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Straight & Wobbly Lines To The US
by John Scott

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Recruitment And HR

Recruitment, along with staff administration and welfare, is one of the earliest specialist activities in the recent history of HR. It is an important part of the curriculum in vocational training across the globe and experience of the specialism for professionals is common in their early years.

One way to plot the development of our profession is to identify changes in recruitment activity - even 10 years ago it was a time consuming process, supported by mountains of paper and masses of administration; now it is short, Web-enabled and more commercially focussed. Or at least it should be.

If one compares text books and management texts over a 10-15 year period the issue remains key, but the tone and nature of the activity has clearly changed. It used to be about process, fixed procedures, advertising, control and regulatory compliance. Now things are different.

Change And Continuity In Activity

Search Google using "recruitment" and there are nearly 3 million offerings including academic treatises, languages I donít recognise and a website specialising in jobs in Scotland, my home nation. The effect of technology is huge Ė web enabled recruitment driving down costs of advertising and cost per hire; greatly shortening lead times; different push and pull models developing; a multiplicity of providers, web-sites and suppliers. Its effects should make recruitment easier for everybody involved.

Jim Collinsí Good To Great tries to answer the question "Can a good company become a great company and, if so, how?". One of the answers in this fascinating text is recruitment Ė spend time finding the right people and donít compromise on quality; if a shortage of the right people gets in the way of business success, donít compromise; donít develop a strategy and then recruit senior people to implement it, instead get them in first and start the journey together. In effect, take time and make the effort to get this most basic of activities right and thus avoid the churn evident in most businesses trying to grow quickly.

This may be common sense, but if common sense prevailed in business a number of us would be unemployed or doing markedly different jobs.

The notion of portfolio careers has been developed and popularised by Charles Handy - we are now seeking a variety of activities in order to advance our professional and personal lives in such a way as to address positively the fact that jobs for life were an invention of the last century which didnít quite make it to this one. So the recruitment challenge is, for individuals, one that enhances employability in various shapes and forms; and for businesses, one of finding these individuals and attracting them in numerous ways, assuming of course they are interested in a Ďproperí job. Given the significant growth in self employment in developed countries, many of course are not.

Recruitment is no longer 2 + 2 = 4

A recent contribution to the ever-widening scope of management texts is Ridderstrale and Nordstromís Funky Business. They make a radical case for this changed equation:

"The reality of our times is an unstructured world populated by capable individuals."

Speak to most chief executive officers at different times of the economic cycle and they will either have too many or not enough people - the point at which equilibrium is reached is rarely experienced.

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John Scott is a London-based European HR consultant having previously worked for Coopers & Lybrand. He was a prize winning MS student at LSE and his MBA is from City University Business School.

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