In his classic HBR article “What is Strategy?” Michael Porter suggests that failure to make choices is a material barrier to effective strategy: “Managers have become confused about the necessity of making choices. It can seem that a well run company should be able to beat its ineffective rivals on all dimensions simultaneously.”
A wise strategy in recruitment and hiring begins with a deliberate distinction between those roles that are strategically vital to your company’s success and those which may be necessary to keep the wheels of commerce moving, but which do not contribute in the same way to a company’s strategic objectives.
We refer to the former as the “front line” resources in your organization. Front line resources contribute disproportionately to business success or failure. Strategic hiring prescribes a segmented approach to recruitment and retention efforts to draw the best and brightest into these mission-critical roles.
In the same way that competitive strategy focuses a company’s resources and attention on performing different functions than its competitors, strategic hiring focuses recruitment resources disproportionately on front line staffing efforts.
Four steps may help your efforts:
- Clearly define the front line positions of your business: Start with a deliberate rank ordering of whom in your organization most matters to its long-term success or failure. For some businesses, executive leadership will contribute disproportionately, for others innovation, supply chain, or brand management will hold significant sway over a company’s future success or failure. Carefully and wisely define the front lines of your organization.
- Adjust your recruiting and hiring efforts accordingly: Forces of supply and demand cause the most valuable skills in your market to also become the most rare and challenging to secure. Internal recruiting efforts, job postings, and word of mouth all have their place in staffing your organization. None of these however are likely to suffice in recruiting your front-line talent. The best and brightest and the willing and available are secured through very different processes.
- Selectively invest in getting the people equation right: In a world of legislated equality, we are often uncomfortable with selective investment in people. Still, wise strategy dictates that just as a company chooses to selectively concentrate its resources on certain products or services offered to the market, it should likewise focus its hiring and recruitment dollars on the skills and positions that staff the de facto front lines of business success or failure.
- Align your rewards structure to the deliberate tradeoffs in your hiring and recruitment strategy: Failed retention efforts negate all of the benefits of wise actions in staffing and recruiting. Too many companies fall into the trap of level based salary and reward structures. The VP or Director of backroom minutia are compensated precisely the same as the VP or Director of frontline wizardry. Failures to make choices and manage tradeoffs in your compensation structure quickly become strategic failures that threaten your long-term business success.
JD Bryson is an executive recruiting and advisory firm as well as a Professional Employment Organization that can help with your most difficult and important talent sourcing requirements.