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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How GM Put Its Talent Sourcing in Overdrive

What happens when a company of 250,000 employees only has four people working in talent acquisition?
Answer: It doesn’t acquire much talent.
This may be a corny joke, but it’s also a simple truth. And back in 2009, it was a reality for General Motors. It’s pretty telling when your entire talent acquisition team can take the same Lyft ride to work. (Think about that the next time you feel your company doesn’t have enough recruiters!)  Thankfully, things have changed at GM (we’ve outgrown using a single Lyft!) – but it didn’t happen overnight.  As part of the team charged with building our talent acquisition function, I had to come up with fresh sourcing strategies, which I shared at SmashFly’s Transform Virtual 2017. Here are a few of the key principles that put GM on the path to world-class sourcing.

Craft Your Story

If we were going to fix GM’s talent acquisition, we had to understand the problem. I know what you’re thinking: “The problem was that you only had four recruiters … at GM!”  Well, yes, obviously that was a challenge. But more resources and staff wasn’t the answer. We had to get to the core of the problem, so we did research. We talked with our new hires, as well as candidates who considered joining but went elsewhere. We discovered that GM candidates were ILL. ILL is the acronym we came up with for the top three barriers we faced in hiring the best talent: Industry, Legacy, Location.

Industry: Despite technological advancements, people still view the automotive industry as antiquated, stuffy and stodgy. They pictured greasy and grimy automotive plants with assembly lines, not the millions of lines of code that go into every vehicle today.

Legacy: The company had a very public bankruptcy in 2009, and despite the progress we made, people still remember it years later. Candidates had feelings of uncertainty: How are they doing financially? Will I have job stability here? Are they on the verge of going under again?

Location: Picture your ideal city to live and work in if you had to relocate for your career. Pause. Did Detroit come to mind? Didn’t think so. When most people think of Motor City, they want to motor through it, not live there! And honestly, four or five years ago, neither did I.
To heal the “ILL” view of GM, we had to change the narrative. We needed to control and communicate the story, actively and uniquely – not just the GM story, but our personal GM story.

Like I said, I wasn’t an initial fan of Detroit. But once I began to see the revitalization of the city the past few years, it blew me away. It’s really an up-and-coming city. I can talk to people about that in an interview. I can identify with their reservations about Detroit and share my story, which will likely resonate with them because it’s personal. It’s real. So operative number one was moving away from canned and corporate and into raw and real.

Find Your Ambassadors

We all know the market is candidate-driven, and the competition for talent is fierce. We hear about it every day … wash, rinse, repeat. But you know who has no clue about our struggles? The salespeople. The software engineers. Those guys in accounting.  Talent acquisition needs to be an organizational effort – and that doesn’t just happen on its own. No one goes to work thinking they need to be recruiting or advocating or referring. It’s our job to communicate its importance to every department. 
Everyone can be a talent ambassador. And everyone should. Every employee has a personal network of friends, former colleagues, and alumni. You need to tap into those networks to attract more talent like the great people you already have hired.  Think about it: Who better to relate to a software engineer than another software engineer? Who can explain what it’s like to be in sales at your company better than your salespeople? So you need to ask and equip people to be ambassadors for your brand, setting up channels and guidelines to facilitate this process.  We haven’t mastered this yet a GM, but we’re still striving for it. It’s the foundation of a brand-led talent acquisition strategy.

Develop the Future Sourcer

Yesterday’s recruiting skills and methods won’t cut it anymore. We have to think like strategists, promote like marketers, write like search experts and inquire like data scientists. Then, we have to share and instill that knowledge in others.  As I started to build the sourcing team at GM, I looked for four key pillars:

Search Expert: Search is the foundation of sourcing. The best sourcers must be able to use new tools in unique ways to find data from a variety of sources. They have to mine information from the web and be creative in hunting for top-notch talent, truly finding needles in haystacks.

Strategist: It’s one thing to know what a hiring manager is looking for, it’s another to know how you’re actually going to find it. Sourcers are on the front line; they are the eyes and ears of your operation. They should be able to build a plan based on data, the market, competitive intel and the tools at their disposal, then communicate and deliver on that plan effectively.

Marketer: If everyone in your company needs to be an ambassador, sourcers must be the ambassadors-in-chief. They must be great communicators, turning a two-sentence formal EVP into a personal, genuine story that relates and intrigues. GM may not be for everyone, and we’re OK with that. But we want to give candidates a realistic view of what it’s like to work for us. That can’t come from a script; it has to come from that first personal touch point, like a sourcer who shares our story effectively.

TeacherIf talent acquisition wants to bring value to our organizations, we have to help and inform our colleagues. When I look for our sourcers, I want people who leverage the latest tools, techniques and technology (say that fast three times) and can share their expertise with others. Whether junior recruiters, seasoned recruiters, fellow teammates or managers, we all need to share our knowledge in best and emerging practices to better the organization.

Another part of the journey is the close partnership developed between the Sourcing team and the employment branding and social media team.  Sharing a consistent message about the new GM and why candidates should consider us vs. other employment options is an important part of our evolution.
With these key steps in action, we’re in a much better place than we were eight years ago (those “four-lorn” days are long gone). Just as the auto industry continues to evolve, so does our approach to sourcing and talent acquisition. Hopefully, these insights get your wheels turning so you can take the reins and steer your organization in the right direction. 


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