is to stop rather than enable is a very dated one. My view is that every aspect of human involvement in a business falls under the HR remit. I don’t see recruiting being any different to learning and development, performance management or any of the “people” aspects of the business. Recruiters are responsible for introducing people, and that has to be central to human resources, not separate. There is no reason why someone from the recruiting team can’t lead the whole human resource effort, or from any other arm of human resources, learning and development, payroll or legal. Business needs the best leaders in the business to lead, rather than dividing functions. One business, one vision, one purpose. I know plenty of people who work in HR functions. None of them could ever be described as cardigan wearing administrators, and a lot more specialists, expert in one discipline of HR.

My take away from #MBuzz is that there is too much turfism in organisations, rather than shared vision. The view was raised that perhaps recruiting should be a part of the marketing team, because recruiting has more or less become marketing, and recruiters should be working to  similar metrics for talent attraction and conversion to hires as marketing work to for customer attraction and conversion. There is also the argument that candidates should be treated like customers, and marketing know best how to deal with customers.

The counter argument is that recruiting is all about sales, particularly when the recruiting team is taking a direct sourcing approach. There is plenty of prospecting, qualifying, closing and converting. The sales funnel is similar to the hiring funnel, could it be that recruiting should sit within the sales team?

And so it goes on. Recruiting seems to be a homeless department at the moment, not wanting to be seen as a function of HR, but not being placed anywhere else in the organisation either. My view is that recruiting is an HR function, much the same as learning and development and other HR functions, because recruiting is ultimately about people, and the people in the organisation are the realm of the HR department.

The question that seemed to ruffle the most feathers was if HR and Recruiting required a whole different DNA. My answer to this is that all the different parts that make up the HR team have a different DNA. The payroll people need different skills and qualities to learning and development, to compensation and benefits, to an HR generalist, and yes, to recruiting. They all share one common thread though, the support of the people in the business from entry to exit, and it is this that gives them shared purpose in the organisation.

The last thoughts I had before leaving #MBuzz was that in fighting between departments and teams over who lives together is counter productive and destructive to the organisation. Better to get a bit of unity and focus on beating the competition to the best talent, taking the best from HR, Sales, Marketing and all of the business. One company, one direction and one objective. People are the essential ingredient, and from hire to exit they come under the remit of the HR dept in all its guises, including recruiting.

#MBuzz was a great event for posing plenty of questions that needed a bit of thinking time, which is why I enjoy them. The panels are the catalyst for the conversation that lights the touch-paper. My personal thanks and respect go to Rob Jones from Mastersorbust blog, Donna Miller from Enterprise, Charu Malhorta from Unilever, and Simon Boulcott  from AIB, who formed the panel and sat in the firing line. I thought you all did a great job. Thanks also to David Henry of Monster and Keith Robinson of E-com for hosting. I look forward to next months question.

Bill