A lot of large companies are coming to the realization that in order to grow and thrive, they need to develop and pursue internal innovation capabilities. However, they also frequently recognize that they don’t have the internal talent needed to foster a culture of innovation. Organizations are hidebound by organizational memory that stifles innovation and continually pursues existing process.
That’s why it’s essential for companies to look outside their own organizations to bring in talented individuals who have proven their ability to nurture innovation and guide organizational transformation. But, when the recruitment process is turned over to HR, do their established policies and procedures aid in the recruitment process or actively repulse creative talent?
I was reminded of these organizational conflicts last week when talking with an executive who had recently been approached by a large public company whose CEO determined that the company needed to emulate successfully innovative companies like Whirlpool and Apple to fuel their company’s growth.
Overcoming Organizational Memory
Recognizing that their current staff was likely incapable of crafting and implementing a dramatic shift towards an innovation culture, the company directed their HR department to recruit talent to help direct these new initiatives.
What followed was a laughably complex, lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by an entrenched HR department that followed their carefully choreographed hiring processes that served two purposes: to consolidate HR’s central role in the hiring process and to repel precisely the type of candidate they desperately need in-house.
The steps followed over the course of months (yes, months) was:
- contact by internal recruiter
- conversation with internal recruiter to determine nature of position and corporate commitment
- conversation with senior recruiter to review candidate’s qualifications
- requirement by HR for candidate to apply for the position through their unnecessarily complex online process
- request for candidate’s resume, despite the fact that the company approached him and his entire portfolio, blog, references, presentations and public appearances were all publicly available online
- follow up interview with senior HR recruiter to confirm level of interest (which was waning sharply by this point)
- telephone interview with hiring manager
- follow-up interview with senior recruiter
- second telephone interview with hiring manager
- in person interviews with hiring manager and four other executives lasting over half a day
- request for personality assessment and permissions for assorted background checks
- interview debrief with senior recruiter with promise to provide an answer within a couple of weeks, after they had processed several other candidates as well
For those people involved with corporate HR there’s probably nothing surprising about the length or detail of this hiring process. And that’s exactly what repels the corporate innovator. After all, if the corporate processes to bring in a single hire are so complex and embedded, how sclerotic is the rest of the organization and how likely will any individual change, or even shift, an entire corporate culture?
The entire hiring process so repelled this executive that he ultimately abandoned any interest in the organization.
Do your hiring processes communicate what’s best about your organization or are you losing the competition for talent because your initial contacts turn off the best and brightest?