There is an old story I heard once that relates perfectly to TA leadership. It’s of a young farmhand looking for work.
During the interview the would-be farmhand was asked, “Why should I hire you to work on this farm?” The prospective farm hand answered, “I can sleep when the wind blows.” The farmer not fully understanding the answer but in need of help and impressed by the confidence offered the job.
It is a favorite of mine because it’s really about recruiting, well, it’s not but it has recruiting in it. There is a labor shortage you see, and hiring managers must get flexible. Wait, that wasn’t the analogy I was going for here, but admittedly, it kind of works.
A few nights after the young farmhand was hired, a storm rolled in. The farmhand was expected to secure all of the doors with rope so they wouldn’t blow open and allow the animals to escape due to fear.
When the owner of the farm went to the barn, he found the barn doors had already been tied shut. The farm hand slept through the night.
So what does this have to do with talent acquisition and TA leadership? Everything. The one constant in talent acquisition is change. So how do we build solid and consistently high producing teams when the only thing that is constant is change.
The answer: we create our own good habits, stability and culture.
As a TA leader here are some habits I suggest you adopt so when the storms come, and they will, you won’t lose your sleep over it.
The first thing you want to do is to let your partners know you trust them. You trust their work and judgement. If you are in TA leadership, it is the most important thing you can do, in my opinion. Start the relationship by telling your team and your partners you trust them. In leadership, I give the following as an example of the type of relationship I am trying to establish.
For our team, we take turns giving Ted Talk-style trainings on a variety of subjects relevant to talent acquisition. Every week someone on the team has a chance to share what they know on a subject we deal with on a regular basis.
Tell the story of what you have accomplished. Tell it with data. Make time in your syncs, meetings and touch bases. Make time to call out accomplishments. Give each other time to celebrate your successes as an individual and as a team.
If you are in TA leadership, tell the team what they accomplished. Maybe even tell them you are proud of them. I tell anyone who works for me, “Praise in public, Correct in private.” When your team does something good, shout it to the rooftops.
When mistakes are made, talk about them in private, do not CC and BCC the entire universe. I remember my grandmother had a plaque on her bookcase, it read, “When I do something right, no one notices, when I do something wrong, no one forgets.”
Treat people as if they are already the person you hope they can be and they will rise to the challenge. When you share your positive feedback with your team, it also allows you to build towards a shared narrative. For me, that narrative has been about being the best.
I’ve previously stated that I think sourcers are the special forces of TA (The War for Talent). I use that narrative #sourcingteamsix. As a TA leader, ask your team about their career and their aspirations. Then, it is up to you to show them how to get where they are going, but first, share the expectations of the role they are seeking.
Start treating them as if they are already the person you and they hope to be and they will become. They may not be in senior leadership today, but they are a senior in training. The “as if principle” helps them to start thinking that way too.
If you want something done right, let the people who are experts do it. Try to help but at a minimum, stay out of the way. It is a tell-tale sign of a micromanager who says, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.”
If the people you have assigned to a task are not doing it, it is up to you to decipher why. Do they not understand the task or are they simply not motivated to do what you ask because they don’t see the reason? If you want something done right, train your team, tell them why and support them in any way you can. I know it’s not quiet or catchy, but it is much more effective.
Your career is your business, treat it as such. Make business decisions. Sometimes there is a temptation to use family as analogy for our work. It can feel that way, it is very personal and what we dedicate a lot of our waking time and energy to. I find it helpful to think of work as a team sport. Teams, not families are responsible for some of humanity’s greatest achievements.
A team put humans on the moon, a team builds a ship, a team wins a championship. Teams do most of the important work in the world. Do not underestimate the power and value of being on a good team.
But like any other professional on any team, sometimes, it’s okay to be part of a new team. Don’t be afraid to change. It was Drawing Afterall who observed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor is it the most intelligent species that survives, it is the species that is most adaptable to change.”
So why listen to any of this about TA leadership? In twelve months, I had zero turnover. My team had over fifty, $350,000 offers accepted. We increased every diversity of offer across the board. Additionally, the two seniors on the team were promoted to management.
If you do the extra work and follow these principles, you will be able to sleep when the wind blows. You will have created an environment that can adapt to changing conditions because the foundation is built on trust against a framework of competence.
It will not matter if there are hiring blitzes or hiring freezes. You will be able to know that everything you need is ready whenever you need it, and as you know by now, few things are more beautiful then being able to sleep when the winds blow.
Mike Wolford has over 15 years of recruiting experience and is currently the Director of Analytics at Wilson HCG. He has worked with such companies as Allstate, Capital One, NPR and Twitter. Mike has also published 2 books titled “Becoming the Silver Bullet: Recruiting Strategies for connecting with Top Talent,” and “How to Find and Land your Dream Job: Insider tips from a Recruiter.” An active member of the recruiting community, In 2022 Mike spoke both at SourceCon and HRTX in an effort to help elevate the level of professional skills. Follow Mike on Twitter, or connect on LinkedIn.
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