What Afghanistan Reminds Us About Recruiting – Get Out to the Front Lines

Josh Letourneau HR Tech, Joshua Letourneau, Recruiting

Innovation and technological advantage are highly sought after in the Recruiting and Talent Acquisition world, aka “The Recruitosphere.”  Press releases about new products, daily webinars, product launches at tradeshows, articles among our industry’s wider read networks, blog posts… and frankly, the majority of the Recruitosphere’s Twitter stream revolves around these topics.  You might say it’s somewhat of a reinforcing loop. News and chatter begets more news and chatter.

This thirst for technological advantage doesn’t only exist in the Recruitosphere (or the B2B world, for that matter).  Consider national defense and the notion of “modern warfare” for a moment.  Examples of technological advantage range from weaponry to mobility to communications, etc.  UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) Drones allow an operator (meaning a human battlefield resource) to deliver air support from a laptop.  Heartbeat sensors and thermal sights attached to weapons allow for quick identification of enemies that may be hidden to the human eye.  Lightweight armor allows relative protection while allowing for operators to quickly and quietly move in and out of situations and environments previously non-negotiable.  The list goes on and on.

And despite all this technological advantage, the modern battlefield renders many of them useless.  Case in point: Afghanistan, a country whose sand and rock is stained by thousands of years of bloodshed.  The mountainous regions, treacherous terrain, caves and tunnel systems, etc. are such that many of our advantages are rendered moot.  The enemy is so “dug in” that, in many cases, the only way to get them to move their location is to “smoke them out.”  Yep, we have millions of dollars in weapon systems, mobility systems, etc. ready to be employed… yet we can’t employ them.  The Soviets, with all their defense superiority, lasted 10 years before their withdrawal in 1989As of 2009, the U.S. has already been there 8 years, only to find that the Taliban has grown stronger while we today debate troop strength and overall strategy.  The enemy isn’t “out in the open” – rather, they have mastered the art of condensing and shrinking the battefield to suit their own strengths (ergo the Battle of Thermopylae or “300“).  They are so primitive that they force you to ‘play their game’… meaning become more guerrilla-like and primitive yourself, hence recalling memories of the Vietnam War.

So this lends the question: Is there a lesson for Recruiting in Afghanistan?  I believe there is.  See, it’s often the case that the Recruitosphere (and again, the entire B2B world) engages in a race for technological advantage.  Many organizations copy the competition or those cited as “highest performing” or “award-winning” because they want to achieve the same accolades, or at a minimum, attain perceived parity.  Some even engage in a flat-out spending war, priding themselves in staying on the “bleeding edge.”

And just like in Afghanistan, as the Soviets and U.S. have learned, technological advantage yields little to no benefit.  What’s most important on the modern battlefield is not technology, but moreover, the ‘will to fight‘.  The same is true of Recruiting organizations – your competition may have the most sophisticated sourcing applications, the best contact management system, a better branded careers site, etc., but that doesn’t mean they share your ‘will to fight’, or better, your ‘will to win’.

What I’m suggesting is the following: Through nothing more than ‘primitive technology’ (i.e. a phone, email, etc.) and engaged recruiters who care and are committed to winning, you can render the competition’s technological advantage useless.  While their technology may offer them certain advantages, it also encumbers them and creates points of weakness – it’s your job to identify those soft areas and weaken them further.  Pat your fellow brethren and team members on the back with the Roman Legion motto, “Strength and Honor” (or if you prefer, “Get Some”, as we say in the USMC infantry) and get out to the front lines right now with pride that the ‘will to win’ trumps everything else.