Is your Organization being Realistic about its Talent Needs versus its Talent Wants?


Often, the root cause of lengthy “Time to Fill” and/or low “Retention” rates is when organizations have not come to terms with their talent realties.  There are ways of recruiting that take into account a bigger picture of marrying the employee with the employer.  A tale of a firm getting bogged down by traditional hiring practices and one of a firm using a different perspective on hiring are offered here as examples. 

A defense contractor firm’s legal department only recruits from the top third of the top five (5) law schools in the country.  This is what the department has always done and the hiring managers are quite satisfied with the quality of the recruits.  The problem occurs when these employees voluntarily terminate around their fifth year with the organization.  The firm recognizes this is a systemic issue as the phenomenon occurs year after year. 

Based on exit interviews, the firm learns the attrition trigger for these attorneys is a compensation issue.  (I know what you are thinking, compensation is rarely the real issue on “why” employees leave an organization, but these are not typical employees).  Around five years, post-law school, their peers who joined elite law firms have reached the partnership track and are now seeing their earning potential skyrocket.  While their law school classmates are purchasing fantasy automobiles and/or property, these employees find their salary upside substantially limited in comparison.

Here is the pickle; the department leadership team insists on these strict criteria, of only hiring the best of the best, but due to industry realities, the firm has limited compensation options compared to private firms.  The answer may seem obvious to an outsider – simply hire from the lower half of the same schools or widen the number of law schools from which to recruit. 

Unfortunately, the hiring managers have not come to grips with their staffing reality and instead have become a training ground for corporate attorneys.


In "Moneyball," both the book and the movie, the Oakland A’s scouting team behaves like the hiring managers in the legal department example.  They scout for talent as they always have, looking for recruits with all “five tools” that have the body and look of the ideal professional ball player.  To look anywhere else for anything else is heresy.

But Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane demanded a different strategy.  Beane challenged his scouts and management team declaring, “If we do what the Yankees do, we lose every time, because they’re doing it with three times more money than we are.”

Using market research, sabermetrics and challenging baseball conventional wisdom, Beane encouraged his scouts to look at talent more critically.  How would a player fit into the overall Oakland line-up?  What would the player contribute?  Is the player’s salary justified based on his projected contribution?  These were the answers Beane was looking for when evaluating talent, not the player’s impressive credentials. 

Helping hiring managers understand their talent needs versus their wants is a foundational step for good talent management.  To read more talent management lessons from "Moneyball", be sure to check out last week's Half-time Post, "What Moneyball Can Teach Your Organization About Good Talent Management."