Recruitment isn’t always the answer
We often tell clients that there are more ways of resolving issues than simply throwing people at them. But what do we mean by this?
Since we’re a recruitment company, the majority of enquiries we receive are ‘find us a person who does x’ or ‘find us a person with experience in y’ – as you might expect.
This doesn’t seem unreasonable. Yet, if you take a step back, this does raise questions.
First, the need for a person often isn’t the resource issue. The resource issue is ‘something needs to get done‘ and the person is actually the perceived solution. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that ‘this needs doing, therefore we need x’ or ‘x is leaving, we need to replace them with another x’.
Second, it’s often that the default position is to recruit externally, especially if there isn’t an obvious replacement in the same (or a similar) role.
Finally, the need is often driven by time – most companies recruit at the point when they need someone (or later), they don’t typically recruit in advance. Recruitment is usually reactive.
There’s nothing especially wrong with doing things in the above way, but there is a far more effective approach – once you cease to believe that ‘the hire is the fix’.
If we proceed from a different set of assumptions, we can open up a different way of looking at resource issues:
- The resource issue may not need a new employee or contractor - it could be solved in a different way.
- If you choose to recruit, you may already employ the ideal candidate – you just don’t know it.
- If you recruit proactively, it can save you money.
So, let’s look at different ways of solving resource issues.
It may be that someone within your organisation has some of the skills but not all of them. If this is the case, then it may be cost-effective to provide some intensive training (internal or external), fill the role as a secondment for someone and then place them back again. Or, if the role is to be a longer term one, the training would reflect this and the move might be permanent. That does create the knock-on effect of needing to backfill the lower role, but this typically costs less and is easier.
It’s also important to note that there is a real cost to the time taken for new recruits to learn the ropes – that ‘know-how’ a long-term employee has is something that takes almost as many years to replace. So it can be very astute to recruit one role from within and a less specialist role from without. This also has another brilliant knock-on effect – you widen the career opportunities available within your company, reducing the need for people to leave in order to progress their careers.
It can also reduce costs by hiring in advance. The temptation is often to hire at the last minute – this seems like it saves money. But people simply aren’t productive immediately. Hiring in advance allows the person to be in the role earlier, learning the ropes and then hitting the ground running when the project starts.
The key thing with hiring proactively is to be able to assess the ‘forward load’ – the skills you need in the future. Some organisations do this well, some do it less well and some don’t do it at all. Where it is done, it tends to be done on a ‘per location’ basis – as is a lot of recruitment activity.
Assessing the forward load across the whole organisation, especially if you are multi-sited, enables something really smart to happen – it’s possible to move people around as requirements shift, without having to hire at all. Or perhaps hiring at a lower level and keeping many of your specialists mobile.
Of course, this requires something else to happen across the whole organisation – there needs to be an accurate picture of the people and their skills. If you don’t have that information, then it’s impossible to flex your workforce intelligently. But, armed with that information – and an accurate forward load analysis - it’s possible to utilise the spare capacity that most organisations don’t realise they have. To have your cake and eat it.
Working ahead of the curve, rather than behind it, can cut costs enormously – while simultaneously enabling you to deploy your resources far more efficiently. Who wouldn’t want that?