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Why Talent Acquisition is not an HR Function Anymore

Updated: Sep 7, 2022

I know, this is a bold statement to make. I am not going to win many friends in the HR world and a lot of HR managers are not going to support this assertion. But because I have managed both HR and recruiting operations together in my past life and also saw them split later, I have first-hand experience of the tremendous benefits and value a company gets by separating these two functions.

HR and Hiring Team are Wired Differently

HR department’s key priorities are employee well being and labor law compliance. HR manager is often swamped with managing policies and procedures that protect employees, provide guidance to management, and ensure that organizations comply with government regulations and mandates. Recruitment, on the other hand, is more business focused. An HR manager is risk averse while a Recruiting head takes risks by trying new strategies to attract and acquire good talent.

Being policy focused, HR managers are often stuck in a time warp and are seldom open to new ideas and change. A few of them are more concerned about retaining control and keeping a larger role than doing what's best for the company. If you ask the HR manager of the various initiatives they have implemented to develop and retain employees, they will come up with a long list and deservedly so.

Now if you ask the same HR manager about the new things they are doing in the recruiting area and the changes they implemented in the past 3 years, a majority will draw a blank. Same recruitment strategy, same approach to staffing, going through the same motions... in other words, little to no change at all. It is not their fault, an HR manager and a Recruitment Manager are just wired differently.

New Challenges Need New Thought Process

With the advent of tech advancements and new market conditions, the hiring process has undergone a tremendous transformation. Especially over the last 3 years. While there are more options and tools to market a job and find candidates, the challenges in standing out, engaging candidates and selling the job have increased.

Adding competition and all-time low unemployment to this mix of challenges has compelled companies to think differently. A shift in mindset & strategy, starting with where your recruiting department fits into the overall organization, is required if you are serious about hiring the best talent.

Difference in Role and Impact on Business

Acquiring quality talent and nurturing existing talent are two entirely different games. It's like sales and operations functions - both are associated with the customer, but the objective, strategy, skills, and execution are completely different.

HR is a people function and requires soft skills of empathy, change management, conflict management, employee development and more. Recruitment is more of a sales function where the strategy and approach to acquiring a new employee are very similar to acquiring a new customer. When you don’t hire the required talent fast enough, who does it really hurt? HR, who nurtures and develops talent or your customer and growth of the business?

Take the example of sales hiring. Any delay in closing a sales position directly impacts your company's revenue target and growth. When you overspend in compensation to new hires or on recruiting costs for an operations person, it affects your margins and the company's bottom line.

Different Skills & Goals

HR is a critical function and its policies and practices are imperative for an organization to survive and thrive. Developing employee skills through learning & training, designing benefits that help employees, performance management, employee retention initiatives and nurturing practices to maintain high employee satisfaction are important responsibilities. Obviously, HR teams have a huge undertaking and require special skills.

Recruitment, on the other hand, is nothing close to what HR is responsible for. A good hiring team consists of seasoned marketers and hunters. They work with the business (not HR) to understand the talent requirements and the impact it has on business. They strategize to attract, engage and acquire talent and execute the entire hiring process with a sales mindset. Just like in the case of customers, they ensure great candidate experience throughout the recruiting process and hire employees that bring tremendous value to the company and customer.

Both, HR and recruiting functions, require different skills and expertise. Both impact the company in different ways and have different stakeholders. You cannot ask an HR person to recruit if you want the best quality of talent and you cannot ask your recruiter to nurture existing talent if you are serious about employee retention.

The Paradigm Shift From HR to Recruiting

In earlier days, HR decided the salaries. Today it's driven by the market and you can easily research what your competition is paying for the same skill and budget it accordingly. In fact, in today's candidate-driven market, you sometimes need to pay sign-on bonuses and incentives to close the job position fast and not lose the prospective employee to your competitor. Salary has become a business decision more so than an HR decision.

Recruiter’s role has also expanded over the years. Discussions related to benefits, life-work balance and advantages of working with the company are now driven by recruiters as they use these as tools to sell to the candidate. It is no more an HR discussion unless it is happening at the employee on boarding stage which is more like an induction.

Employer review/reputation sites like Glassdoor, Indeed and Comparably not only show company ratings from existing employees but also how candidates rate the hiring process. A company needs to manage these reviews in order to attract good talent. Imagine an HR team that has to respond to candidate reviews on these sites and also manage the reputation of their hiring process which they are not part of. That's a long stretch and one can never do justice in defending an experience they are not involved in. The onus of managing the hiring reputation of the company lies on the recruiting head.

Think Differently To Get New Results

A lot of companies are breaking the mold and separating the HR and recruitment function where the recruitment team reports directly into the business head who is impacted by longer time to hire, poor quality of candidates and high cost of hiring.

But this adoption has been slow in older industries. Some of them are in mid-stage of this transformation where they have started to hire HR generalists who are responsible for both, HR assignments and recruiting new employees. To me, this is a bad practice and the person does not do justice to both functions and it leads to mediocre results. Whether its HR or Recruiting, you must employ experts, not generalists.

Here Are 5 Suggestions To Improve Your Talent Acquisition Function

  1. Build a team of experts who not only understand the functional and business impact related to the job position but also have an exceptional capability to attract, source, engage and acquire new employees. Mind you, just like salespeople, good recruiters are a different breed altogether.

  2. Have your recruitment team report directly into the business head. In a small company, it could be reporting to the sales head or operations head or maybe even into the CEO who wants to maintain consistency of quality and culture-fit in hiring new employees.

  3. Ensure that your recruiters don’t become coordinators who are simply managing the process between the staffing agency and hiring manager. Real recruiters source candidate leads and sell the position themselves, they don't outsource and overspend with staffing agencies. If you don't have a hiring expert or are short-staffed, then it makes perfect sense to engage a staffing agency. But if you do, don't waste your resources or allow them to under perform.

  4. Give the recruiting team targets, measure their performance and incentivize them when they hit the target. Remember, acquiring talent is no different than acquiring a customer. You need your recruiting team to be motivated and fired-up. Do not compromise here if you want to hire the best talent in the most efficient way.

  5. Do not mix HR and Recruitment functions if you want to be truly successful in meeting your hiring goal. The only inputs that the recruiting team may need from HR are on salary and benefits which is nothing but a small part of the sales ammunition used in acquiring good talent.

Old mindset & methods will not get you new results. RETHINK YOUR HIRING if you are serious about gearing up for the digital era. Good Luck!


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