Why Every Recruiter Should Pony Up & Do Some Employee Relations…

Jessica Lee Jessica Lee, Recruiting

My friend Kris has written about how HR people can best align themselves with the business – by always being involved in recruiting. Regardless of what level the HR pro, he argues we should all recruit with his rationale being that if you recruit properly, you are forced to get to know the business very well in order to find the right hire. Makes sense to me. But I was thinking about the opposite of that issue recently. Why shouldn’t (more) recruiters be involved in HR and OD?

I know – some, if not most, recruiters see themselves as being different from better than HR. You don’t wantSTREET_CREDIBILTY_logo_ the HR taint! Some have questioned whether the recruiting function should report into HR. Recruiting is well liked, even sexy and meanwhile, HR is hated and non-sexy. And I know that people also talk about the death of HR generalists and why they suck. But I’m a recruiter who is more of generalist and does a little bit of all, and was raised as an HR pro (think COBRA, FMLA, W/C, and harassment. Yayyyy!). And I still stand up for the generalist because you basically get to see employees through an entire cycle – recruiting, development, exits whether voluntary or not… but there’s also the circle of life with marriages, births and deaths too. And I think this changes how you view employees entirely.

It’s never sat well with me that as a recruiter, it’s entirely plausible that you might recruit, recruit, recruit and bring new talent in the door… and then once they’ve joined your company, you lose touch and no longer have much of a relationship with them. That being said, imagine what kind of lessons a recruiter could learn if they were involved in development or employee relations issues for someone they hired.

When you’re involved in employee relations, you see the ugly underbelly of humanity. It’s eye opening. You see very clearly when an employee is in the wrong job. You see when personalities clash and maybe someone isn’t the right fit for a team or with a particular manager. You see when one’s skills fall short of the demands of the job. Sure, sometimes, the environment, the people, the business needs, and the role itself changes, and then the employee seemingly is no longer a good fit. But sometimes, it’s also that people are recruited into the wrong roles or into the wrong environment altogether. And when it’s realized that the pieces don’t fit? Something has to change.

Change can come in the form of looking for a better match for that person’s skill set elsewhere in the organization. Change can mean investing in that person’s development to make it a better match. But change can also mean seeing someone you recruited leave the organization – whether it’s voluntary or not. Each time I sit down for an exit interview, or in the cases where I’ve been involved in someone’s termination, and the departing employee is someone I recruited? In all honesty, I can’t help but feel like I’ve failed in some ways. So, I begin asking myself… where did I go wrong? Why didn’t I see this coming? What could I have done differently? And in replacing them, what are my lessons learned? What will I do differently this time?

Failure is important. It’s a great way to learn lessons. And feeling like a failure, as crappy as it can feel, is precisely what makes me try to do better. It’s the persistent nagging that the feeling of failure brings that causes me to recruit better. But if you’re a true recruiter and do nothing but recruit – I’m not sure you ever get this same opportunity. You have to get exposure to the ugly underbelly of humanity. Employee relations = street cred, friends.