Total Football in Recruitment

Total Football in Recruitment!

In the Recruitment industry, aggressive ramp-ups, high-pressure, requirements for a never-heard-off-skill and do-or-die situations are more often the norm rather than an exception. Recruitment teams are regularly under pressure to fulfill critical business needs within the least time frame. In such a scenario how do they ensure that they can deliver competently on a consistent basis?

Here is one such situation that I came across.  One of the leading global banks was looking to implement a multi-country, multi-language application within an extremely short time period, and to create a record within the industry in doing so. This implementation envisaged a team with a 100+ head count. And the pressure of this implementation rested directly on the Recruitment team since 90% of the workforce was to be recruited externally. The skill complexity was high as the application needed the latest technology stack, and the selected candidates were required to join within the shortest time possible. It would be a true test of the team’s ability to strategize and execute the sourcing and selection while maintaining a high level of operational efficiency.  They had to on board more than 100 candidates spanning different technologies and roles within a period of four weeks.

In order to do so, they would have to:

  • Scan through 20,000 resumes in various database and job portals
  • Screen close to 15,000 resumes
  • Shortlist and call over 10,000 candidates
  • Interview around 6,000 candidates
  • Make offers to 150 candidates
  • And finally, onboard 110 candidates

This would require them to:

  • Arrange and coordinate daily interviews and to create two walk-in drives in at least 3 cities
  • Arrange a dedicated technical panel of consisting of more than 30 members from the Project team

The challenge was debated threadbare among all stakeholders and the Delivery team identified interviewing candidates as a major bottleneck since they were tied down in delivering another application which was already running behind schedule. The Recruitment team requested an exception in using the internal tool where all requirements would normally be published. The process required them to upload all resumes against each published requirement, and then to coordinate, track and close candidates through the tool. The challenge was that in addition to uploading resumes, every recruiter would have to maintain Excel sheets to track all the other activities as well.

In order to save time for the Delivery team, it was decided to use an assessment tool, thus simplifying major activities like screening, shortlisting and interviewing a high volume of candidates. These assessments would also help in avoiding one level of technical interviews.  The competencies required were mapped on to the tool, and assessments with mutually agreed cut-off scores were created. Assessments would be administered across locations, and candidates achieving the cut-off scores would be stack ranked and invited for final interviews.  The resultant savings in time and effort for the Delivery and Recruitment teams was substantial. This ability to look for out-of-the-box solutions, and to perform outside their defined roles always differentiates highly successful recruitment teams.

I find a lot of parallels between recruitment planning and certain styles of football, notably Total Football, and Tiki Taka. Football follows a strong training and selection process, and close monitoring of performance based on ‘perform or perish’ formula. Total Football was an influential tactical theory of football developed by the Dutch in the 1970s where any outfield player can take over the role of any other player in a team. Quite akin to recruiters being able to perform beyond their assigned roles, as mentioned earlier. Tiki Taka is a novel passing-based style developed by the highly-successful Barcelona and Spain Teams, where the emphasis is on creating a fluid system in the field ensuring maximum possession and control of the ball. This to me is again relevant in the context of recruitment where it is highly important to hold on to candidates in order to ensure delivery under any circumstance. This is also relevant when there is a change in the team due to attrition or rotation. Any change in the team or in the team’s internal processes should never affect the customer or the delivery to the customer. The Total Football philosophy and the Tiki Taka tactical style have to be imbibed as a culture to maintain status quo for the customer and the candidate. This in turn ensures sustainable and consistent delivery. While many would say that recruitment is nothing but acquiring talent against manpower needs by engaging a set of recruiters, it is not that simple in reality. While every recruiter works with certain basic tools and resources like the Internet, job portals and telephone connections, recruitment planning requires anticipating varied situations, assigning roles, and matching recruiter competencies with domain and role needs.  At most times, recruiters have to deliver varied job roles within a set of designations/roles or the same skill set in multiple combinations, thus fulfilling needs within needs be it technology or roles.

This complicates execution, with teams spending enormous time in understanding requirements and subsequently in sourcing, selecting and offering. Detailed studies have revealed that the time taken to onboard candidates can vary from 45 to 90 days from the day the requisition is initiated.  In the whole cycle, it was revealed that the maximum time taken is for “interviews” and the “decision to offer a candidate” as selection/offers require multiple approvals. This justifies the need of having a good team that is persuasive, knowledgeable in technology, agile, and able to coordinate and close a transaction within the minimum timeframe. These complexities require a robust strategy and execution that is powerful yet fluid in nature. This is where Total Football and Tiki Taka resonates strongly with Recruitment.

A winning football team comprises strong defenders, creative midfielders and incisive forwards.  Similarly, Recruitment teams will comprise of three or four key roles: The Front-end Team that interacts with Business Teams/Customers/Candidates (the influencers – Forwards), the Sourcing Team that finds suitable candidates for any role/skill (the sourcing experts – the Midfielders) and a team to manage the entire logistical operation comprising vendor management, analytics, etc.  (the Operations Team – the Defenders). All-rounders are rarely found but most recruiters feel that they are capable of handling all the roles.   This is where a Coach’s (in this case the Recruitment Head) role comes to the fore in creating a process that is scalable and a team that can cover all the roles described above. It is this Coach’s responsibility to understand the strengths and competencies of the team members, and to deploy them in the right positions. After the team members are identified, the key focus of the Coach should be on training them to fulfill all the three/four roles that they need to play when the need arises. This would then translate into a Total Recruitment team.

The other important facet of recruitment planning and execution is to identify the right technology platform that can aid optimum delivery. There are several tools and platforms that have been architected to suit the recruitment scenario in foreign countries. However, the high-volume nature of recruitment that is seen only in India make them incompatible for local deployment. Most often, recruiters end up spending considerable time in updating a system that does not deliver real-time results and updates.  Hence the implementation of a wrong tool can be a hindrance to process enablement and reduce the productivity of the team.

In a nutshell, recruitment planning should focus on creating a winning team that can handle the customer and candidates in any situation by tapping the skills and competencies of each team member in a manner that can be fluid when the situation demands it to be.  Similarly, using a ‘Total Recruitment’ approach, the various subsets such as sourcing, screening, interviewing, selection and offering can be handled to create a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

Written by me and Published in People & Management Magazine(Page 28/29) Vol.7 Issue 7 • September 2016, Noida

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