March 2, 2021

A Look Inside the Growing Field of Recruitment Operations

Filling job vacancies with qualified workers is getting more difficult. Organizations are increasingly struggling to attract skilled workers from an ever-shrinking pool of candidates.

According to research by ManpowerGroup, talent shortages have nearly doubled in the last decade, with 54 percent of the international businesses polled reporting they are having trouble attracting talent. Compounding that, a recent study by Korn Ferry reveals by the year 2030 companies can expect a human talent shortage of more than 85 million people on a global scale. 

“Unprecedented times are the new normal,” says Jonas Prising, chairman and CEO at ManpowerGroup. “Globally, the labor market is tight. Talent shortages are at record highs,” he shares. 

This shortage and the resulting tug-of-war for candidates is pushing HR and recruiting teams to become more effective and efficient at attracting the right talent. Thus, the rise of the field of recruitment operations. 

What is Recruitment Operations?

There is no universal definition of recruitment operations. Each organization approaches the function differently to fit its unique business model. However, the core function of recruitment operations is universal: to reduce friction in the hiring process. 

“Our job is to be a bridge, reduce friction, and provide data for better decision making,” says Max Butler, recruiting operations manager at management consulting firm Bain & Company.

The end goal of operations teams is to ensure HR and recruiting departments are operating as efficiently as possible, maximizing time, money, and talent to satisfy the needs of an organization. As a function, human resources operations is not directly responsible for hiring. “Basically, recruiting operations are about doing everything — except finding the talent,” explains Tim Sackett, president at HRU Technical Resources.

Recruiting operations teams accomplish their end goal by applying business operations strategies to plan and monitor talent-acquisition processes. 

Because recruitment operations own the processes, tools, and data for the HR team, they can help HR recruit and hire more efficiently. This means they are integral to setting goals, defining steps in the hiring process, and creating strategies that ensure the best use of resources in HR departments. They also handle the everyday operational duties that can divert the attention of those who should be focused on finding talent. 

Through all these efforts, recruitment operations is preparing organizations for the future of work. With such a tight labor market and the current economic conditions, companies have to be able to move quickly and more cost-effectively through the hiring process. Recruitment operations teams allow that to happen.  

“As we approach the future of work and recruiting takes on more considerable responsibility for the viability and success of the organization, we’re going to look to recruitment operations to shine a light on our capabilities and help guide the way,” writes Ryan Leary, CMO and editor-at-large at Recruiting Daily.

three coworkers crowded around a computer screen working together; Recruitment operations concept

A Day in the Life of Recruitment Operations

So what does this mean? What exactly does someone who specializes in recruitment operations do?

Recruitment operations is a specialty function within HR. These specialists use their skills to perform daily tasks to support their team’s mission of optimizing recruiting processes and defining and integrating organizational talent strategies, all while keeping eyes on the bigger HR picture.  

“Recruiting operations is about conducting the orchestra—bringing optimal process and consistency to the entire team, and making sure everyone’s talents are harmonizing,” writes Vanessa Hope Schneider, host operations at Airbnb. “Recruiting operations is also about being the mad scientist—trying new approaches that improve throughput, and delight candidates.”

In playing both roles, a recruitment operations specialist may:

  • Work with tech stack vendors to seek out new tech solutions. 
  • Manage the recruitment budget.
  • Survey employees, candidates, and HR employees to collect feedback data. 
  • Coordinate with the C-suite to develop new recruiting programs. 
  • Oversee the logistics of interview scheduling and onboarding. 
  • Analyze data to guide the redesign of processes. 

That last task — analyzing data — is one of the most important duties of a recruitment operations specialist. The fastest way to highlight inefficiencies in hiring processes is to analyze data. This makes data the foundation of all decisions in recruitment operations. 

Data Is the Cornerstone of Success for Recruitment Operations

How do you know where to find the best talent? How do you know where your hiring practices are falling short? Do you have the processes in place to attract the best talent? 

Data helps you answer these questions. That’s why recruitment operations cannot exist without data. No matter how an organization defines the function, data serves as the foundation for that function. The success of recruitment operations depends on the quality of data these team members have to work with. 

The value of recruitment operations lies in the team’s ability to capture data from both the perspective of the candidate and the perspective of the company. “The key to recruitment operations excellence is overlaying experiential data and operational data,” says Ian Alexander, director and CMO at workforce feedback and analytics platform Survale.

Data allows recruiting operations teams to measure each step in the hiring process from both perspectives and identify areas for improvement. This is essential for them to be able to make hiring practice changes and integrate HR into organizational strategy. To that end, there are three key areas in which recruiting operations can make the most impactful changes. 

job interview, employer shakes hand of new hire; Recruitment operations concept

Three Key Areas Recruitment Operations Focuses on Improving

While all aspects of recruiting can benefit from the efforts of recruiting operations, HR operations are particularly responsible for transforming organizations in three key ways: improving processes, implementing technology, and ensuring positive employee experiences, assert Frank Bafaro, Diana Ellsworth, and Neel Gandhi at McKinsey. 

Improve Recruitment Operations and Processes

The most important area for a recruiting operations team to improve is hiring operations and processes. There are a lot of inefficiencies in hiring practices that can be eliminated to ensure an organization is effectively attracting the right talent. The HR team needs the right people leading those changes. These people must be comfortable advocating for operational changes, meaning the best professionals for that role are recruiting operations specialists who use data to find those areas of waste. 

Doing so isn’t a one-time project. It’s an ongoing effort for recruiting operations teams that should be regularly auditing hiring processes to identify those opportunities for improvement. The results of the audits feed continuous improvement projects that optimize recruiting and make the HR team more productive.  

Use Technology to Automate Tasks

Human resources technology is key for building more efficient processes. Using technology to automate administrative tasks frees up HR professionals to focus on the more important aspects of talent acquisition, such as finding the right candidates more quickly and cost-effectively.

Recruiting operations is tasked with building the right tech stack for HR and ensuring proper implementation and management of the software. Data, again, is key for understanding what exactly it is that the HR teams need or expect technology to do and how best to implement those tools. 

This is crucial for operational efficiency in recruiting. “When digital technologies are effectively adopted the capabilities bring value to organisations to drive sustainable and efficient operations,” writes Georgia Wilson, editor-in-chief at Business Chief North America.

Ensure Positive Employee Experiences

The HR team’s experience with recruiting processes isn’t the only one that matters. Employee experiences are also critical to recruiting success. 

The first experience they have with an organization is usually through HR and the hiring process. Optimize the process and create a positive experience from the start. Happy employees are more productive and stay with the company longer.  

Recruiting-operations professionals play a big role in creating that experience. They are responsible for seeking feedback from new employees and then using that data to improve the candidate and new hire experiences. 

That information should be collected not only from new hires as soon as they complete the onboarding process but also from employees who are leaving the company so HR teams understand better how to engage employees, writes Sharon Florentine at CIO. The recruiting operations team can then take that feedback and turn it into actionable items for making improvement. 

Organizations need every competitive advantage they can get to get ahead in the fight for talent. Recruiting operations is built to give companies that advantage by using data and technology to build better processes. That’s why it is becoming an increasingly important part of HR and recruiting teams.

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