One could be forgiven for thinking that managers (or indeed anyone else in the organisation) have practically no part at all to play in resourcing. Strategic workforce planning, social recruitment, AI, impactful job ads, powerful metrics and outsourcing, assessment methods all seem to be owned by HR.
Of course, it isn’t really like that and never has been. But while the world of work is changing so rapidly, I would suggest that the manager’s role in workforce planning, attraction and selection is becoming even more important. If the aim is to get the right people where and when they’re needed, HR has no chance of doing that without a fully engaged and participative business.
So why is this issue of growing importance? I’d suggest three key trends that are relevant:
“There is nothing permanent except change” - Heraclitus
The first trend is the tremendous pace of change. We may all be increasingly taking it for granted as the ‘new normal’ but digital disruption is staggering: a report last year from McKinsey, for example, estimated that up to 30% of the hours worked globally could be automated by 2030, with enormous impact on what we will all spend time doing.
Similar technological and societal changes are reshaping industries. Thinking about your own organisation, can you hand on heart say HR is best placed to ensure the business is keeping ahead of that wave of change? To spot the industry trends and changing customer requirements that will require different skills from your people?
Sure we need to be up there, but the managers are, you’d hope, the industry experts. They speak to their customers, suppliers and (often) competitors every day. If anyone has a chance of keeping ahead of the game it is them.
Employer branding really is everyone’s business
The second trend is the growing importance of employer branding and a company’s authenticity in attracting great candidates. Harvard Business Review tells us that the majority of CEOs and HRDs expect to raise their investment in this area over the coming years, with CEOs increasingly seeing it as their personal responsibility. And with good reason: more and more, candidates research potential organisations in the same way that they do their research before making purchasing decisions.
Everyone is busy and won’t necessarily thank you for bringing them what could be perceived as a load more work. So you’ll need to persuade them.
So employer branding has to be far more than having a great recruitment website, as you can be sure that your potential candidates’ research will go way beyond that – they’ll be looking at everything the whole organisation does: corporate news, industry awards, CEO profile pieces, CSR activity, and everyone and anyone’s LinkedIn profile.
This means, of course, that you’ll need to engage the business’s managers in defining, building and (crucially) maintaining that brand. It cannot be an ‘HR only’ (or, for that matter, a ‘marketing only’) exercise.
“We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it” - Erik Qualman
Which brings me to the third trend: the rise and rise of social media. A LinkedIn report tells us that people are increasingly finding their next job via social media. We also know the power of employee advocacy, both in a non-personal sense and a personal one (i.e. though employee’s own networks).
And, as mentioned above, we know that candidates will browse social media profiles of those already working at a potential employer.
Some of this, traditionally, is undoubtedly HR’s bailiwick. But to think in those terms is to miss the point: this only works if approached as an all-encompassing approach where an organisation’s social media presence is consistent, meaningful and authentic. And to achieve that, it clearly has to be a shared endeavour.
So much for the theory: how do you make it happen?
Here are three approaches that I’ve seen make a real difference:
1. Make the case
Everyone is busy and won’t necessarily thank you for bringing them what could be perceived as a load more work. So you’ll need to persuade them, both at C level and vacancy manager level (and, ideally, more widely), that this is something they need to get on board with.
As those trends of change, employer branding and social media accelerate and the war for talent hots up, resist the temptation to try to do it all on your own.
You’ll know how best to do this within your own organisation, but a dose of ‘confident humility’ can go a long way: confident about the value and contribution that you bring; humble about what you need from them.
2. Provide support (and minimise barriers)
Willingness to engage in this agenda will be driven by more than simply accepting the logical argument: busy managers will also expect support. This can take many forms but examples might include style guides and tips for blogging, help in improving their LinkedIn and other social network profiles, and forums for sharing information. It’s best if you can make this part of your ongoing employee engagement activity, not a separate thing.
Alongside that, you must also take steps to minimise barriers. Most off all, no lengthy sign-off processes.
3. Reward the right behaviours
Finally, you’ll need to help people to see that it’s been worth their while. Say thank you! Show how their input has helped recruit particular individuals or cohorts. Feedback on the number of views their profiles or articles have had. Tell them what the comments on Glassdoor are saying.
Finally, it’s important to say that none of this makes HR’s role less important. On the contrary, in fact. But as those trends of change, employer branding and social media accelerate and the war for talent hots up, resist the temptation to try to do it all on your own.
Instead, redouble your efforts to work closely with the rest of the business, and individual managers within it, to combine their industry and job-specific insights with your own professional know-how.
About Henry Watson
Henry has built his career in central government, working in a range of departments and undertaking a variety of senior roles. He is currently responsible for HR strategy and policy in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.