Monday, September 28, 2009


Susan Burns and Jeff Hunter wrote powerful and provocative blog pieces on the elusive Talent Camp (#talentcamp). If you haven’t read these two pieces you are missing out on true thought leadership; you would be remiss not to pay attention to these two if you are a recruitment professional. With them, a group of industry visionaries are coming together to discuss the future of the talent acquisition space. There will be specific attention paid to one of the most misjudged and poorly understood organization assets--TALENT.

Rapid changing currents of socioeconomics, social innovation, environment and quality leadership have made our space more relevant than ever—but only as relevant as our ability to show responsible leadership. If achieved we can bring profound, long lasting credibility to our craft. If we as a collective industry can agree on common principles and focus our efforts we can influence an entire market. If we cannot make this shift the market will dictate the future of our profession. Focused attention to the long lasting health and sustainability of our profession and the impact it has on society will be a key focus of mine at Talent Camp.

Within organizations, marketing, sales, operations, production, etc., are often thought of as drivers of the business. HR/recruiting often is thought of as influencers/supporters of the business (I’m stereotyping a bit—this is not true in all organizations). One of my goals is to break down the difference between an influence model and a true business driver model. All too often recruiting professionals ask me if I had to get permission from this department or that department to implement a program or campaign. If the program or campaign falls within our area of expertise why would we ask permission? You may need buy-in depending on what you are trying to accomplish but this is different than permission. Practitioners in our space are often waiting for something to happen in the business or waiting for permission while the organizational need is already there. How do we as an industry shift this nuance in how we execute strategy and tactics within our space?

There are large disconnects between strategists and tacticians within the recruitment industry. We lack clear, definable understanding between the differences of organization building and talent acquisition. We battle points of view on whether it’s better to pick up the phone and cold call or brand. We argue about the best sources of our hires. We tend to avoid questions on how to shape the future generations of recruitment professionals and the political and corporate institutions we operate in. If we avoid these discussions we do the whole industry a disservice. I have been invited to keynote at several industry events over the past few years. At recent events I have presented on branding and marketing in the area of recruitment. Some of the feedback I received was around why I was so focused on marketing. A few people said I came across more as a consultant versus a practitioner. When I get up on that stage my focus is straight forward. Advance the industry. I often educate myself by looking outside the recruitment space. I learn from brand marketers, operational experts and other disciplines to understand how these can be applied to our space. There are a lot of questions about how practical this is. If you’re paying attention to the industry you will find more and more organizations are pulling leaders from these other disciplines to lead recruiting functions though. Why? Because they came from areas of the business that have credibility! If we fail to pay attention to the socioeconomic currents, the entirety of our discipline we will see more and more of this.

For some reason the recruitment industry has not been able to get this as a whole. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of individuals who do but there are too many who would rather spend their time derailing progress. It’s entirely possible to unite the industry though and advance our craft. The freemasons did it in the 1600 and 1700’s and remained strong into the last century—maybe an extreme example. The Human Resource profession has done a better job of it. Take a look at the size of SHRM and the speaker line-ups they get: Colin Powel, Jack Welch, Covey, etc. Business leaders! They are sizable enough and powerful enough to impact legislation. Recruiting industry pundits and speakers often criticize our HR colleagues for not partnering or valuing the staffing function. I’m not arguing that HR is the most progression function within an organization but where are we? The list of industries/crafts that have been able to organize effectively goes on—American Marketing Association, Information Technology Association of America, etc. Take the Information Technology Association of America ( as an example. Here is one of the first things you see when you go to their site:

"Tech Leaders Urge Investments in Digital Infrastructure as Part of Recovery Plan– In a letter sent to House and Senate leaders, The Technology Association of America, formed by the merger of the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and AeA, formerly the American Electronics Association, joined over 100 companies urging lawmakers to include strategic investments More..."

This is an organized and focused effort to influence the government to spend in their sector. They believe this will help Americans, create jobs and as a result shape the future of their industry. This is strategic. If you are sitting in your recruiter seat filling roles and think that taking on something like this is way outside your sphere of influence—we need to rethink this. It’s about organization and coordination of common principles that we all share. And it’s this very thinking that can secure our future and the entire industries. We sit within one of the most relevant and vital disciplines to an organizations survival and we have not stepped up as an industry to create change in the way organizations value talent. Sure we talk about. But it’s going to take much more than chatter to significantly impact the fabric of how talent is valued.

I like how Susan Burns positioned her post about Talent Camp—“The Big What If”. Here are my big what ifs:

  • What if we can get agreement/synchronization on the industry future, the industry players and a game plan to focus and coordinate our efforts?
  • What if we can define the distinction between the sphere of influence and business driving within our industry?
  • What if there was formal education for the craft of talent acquisition?

Can all of this happen? It can. It’s not going to happen right away. This is just a start. The only way we can get there is if enough people in our industry can agree on a purpose and a direction. I meet brilliant people in our industry every day. It’s an incredible, passionate group of people. I meet fun people, creative people. We simply lack unity and direction. Whether this becomes something more, or simply a dream, I’m looking forward to the discussion the following Talent Campers:

Briand DeGroodt

Franny Oxford

Jeff Hunter

Joe Gerstandt

Lance Haun

Laurie Ruettimann

Mike Johnson

Ron McManmon

Shauna Moerke

Suzy Tonini

Susan Burns

Financial institutions contributed to the collapse of our entire economy. People institutions bring economies back to life. Shaping the thousands of people institutions out there is what we do. It deserves thoughtful, educated and measured commitment. Let the discussions begin!


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