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India Surpasses the U.S. in Global Recruiting Leadership

ereawards-toplogo-2010by Dr. John Sullivan and Master Burnett

Becoming a leading-edge recruiter is an admirable goal few corporate recruiters strive to achieve. Not only must a leading-edge recruiter routinely demonstrate a marked increase in positive business impact over other recruiters, but they must consistently monitor trends, devise new approaches, benchmark against emerging practices, and constantly fight with colleagues often resistant to trying something new.

Historically, staying on top of trends and new approaches was relatively easy, as there were only a few companies isolated in a few narrow geographies that one needed to watch. The War for Talent in 1997 certainly drew a lot of attention to the practices of technology firms in “silicon hubs” like California’s Silicon Valley (home to Google, Cisco, Intuit, Facebook, Twitter, and HP) or Seattle, Washington’s, Silicon Forest (home to Microsoft and Amazon), but up until a few years ago there was no formal process to identify where leading-edge practices were emerging and who was developing them.

ERE Media’s Recruiting Excellence Awards and articles by global strategy advisors like Kevin Wheeler and ourselves, who have advised and studied the practices of companies in more than 40 nations, are helping leading-edge recruiters focus their attention where evolution is occurring.

The Hotbeds of Evolution and Innovation are Shifting

No one can argue that rapid growth of the technology sector in 1997 left many technology companies desperate for talent, and that desperation drove many charged with recruiting for such organizations to both collaborate and innovate new practices to help close gaps in supply and demand. While not cheap, importing labor and shifting work to geographies where the supply of labor exceeded the demand has been the dominant approach.

For more than a decade such solutions have helped allocate work across an emerging global talent market, but now many of the geographies that picked up work are also struggling to source qualified talent to staff available projects. While China and India may have a surplus of unemployed/underemployed people, they too have a shortage of skilled professional labor.

As global economic growth focuses on Asia, desperation of firms in Asia to keep pace with the demand for talent is driving more and more talent management focus on excellence in execution, collaboration, evolution, and innovation.

With smaller company sizes, nations like Australia and New Zealand are earning a reputation as being home to progressive companies willing to try new practices. Nations like Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, to name only a few, are channeling state investment dollars into industry-sector-focused universities and research parks that elevate public/private collaboration to new levels.

However, nowhere can one find as much focus on recruiting leadership than in India and China. Twelve years ago production standards in both nations were subpar, work ethics were questionable, and infrastructure was lacking, but today both nations have firms that excel in world-class engineering design, international trade, offshoring, and manufacturing. Over the course of those 12 years, firms in India and China have not only studied and adopted Western talent management practices, they have improved upon them if not in design, most certainly in execution.

Examples of Progressive Recruiting and Talent Management Practices

While ERE readers will need to wait until March to learn about which companies won a recruiting excellence award (with finalists announced soon), what follows are a few practices becoming common among leading employers in India based on our work and a review of the ERE Award Applications. Mentally compare this list of practices to those that are currently in operation at your organization.

General Recruiting Practices

  • Prioritization of key jobs and skills. Recruiting resources focuses on the most critical 40%.
  • Pre-need hiring. Talent pools mapped and individuals assessed prior to requisition opening.
  • Tight integration with sales/operations to drive workforce planning. Recruiting leaders often sit side by side with sales and operations leaders during development meetings to coordinate workforce planning efforts.

Employee Referral Program Practices

  • Dedicated referral teams employing a proactive referral strategy in which recruiters personally solicit the names of the very best from the very best employees and managers. (In one organization this approach produced 47% of all hires, garnered a 66% employee participation rate, and consistently produced the highest quality hires, all with a cost-per-hire 20% lower than other hiring channels.)
  • Employee referral processes that target corporate alumni in order to boomerang them back. (This approach often produces better results than any other alumni recruitment effort.)
  • Onsite referral fairs that allow referred candidates to receive on-the-spot interviews and/or offers.
  • Online referral status tracking that provides feedback on status and alerts when a referral’s status changes.
  • Established referral targets for individual managers and teams.
  • Required pre-assessment of referrals by referring employee. To eliminate poor quality referrals many programs require that employees pre-assess their referral and share the assessment as part of the submission process.
  • Service-level agreements that guarantee feedback to the referring employee within 72 hours of submission and help-desk response to inquiries within eight hours.

Metrics and Business-case-related Practices

  • Advanced statistical analysis processes including six sigma assessment, value chain analysis, and force field analysis for assessing and improving recruiting process performance.
  • Quantification of the direct-dollar impact of new hiring processes on corporate revenues. (In one example, the organization identified that reducing time-to-fill in revenue-generating positions by 40% could increase revenue by millions of dollars.)
  • Development of “hiring accuracy” metrics that assesses and quantify hiring success/failure rates.
  • Distributed real-time recruiter productivity measures. (One organization found that simply measuring and reporting productivity increased it 70% in one year.)

Recruitment Marketing and Branding Related Practices

  • Development of in-house recruitment marketing teams capable of supporting frequent communication design/delivery channel changes.
  • Using search engine optimization techniques to measurably increase visibility of jobs and brand messaging online.

College-recruiting-related Practices

  • Using ambassador programs to build relationships with top students and faculty.
  • Adoption of CRM approaches that let recruiters communicate frequently with students via text messages about events in the students’ lives, such as “best of luck” messages during final exams.
  • Development of robust campus performance assessment processes and metrics.
  • Use of contests, quizzes, and projects to excite top students and more accurately assess them.
  • Engagement of market intelligence data to identify employee value propositions that better engage students.
  • Online professional training courses covering topics that improve the quality of potential candidates and attract top students to participate in the application process.
  • Leverage alumni to give tech talks, classroom lectures, and on-campus workshops.
  • Curriculum guidance. Many organizations work closely with academic leaders and key faculty to align curriculum with industrial need, ensuring that courses focus on practical knowledge and skill development that is immediately relevant.

Training and Development Practices

  • Extensive focus on deep enterprise training, development, and leadership preparation. (One organization has built the world’s largest leadership and development training center, exceeding in size GE’s famous Crotonville facility. The 270-acre, $60-million plush facility has a hotel, food center, employee care center, theater, and research facility.)
  • Overseas residential training programs. Recent grads are frequently provided an opportunity to work internationally for a period of several months prior to accepting a stationary role in their home country.

Are You Leading or Lagging?

I hope you agree that this list represents some pretty progressive practices and strategies. While India’s leadership position is certainly open to debate, there can be no doubt that staffing challenges in India and China are forcing leading firms like Infosys, Tata, Aricent, Reliance, and Wipro to focus on execution and innovation. Some might argue that lack of government regulation and lower cost of labor enable them to do things you couldn’t do in the U.S. or Western Europe, to which my response is simple: it’s not the job of a leader to whine about what they can’t do, but rather to find a way to do what they need to do.

Not all organizations in India are on the leading edge when it comes to talent management and even those that are have areas that need improvement. The point is that if you want to be on the leading edge you need to be aware of other organizations on the edge, and that moving forward more and more of the firms you need to monitor will be in India, China, and other Asian nations.

Final Thoughts

Generally speaking recruiting is a conservative profession. If you’re a “defensive type,” super patriot, or resist being data-driven, you will likely dismiss our contention that the U.S. is/has slipped into second place with regard to recruiting leadership. If, however, you are open-minded, I suggest that you revisit this list of practices and use it to help determine where your firm needs to be if it’s going to seriously compete for talent in the emerging global labor market. Companies in India, Singapore, New Zealand, and China have already started recruiting top scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and finance professionals from leading corporations in the U.S. and Western Europe. The battle is heating up. Are you more prepared to fight or give up?

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