Lean Recruiting: 3 Steps to An Agile Talent Acquisition Strategy

Lean Recruiting: 3 Steps to An Agile Talent Acquisition Strategy

Emily Smykal

What does the phrase “lean recruiting” bring to mind? A small talent acquisition team making the most of a limited budget? Bare bones recruitment methods? Lean recruiting has been adapted from the concept of lean manufacturing, and it continuously improves the talent acquisition process by eliminating waste and increasing efficiency.

Why exactly should recruiters focus on this continuous improvement method? We often discuss the importance of developing consumer-quality career sites, and building talent pipelines. These strategies take time and resources. Should talent acquisition leaders also continuously monitor these efforts, and terminate with indifference those variables that are consistently inefficient?

Sort of. Recruitment strategies shouldn’t be implemented and then unceremoniously tossed out the window. But HR leaders should be fully prepared to review their efforts, acknowledge processes that are wasteful and unproductive, and make serious changes or adaptations in response.

In this post we’ll explain the concept of lean recruiting, and highlight three takeaways for your talent acquisition strategy. This post is not intended to inspire you to completely change your strategy and start practicing “lean recruiting” tomorrow—it’s meant to make you think of recruiting process improvements from a different angle.

What is Lean Recruiting?

Lean manufacturing is a method for eliminating waste within manufacturing processes. Famously developed by Toyota as the Toyota Production System (TPS) in the mid-1900s, some refer to this system as “just-in-time” production. By reviewing and changing the manufacturing process to remove inconsistent and overburdened workloads, waste is reduced.

Toyota’s approach led to more flexible and adaptive manufacturing systems, focused on the value that customers are willing to pay for. Talent acquisition leaders who see the global talent war as really a competition over supply chain management can see the parallels here between manufacturing and recruitment.

Typical supply chains transfer raw goods through the manufacturing process and end with finished products a customer can buy. The human capital supply chain takes relationships and recruitment data and transforms that into candidates hiring managers can choose from. Looking at the process on its most basic level, recruiters move something of value (people) from a source to the consumer (employers).

So lean recruiting reviews the talent acquisition process as a whole, identifies wasteful and inefficient components, and eliminates or replaces them. This makes the overall system of identifying, acquiring and retaining candidates a better human capital supply chain. But how exactly can recruiters implement these ideas into their talent acquisition strategy?

1. Strong Metrics and Talent Acquisition Strategy

Lean recruitment starts with looking at your entire talent acquisition strategy. What are the different processes involved in filling an open position? How are those processes tracked or measured? As we mentioned in the beginning, it’s not enough to build your system and let it run as is. Your recruitment methods need to be analyzed, adapted, sometimes changed entirely, to remain cost-effective and successful.

So the first step towards lean recruiting is the establishment of your talent acquisition strategy, and determining the metrics you’ll use to monitor its success. The uptake of data and the reduction of waste is more important than ever in recruitment. By approaching talent acquisition from the position of increasing efficiency and customer satisfaction, HR leaders can better demonstrate not just the importance of their work, but also its results.

And the notion of eliminating waste should already be top of mind as you implement your recruitment methods and track their results. Some of the big sources of waste in lean manufacturing include overproduction and over processing. In lean recruiting, running too many processes to source candidates, and analyzing too much data, is more likely to hinder your results than improve them.

2. Recruitment Metrics and Strategy Review

You’ve developed a talent acquisition strategy, distributed the responsibilities among your team, and now you can sit back and watch the quality candidates roll in, right? Sure, if you want to watch your competitors hire the best and brightest while you’re left scratching your head.

Lean recruiting at this stage means reviewing every component of your talent acquisition methods and identifying areas for improvement. We already mentioned two important sources of waste in your human capital supply chain. Now it’s time to look for defective production, motion, and waiting.

Waste from defects is pretty simple–something isn’t working as it should, and your team wastes time and resources finding and fixing the problems. This can lead to both motion (people and resources in action more than is required) and waiting (interruptions to the system while waiting for one process).

Is one of your job boards expensive, but consistently returning sub-par candidates? Does your team spend too much time analyzing every data point? Are managers kept waiting too long before they can interview quality candidates? These are just a few examples of the waste that can arise. Taking a serious look at your processes will help you eliminate inefficiencies and adapt to changing trends.

3. Continuous Improvement Based on Results

So you’ve established your recruitment strategy and the metrics you’ll use to measure its success. You’ve reviewed the whole system and found some genuine room for improvement. How do you move forward? Change is hard, but if you can accept that not everything will work perfectly the first time, you’ll end up with a much more flexible talent acquisition strategy.

Inventory is an important source of waste to consider here. Perhaps your team has spent a lot of time building up a talent pipeline. But when an opening actually arises, most of those candidates have already found other jobs, or they’re content where they are. Was it worth your time to develop the talent pipeline?

Some HR leaders say no, or at least that talent pipelines are leaky and inefficient if built incorrectly. They point out that in IT, some managers bypass HR and source their own candidates, much in the same way they use agile software development to continuously improve their products. If your own colleagues are ignoring your efforts to hire employees, it’s time to adapt your strategy. Let your ability to strategize, execute, and adapt based on the results demonstrate the true value of your talent acquisition team.

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