Why making project managers and team leaders recruit their own staff is actually a good idea, both for companies and for managers themselves
You’re runningawfullylate on an ambitious project that absolutely needs to be delivered on time. Your team needs one extra brain ASAP. Yet by the time the HR department gets cracking, you are already not one, but two people short.
Sounds familiar? This is an all too common reality in many growing IT companies. Two things make recruitment in such situations especially challenging: speed and specialism. When you are in the middle of a project, waiting a month or two for a newcomer just won’t do — by that time the project may be irreparably compromised. And as IT projects tend to be rather dynamic, your requirements for the extra employee you’re after may change in weeks, or even days.
HR and its discontents
The traditional way to respond to such challenges is by hiring more HR specialists. While this may seem an obvious thing to do, it may in fact end up becoming part of the problem, not the solution. First, big HR departments generate more bureaucracy, no matter how qualified the HR specialists who work there are. This may lead to a Chinese-whispers-style distortion of requirements as they pass down the line of recruiters. And precious time will be lost while the HR department goes over applications and conducts interviews. Second, it’s expensive. Hiring HR specialists and training them to understand the precise needs of an organisation is as slow as it is costly. If, say, a year later the inflow of projects slows down, the HR department that has just been scaled up will need to be cut down, imposing extra costs on the company yet again.
Another problem with delegating all the recruitment processes to an HR department, whether in-house or outsourced, is that they will inevitably be ignorant of the fundamental details of the project they are hiring for. Sure, HR specialists need to know the basics, and the best of them will take the trouble to go even deeper, but to delve into the minutest of details is usually too much to ask of them. The problem is that, in many cases, it is these finer points that will define the exact nature of the vacancy that needs to be filled. This means that a number of candidates picked by HR people may prove unfit for the particular job. It also limits their ability to attract the best candidates in the first place.
Most people in the IT business agree: they work in an employee-driven market. Competition for top talent is so tough that the hiring process has turned from vetting candidates from a list (ah, the good old days!) to companies desperately trying to sell themselves to the potential employees out there.
Who can pitch their company and project best? (Besides the CEO, who most likely has many other things to do.) The correct answer, although a lot of people aren’t aware of this, is: managers and project leaders. Nobody knows their project better than they do. Nobody can describe its challenges in such detail,while also getting to the core of what makes it unique and professionally appealing to potential employees.
Talks between an HR specialist and a potential employee most often boil down to pay, because, well, there isn’t much else to talk about.
The responsible manager, on the other hand, can talk tech, project goals, describe other team members and their everyday work and, last but not least, present himself or herself — it’s no secret that employees often choose a boss, not a company.
Will I have to recruit now, too?
The idea of involving managers in the recruitment process may initially cause resistance from both sides. The HR department might feel sidelined, and the managers somewhat overwhelmed. Both of these issues are easy to tackle. First, the HR people will still have plenty of work to do — from taking newcomers through the traditional formalities to ensuring that they fit into the company’s culture tostructuring the whole recruitment and onboarding process in a comprehensive way. These are things that only HR specialists know well enough to perform, and no sensible manager will be willing to take them on.
As for the manager’s role, here are a couple of questions to ask yourself in order to ascertain the level of involvement you’re comfortable with. Would you outsource recruitment if your company had, say, five employees (or whatever the number of people currently in your team is)? If so, what would be your reasons for not participating in the recruitment process?
What it would cost you if the relevant employee is not found in time or proves unfit for the job? Would you have to restructure the project, increase the burden on other team members or compensate the client?
By weighing up all the pros and cons, you’ll probably conclude that the involvement of a manager in recruiting new team members is as inevitable as it is essential. It is certainly worth investing the time to get the recruitment process right and avoid any unnecessary pain.
Picking up skills
OK, so you are in. The next step is the acquisition of essential recruitment skills. The approach of HBR Partners, a talent acquisition and training company based in Riga, Latvia, is to involve managers as deeply and actively as possible in the whole of the recruitment cycle. Under their supervision, managers participate in the initial search for candidates and the first interview, as well as follow-ups with the selected candidates – right up to integrating the new team member into the project. HBR Partners’ know-how is drawn from their own hard-earned experience. Working as team leaders at large IT companies, they saw their projects turning toxic due to acute and unsolved shortages of developers and decided to save others the trouble of dealing with this.
Usually, training starts with a workshop for all the managers in the company willing to get involved in the recruitment process. This also helps to persuade the sceptics, as HBR Partners’specialists explain their approach and go through the benefits of manager involvement in detail. Later, the training moves on to a new phase, where each manager is coached and assisted one-to-one in searching for candidates, preparing for interviews, assessing the candidates’ performance, and so on.
The ultimate goal is to ensure managers are able to select the best candidates and pitch both the position and the company, all at the same time.
As part of the training process, experts from HBR Partners also take care to integrate the newly restructured recruitment process into the company’s other operations, so that managers and the HR department work in harmony, and nobody gets overburdened.
Into the hybrid future
This is how hybrid professionals are made. They are people who can bridge the gap between their direct responsibilities and external conditions to work successfully. The hybridisation trend is growing not only in the IT sector, but in a range of professions – in the media, finance and many other dynamic industries. The main benefit? Hybrid managers are much less dependent on other people in the company for achieving results. And that boosts not only their productivity but also, predictably, their satisfaction with their work.
One might wonder, though, what’s in it for the talent acquisition company that provides the service? Doesn’t it mean less work for them? The HBR Partners team are composed professionals— they will always have enough highly challenging cases that only they can handle, and they benefit greatly from cooperating with managers who know the nuts and bolts of the trade as well. What’s more, all parties, from company bosses to managers and HR specialists to outsourced contractors, are more interested in IT companies being healthy, than being in an industry inhabited by stressed-out, high-strung employees. So here’s to hybrid success!