Cross-Functional Recruiting Teams

The Power of Networks and Collaboration

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people” -Steve Jobs

Recruiting is no longer a one-person activity. There are too many candidates and requirements, too much geography, and too much complexity to expect a single recruiter, no matter how experienced, to be able to efficiently find and engage the best talent.

Research has shown repeatedly that teams are more effective in almost everything than a single person. In a recent article, I created a diagram of a proposed future recruiting model and one of the key elements was a cross-functional recruiting team (see diagram below).

These teams are networks, not hierarchies allowing recruiters to work with a wide range of others to go outside geographies, boundaries, and formal systems.

Hierarchies are dying as collaboration, teamwork, and sharing have become normal business practices. By hiring more virtual workers in different geographies and cultures, firms increase the diversity of ideas and individuals who formerly worked in functional silos expand beyond their previous narrowly defined roles, take on new roles, learn, and bring new perspectives to former ways of working and thinking.

Ideally, recruiting teams would be formed and disbanded as needed. They could be focused on hiring a particularly difficult to find role or building a global pipeline, or whatever is needed. Hiring managers become key members of the team and assume responsibilities and take actions that might once have been done by a recruiter. These ad hoc teams could include a wide range of skills, backgrounds, and professions. For example, a team might include a marketing professional to enhance the attraction of opportunities and provide targeted messaging and social media advertising. A technical expert would help make sure the selection criteria are appropriate and help in the assessment. This web of allied employees and outside experts can greatly increase the speed and efficiency of finding and hiring the right people.

The only negative about using team recruiting is that it is tough to get the right people with the time to focus on recruiting. When it has been used it was for the most difficult positions. But every recruitment function should develop a process and establish a culture for forming teams, even for easier to fill positions, as they improve the quality of hire and are often much quicker to find a suitable candidate. They are also better at assessing candidates. Firms like Apple and Google have used team recruiting effectively and it is being adopted more often than ever.

Below is a case study of how effective a cross-functional, diverse recruiting team can be.

Case Study

John had recently been asked to create an automation solution for a complex and currently mostly manual, low volume pharmaceutical manufacturing process. Some efforts had been made to automate this process and move to high volume production, but no one had been able to even envision how a completely automated process might work. Yet, everyone knew that figuring it out was essential to the volume of production that was needed.

Developing a solution had already stymied a number of engineers, technicians, and other experts. They had declared it was impossible to do because existing computer systems in the organization were not capable of dealing with the complexity. The programming was highly complex and in their opinion would take months or even years to perfect, and no equipment existed that could meet the rigorous requirements of the manufacturing process. John needed to find at least one world-class expert who understood manufacturing and pharma who could develop a solution.

When he approached his recruiting team, the recruiting lead, Joan, realized that John needed someone outside of her expertise or network or of anyone on her team. She suggested that they develop a recruiting sprint - a special team chartered to find the person he needed within 30 days. The team would include, in addition to the manager and the recruiter, an IT expert, a social media and marketing pro, a consultant with expertise in pharmaceutical manufacturing, as well as two internal HR business partners who had good visibility into the current employee base. They could tap this base for referrals as well as potential candidates. This team would also tap into any regulators or federal advisors who might know people.

Everyone had a clear role and deadlines to meet. They met weekly and more often when needed through Teams and Zoom.  They identified three internal candidates but during interviews and in discussions with the candidates the team decided that they lacked the depth and breadth of experience and knowledge that was needed for this project. Through a global search, aided by the consultant and contacts the IT employee had, they soon had a list of a dozen people who were possible hires in three countries. In addition to rapidly sourcing potential candidates, the team established clear and objective criteria a candidate had to meet and became efficient in assessing the candidates and doing team interviews. The list of candidates was narrowed down to four and then to a final candidate located in Europe.

In the beginning, John was only interested in someone who would relocate, but he soon found that his preferred candidate was not willing to relocate but was willing to spend time at the facility as needed. The candidate’s global network and experiences were vast, and his depth of knowledge was more than they hoped for. By tapping into so much expertise, they felt they could overcome the problems John face quickly. Eventually, they both agreed that a part-time virtual/physical relationship could work.

The HR business partners on the team helped in cutting through the bureaucracy and compensation issues that would have potentially swamped a single recruiter and hiring manager.

The hire was made in 23 days.

Rather than try to source candidates herself, the recruiting lead put the team together, convinced John this was the best approach, and acted as the team coordinator and leader. She kept the project on track, developed and led each session, and made sure everyone was aware of what others were doing. 

There is immense power in teams with diverse experiences, various roles, and expertise. As recruiting situations become more complex and global, these teams may be the only efficient way to find good people quickly. 

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Related Links

Personalized, Team Recruiting (video)

Collaborative Recruitment

The Power of a Team

The Power of a Team (video)

Tom Malone of MIT on why teams are better than individuals (article & podcast)