3 Forward-Thinking Recruiting Practices from Industry Leader Lars Schmidt’s New Book — ‘Redefining HR’

January 28, 2021

Photo of couple sitting on couch and reading ebook on tablet

When Lars Schmidt joined NPR as head of talent acquisition and innovation in 2010, the nonprofit was undergoing a transformation from a radio/broadcast to digital brand and Lars had to compete for talent on two fronts — digital/tech and journalism — against for-profit companies. The task was daunting. He built his strategy around the newly developing field of employer brand and launched one of the first culture hashtags, #NPRlife. Highly qualified candidates took notice. In his brand-new book Redefining HR, Lars writes, “It was an experimental lab and I loved it.”

Redefining HR (Kogan Page, $26) could be described the same way: An experimental lab on how to move HR forward, filled with ideas and case studies from companies such as HubSpot, Reddit, Eventbrite, and Mastercard.

As the cofounder of HR Open Source, a global initiative to accelerate innovation and education in HR, host of the podcast Redefining HR, and writer for Fast Company, Lars has spent years interviewing people leaders around the globe. He peppers his book with their voices, stories, challenges, and solutions. 

Here are three forward-looking recruiting practices that Lars shares in Redefining HR

1. Upgrade your role from recruiter to talent advisor

Historically, recruiters viewed hiring managers as their “customers,” the people from whom they took orders. But in the most progressive companies, Lars writes, recruiters are evolving into “talent advisors,” and their relationship with hiring managers is becoming more one of equals. 

What does this look like? Consider the words of John Vlastelica, founder and managing director of Recruiting Toolbox, whom Lars interviewed for Redefining HR. “It’s no longer about ‘taking the order,’ and accepting unrealistic target candidate profiles, unrealistic salary ranges, and bad interviewing practices,” John says. “It’s moved into something more akin to a strategic partner.” 

As a talent advisor, you bring all your business knowledge and hard-earned wisdom to the hiring process. You leverage the market realities you encounter everyday to hold data-informed, expectation-setting conversations with hiring managers. You work together to build realistic candidate profiles and recommend appropriate salary ranges. You coach the hiring manager on how to play a leadership role during the interviewing and selection process. 

“Diversity is embedded in [talent advisors’] approach,” John adds. “Not because of compliance but because [talent advisors] know that talent is equally distributed across people, but access and opportunity is not. To improve diversity, they ensure hiring managers don’t depend on candidate pedigree as a signal for quality, look outside of their homogenous teams for referrals, build interviewing teams that reflect the diversity they seek, and make fair, transparent, bias-free hiring decisions.” 

2. Increase diversity by tracking metrics along your entire talent pipeline

According to LinkedIn’s Future of Recruiting report, only one in three recruiting teams tracks the diversity of its candidates. To Lars, that’s backward thinking. “We can’t possibly build diverse companies,” he writes, “without understanding our talent pipelines, and how we’re hemorrhaging diverse talent throughout our recruiting funnel. Modern recruiting teams understand their diversity metrics at each stage of the process. This allows them to identify any issues in their process, at any stage, that might be causing them to lose diverse talent.” 

To be truly insightful, Lars suggests, you need to get granular with the data. It’s not just about looking at men vs. women for a particular role. It’s about drilling down to see how you are sourcing, for example, Latina vs. Black vs. white women. Are you hitting the desired numbers from the very beginning of the process? If not, where is the falloff?

“Best-in-class recruiting teams,” Lars adds, “closely monitor and measure diversity metrics at every stage of their funnel. They audit their job descriptions, career sites, and recruitment materials to ensure the copy is gender-neutral and inclusive. They have a proactive pipelining strategy to engage candidates of color on an ongoing basis — not just when they’re hiring. They’re educated, informed, and armed with facts to influence hiring teams to prioritize diversity. They’re also plugged in to their HR peers so they understand how inclusive recruiting practices are embedded throughout the employee life cycle.” 

3. Attract the best talent by encouraging internal mobility and by engaging workforce coaches

Some 73% of global talent professionals reported that they saw internal mobility as increasingly important to their company, according to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020 report. This aligns with a 2019 Deloitte study found that 76% of executives considered internal mobility important, with 20 percent rating it as one of their organization’s most urgent issues. When you learn that 31% of millennials want to leave their jobs within two years, this is also an urgent matter for recruiters. 

In such a fluid workforce, Lars believes, progressive companies must rethink how they develop, engage and retain employees. Career coaching can help. Traditionally, HR departments have offered internal coaching to “high potential” employees to groom them for leadership roles within the company. But, Lars asks, “What if we adapted our thinking and created a dedicated workforce coaching team that was entirely based around the development of an individual? Coaches aimed at bringing the best out of each employee around their individual goals and aspirations, not the company’s?” 

These coaches, Lars writes, would be dialed into the latest workforce and technology trends and would hold regular meetings with each of a company’s employees to discuss career growth plans and aspirations. The coach would create an individualized development plan aligned with the employee’s goals and suggest ways to further their skills, pursue internal roles the employee may not have considered — or consider a role at another company. 

Wait, what? Encourage someone to leave? “As a recruiter, even typing that feels counterintuitive,” Lars writes, “but think about it. If you can build a company with an earned reputation of being an absolute developer and incubator of talent, what will that do for your ability to back-fill those employees with more exceptional talent? You will have alumni singing your praises about the development they received.” 

The bottom line, he adds: “The money invested in your career coaches could pay for itself a few times over in reduced recruiting costs.” 

This idea also gets to the soul of Lars’s book: a continual desire to evolve and innovate so that modern people teams can make the workforce more inclusive, more supportive, and more human.

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