The hirer’s dilemma

Kamal Karanth | Updated on: Jul 31, 2022
Recruiters scramble to match organisations’ talent needs

Recruiters scramble to match organisations’ talent needs

Should one poach top talent or make do with willing job-seekers?

“Where on earth did we hire these guys from?,” fumed our CEO after addressing a batch of new joiners. He called the CHRO and asked if he had attended any recent inductions. The CHRO, in turn, dialled the Talent Acquisition (TA) head and asked her to email the profiles of the latest hires. The TA head quickly asked her team to compile the Job Descriptions (JDs) and the new joiners’ profiles to ensure they had not gone off track during the recruitment process.

There are a million hurdles between a CEO's vision of talent and the hiring manager's reality. An organisation's strategic talent needs are often lost in myriad processes and hierarchies. The result is that most end up hiring for a short term.

Let us face it, most CEOs probably are not even aware of their organisations’ hiring playbook. It’s only when they meet new recruits that they begin to judge the processes and figure out out that their TA team is struggling with the harsh realities of matching their organisation’s budget with hard-to-find skills at speed and scale.

The last mile challenge

“Do you want me to stay within my budget for this year or hire for the long term? I am looking for people who can join me immediately," my line manager said, when I complained about his quality of hires. His logic was that in an era of shorter tenures, he would hire people who could join immediately rather than ponder over the long-term capability needs of the organisation.

Every enterprise has lofty ambitions while it strategises on its talent road map, but the execution has its bumps as it passes through every department with a transmission loss. At the unit level, the team managers struggle with budgets and the availability of matching talent at the right time. With each passing day, the desperation to fill a vacancy replaces the need for a clear fit with a near fit.

Take, for example, a global organisation setting up its new engineering centre in India. First, it gets reports from top consulting companies on which city the centre should be based in. Despite data showing otherwise, there are occasions when the decision on location is taken based on the domicile of the new country head. Would you blame the TA team if it struggles to hire hundreds of automotive R&D engineers in towns like Trivandrum or Ahmedabad?

The price

Every enterprise sets its financial boundaries before it sets on a talent acquisition journey, but some miss the woods for the trees. So, they start with a Request For Proposal (RFP) process which has specific pre-determined budgets. The purpose of RFPs is to do a fair evaluation of the price and capability of talent suppliers. However, most RFPs only connect with talent partners whom they already know. Imagine an enterprise setting up an analytics Center of Excellence (COE) for the first time in India and not spending substantial time on finding the top five recruiting partners for analytics talent. Eventually, the decision on who they partner with will be based on familiarity with the key influencers of the hiring enterprise and, of course, the one who offers the lowest of prices.

Picture this, global enterprises offshore their COE thousands of miles away from their HQ because they get a 70 per cent labour arbitrage, diversity and scale of talent in India. But they will end up concentrating their risks based on just price and a few past relationships of their local managers. When one hires talent at scale like some of the new tech centres in India do, they also set the cultural foundation for the long run. The year one focus is on demonstrating that India can hire faster in scale thereby reinforcing the global boss's decision to set up the COE in India. This initial rush leads to the real 'price' being paid in subsequent years when culture, attrition, and productivity becomes a bane for the successors.

The process

How many of us can correctly predict how soon we can make an offer after getting a suitable CV? Some organisations do have measurable turnaround times and match up to their promises. However, it's a norm to postpone interviews and elongate the process citing travel, holidays, and client meetings. Every day of postponement robs you of the best talent one can hire. After all, top talent is always courted by multiple employers. The more seamless the CV-to-offer experience becomes, the better the chances of attracting the best talent. But the decision chain of recruiters and HR is long and bureaucratic. On the other hand, we find some enterprises cutting short their own hiring processes and offering higher compensation to candidates who their competitors have made an offer to. The trending phrase in hiring for the last year has been "can we interview ready-to-join candidates, can you find candidates who are serving notice"?

I, me or the organisation

Despite all the imperfections in the people and processes of enterprises, over a million people have been hired by tech organisations in the last 12 months. So, something must be working in terms of speed and scale. Whether the enterprises hired the right talent time will tell. But it begs the question –should we invest time in hiring top talent who are difficult to lure or make do with job seekers who are on the move and hence can be hired quickly? The trouble with the latter approach is we could be staring at people who will pack their bags soon.

Kamal Karanth is co-founder of Xpheno, a specialist staffing firm

Published on July 31, 2022
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