Over the past twenty years or so, corporations worldwide have focused on a variety of initiatives. The bulk of these were aimed at improving efficiency, increasing profit, and ensuring quality.  They have ranged from business process re-engineering to Six-Sigma quality and have been responsible for the productivity gains world economies have enjoyed, as well as for the lower prices and better quality of most products we use.  These initiatives have changed our expectations.  We expect everything we buy to work immediately with little to no need for an instruction booklet, and last for a long time without the need for repair. We also expect products to be priced very low relative to how they were priced for our parents.  Items such as televisions, cars and computers are incredibly cheap compared to when they first appeared on the market, and prices continue to decline.

All of these changes have come about because of the relentless focus corporations have had on a handful of focused projects based on experimentation and objective measurement.

The focus has now turned to talent.  As more organizations realize that it is service, innovation, productivity and relationship that bring profit, the focus moves away from the manufacturing and production side to the people side.

It is now HR’s turn to be in the limelight and ensure the availability of needed talent and the overall quality of talent.  Recruiters are central to that effort and many changes are underfoot.  Recruiting as a profession is challenged to embrace a broader scope of work and to take responsibility for more sophisticated and complex talent analysis and development.

Here are a few ways that recruiters should start thinking and acting about talent. These mirror the methods used by manufacturing, finance and other corporate functions that have undergone transformations over the past decades.

One: Become a Talent Solutions Provider – not a Recruiter

I am not advocating that you just put a new title on your business card.  What I am advocating is a shift in your thinking. You do not fill requisitions, you do not source candidates, and you do not screen and assess.  What you do is solve talent problems and make it easier for your organization to achieve its business goals.  That may seem like a minor distinction but it carries a depth of meaning.  It says that you are strategic and know the business issues and goals of your organization.  You can push back on hiring managers that seem to be asking for talent that is not right for the direction the organization is headed. It also says that you have knowledge of the talent market and can intelligently speak about the availability of certain kinds of talent with numbers and facts.

Having the right frame of mind is the most important aspect of change.  It will not be easy to begin thinking like a solutions provider rather than a “slot filler”, but as long as that is your goal and you periodically assess whether you are moving in the right direction you will succeed.

Two: Focus on the job requirements and the hiring managers’ needs

To quantitatively improve candidate quality and overall performance, a solutions provider needs to be able to define every position in terms of the experience, knowledge, skills, motivation and cultural fit that have been verified as important to accomplish the goals of that position.

You need to ask hiring managers to define what they need to hire to do, not the degrees and positions they may have held. While degrees and  past positions/titles may add depth to the final decision and determine salary to some degree, it is other things that ultimately make the most difference.  Skills and abilities are often referred to as competencies and there are standard competency lists available, such as the O-Net list of competencies available from the U.S. Department of Labor. These competency lists mean you don’t have to hire specialists to develop them for you and make it much easier and less expensive to apply them to a variety of positions.

Motivation and cultural fit are just as important. If a candidate is not engaged and does not get along well with the other employees, productivity and retention will be at stake.

Every position requires a blend of experience, fit, skills, and knowledge gained through experience. None of them alone is adequate. And the mix is often unique to a function and hiring manager.

Three: Adopt and start using talent management technology.

Technology ultimately frees you and informs you.  It takes away administrative chores and does the routine better than you ever did.  But more importantly it gives you the information you need to make decisions.  When you have data about sources of hires, time and cost, and when you know who stays and who leaves; you can make much better decisions.  You can defend yourself and you can be much surer that you going in the right direction.

The next ten years will be marked by the increasing use of quantitative tools and methods in HR and recruiting. Many of these will be “imported” from other disciplines that have already been shaken to the core, such as manufacturing and finance.  This period will be marked with process improvements, measurement, quantification of all HR processes, implementation of Six-Sigma quality standards, and by a rigor of thinking – a challenging of assumption and beliefs – that has not been seen in HR before.