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Hard decisions of recruitment infrastructure

I mentioned yesterday on my Twitter feed that while SAPPHIRE '09 is a little more lightly attended, the overriding theme seems to be "do more with what you have." In other words, the discussion has -- understandably -- shifted away from investigating what is commonly referred to as the "white space" of a firm's enabling technology footprint and towards a more frank discussion on core processes that flow through these technologies.

Judging by the ASUG events, industry sessions, and general buzz on the show floor, there is a general movement underway to open up these processes and search for any area of efficiency that will drive cost out of the organization. Interestingly, this is being done, of course, within the context of the current economic climate, but also with a hopeful mind towards the future.

Consider one such example from a discussion I had with the Global Lead of IBM's HCM Practice. The conversation was confirming the nature of the contraction that we have seen across the varying segments of the workforce. In particular, many firms, in addition to broad reductions in force, have also eliminated a majority of their recruiting infrastructure. The reality of a prolonged recession far outweighed the need to maintain a large recruiting staff poised to jump into action when recovery is imminent.

It was agreed that this reality has several implications.

First -- and not as widely reported -- a decision to eliminate a professional or contracted member of the recruiting staff is a clear indication of corporate expectations for the recession. This is because any sizable increase in full-time staff requires some semblance of a recruitment infrastructure, and firms are inherently accepting the average eight week ramp-up to put it in place.

Second, this reduction in corporate recruiting signals the willingness of the firm's leadership to defer investment decisions not only the development of the full time workforce, but on any and all associated operational costs. We both shared conversations we've had with HR leaders who have confirmed this decision deferment, and learned that it was out of necessity to accept the potential premium that might result from quickly implementing recruitment infrastructure.

Last, this is very likely to result in an uptick in leveraging Recruitment Process Outsourcing to fill the gaps. This will be true both today, with the occasional need to fill open headcount, and tomorrow, when firms may be in desperate need to get recruitment infrastructure in place to address the demands of a growing workforce.

In my opinion, it is quite likely that even after recovery is well underway, that the outsource recruitment category will show significant growth and mature into a critical partner for most large global firms. In fact, such maturation is likely to make such services accessible to firms of any size. Further validation that the post-recession comprehensive workforce and its composition will never again reflect what it was before.

The question we were considering on our way to SAPPHIRE was whether or not firms are thinking this way and considering the actions that will be necessary to ensure they are not only planning to whether the storm today, but how they are anticipating responding to recovery. Our answer doesn't yet have complete clarity, but it does appear as though there is a willingness to accept dramatic changes to how the total workforce will be built, managed, and maintained.


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