What is the common thread between scaling a team and playing telephone?
If you don’t know “telephone”, or “whispers” as some people call it, here’s how it goes. Each player takes their turn quitely relaying a message they were told by a previous player to the next player in the game. The game goes on and on till you reach the last player and to everyone’s amusement the message is said out loud is usually no where close the original.
Playing that game with just one person is not that hard. With 5 or six, it starts getting interesting. Now imagine playing with a hundred people, having multiple games going on at once, and different channels of communication being used in parallel...You get the idea.
The first thing that starts breaking when teams grow is communication. The only chance a team has is to change the rules of the game, or in other words, change the way it works—even if the current ways of working seem to be working just fine. If you’re about to start growing your recruiting team, that’s just the first of many challenges you will have to face.
What breaks when a talent team is not built for scale?
As you introduce more people, you introduce more variables: more tools, more skillsets, more ways of doing things… Pretty fast, you find yourself in an organization with non-standardized measurements across teams, misaligned onboardings and trainings for incoming recruiters, tools that don’t talk to each other, and more silos than you can count.
Imagine an employer branding team not communicating with an events team, who is in turn not aware of what the diversity hiring team is doing, while the sourcing team is frantically trying to keep up with everyone, and leadership is spending valuable resources on making sense of everyone’s metrics. That is a recipe for disjointed candidates experiences and leaky hiring funnels.
Talent teams can avoid finding themselves in this situation by doing two things: preventing these issues from happening in the first place, and learning to diagnose and fix them when they happen. Both of those are what your Recruiting Operations specialist is best at.
Preparing for scale before it happens
This can be done by taking the time to identify the “rules” that need to change, and the rules touch every aspect of the running of a talent acquisition team.
- How information circulates between different talent teams
- How decisions are made and approved
- How current tools and processes will allow for growth in volume and complexity
- How data is measured
- How knowledge is transferred to new team members
It can be useful to divide and conquer in this case, by putting all the different aspects of change under three buckets: process, metrics, and technology.
Diagnosing issues as the team is scaling up
Another value of bringing in recruiting operations specialists is that they are equipped with the right analytical frameworks to correctly identify root causes for this kind of issues. Between times of growth, operations specialists help make sure things are running the way they should, but during times of growth, they help the team grow strategically, stay aligned, and not fall into broken processes.
One common trend among great teams, in talent acquisition or otherwise, is that they are “solution-oriented”. They focus on just “shipping it” and on fixing things. This approach keeps things moving and enough for most minor issues, but for deeper issues where band-aids don’t work, these teams have a harder time identifying root causes.
In larger teams, the reason why something is happening—why the sourcing team is not getting enough engineers at the top of the funnel, why the internship program has terrible retention rates, or why offer acceptance rate is dropping—rarely lives in one place.
It’s harder to find the right answer because the answer is buried in all the dispersed information. Many people own different pieces of every process, so the team needs someone who has the visibility and the tools necessary to hunt it down without getting lost in red herrings.
How Recruiting Ops people approach problem solving
A great Recruiting Ops specialist will not only be familiar with the inner workings of the talent team’s operations, they will also be trained in analytical problem solving tools that are found in Operations or Quality Assurance, for example, like such as root cause analysis, Ishikawa diagrams, or 6σ read six sigma analysis to mention a few. Ideally, they are also comfortable with advanced data analysis and are technically savvy enough to understand how talent tools should work together for the best business results.
Many talent teams promote recruiting coordinators into an operations role when they start growing, but fail to appreciate the non-recruiting related knowledge gaps that need to be filled for these professionals to be fully successful in their roles. The two following frameworks are just examples of what a Recruiting Ops specialist might need to do to investigate an issue and recommend a course of action for the talent team.
How a recruiting Ops specialist might use Lean 6σ - DMAIC
The DMAIC process is one of the methodologies of 6σ, a widely popular set of strategies and tools originally designed to reduce defects in manufacturing. In the last century, 6σ has been expanded by operations professionals outside of manufacturing to identify and improve processes in other business functions as well.
Put simply, DMAIC is a cycle used to investigate an issue in a methodical manner. It goes like this:
Take the example of an internship or mentoring program that has what the team considers to have abnormally high attrition. By going through the DMAIC process, the Recruiting Ops specialist confirms that those numbers have dropped, and that there are two causes for that drop: the perceived program value, and the lack of hiring managers buy-in.
However, they also identify that, while their findings improved pipeline and retention due to better promotion and more support, they didn’t solve for a new finding, which is the low gender diversity in the program’s funnel. As a result, they go through a new cycle, which brings even more improvement to the team’s operations.
How a recruiting Ops specialist can identify root causes with the 5 whys
The 5 whys analysis is not valuable because of any inherent complexity. It’s exactly as straightforward as its name indicates: you essentially ask “why” 5 times, or as many times as is needed to hit a wall and start repeating answers.
This tool is valuable because it’s almost never used—recruiters are busy with their day job and don’t have the time or the resources to go beyond the aparent cause of a problem. It takes someone whose full-time job is to investigate the deeper causes of any challenge the talent team might face: the recruiting Ops specialist.
Here’s how a 5 Whys analysis might go:
Why are some travel expenses reimbursed late? Because Accounting approves them late
Why does Accounting approve them late? Because they approve candidate expenses in batches
Why do they approve them in batches? Because they receive various expenses for the same candidate from different recruiting coordinators, and for their records prefer to reimburse each candidate once. Why do they receive them from different coordinators? Because sometimes multiple coordinators work with the same candidate.
Why do multiple coordinators sometimes work on the same candidate? Because they don’t all know how to book every type of travel or accommodations for candidates, and sometimes loop each other in.
Recruiting Ops is about people more than process
Good processes are necessary for scale, but they are not designed entirely on a whiteboard, completely divorced of people. Sometimes the most optimal process on paper doesn’t adapt to the actual relationships that people develop inside the organizations, or to the realities of their day-to-day work and communication.
To help your team scale, a good recruiting ops specialist will document and deploy processes that are efficient and optimized, but also easy to adopt for the people in the organization.
Building Talent Teams for Scale
Recruiting Events - The Complete Playbook
Talent teams of every size can find value in this ebook, but it is especially targeted at sophisticated teams who want to leverage the technology and candidate data at their disposal to create highly effective event programs. It contains an exploration of the different types of events and how to best use them, checklists for event set up, project management tips, collaboration, event follow-up, not to mention metrics and best practices for measurement.