Three Cheers to the Real Recruiting Heroes: HR Generalists!

Our team is working really hard this week to complete a couple of really big projects for some clients. Much of the work on those projects has to do with corporate recruitment processes and staffing organizational design. I was taking a break today from my work, and I reflected on something really important… most of the work of recruiting in organizations happen not by recruiters but by HR Generalists! I think many people believe that more often than not, there are “recruiting departments” or “recruiting specialists” inside companies that do the work of recruiting talent. But, I believe that a small percentage of all total companies and organizations throughout the world actually have a full-fledged “recruiting department” or “recruiting specialists”. Most of the recruiting work in small to mid-sized companies (the bulk of organizations around the world) is handled by HR Generalists or even business managers or owners. And, the work that these HR Generalists do is nothing more than heroic!

To my recruiting and staffing “insider” friends who are reading this post, I know it is hard to believe anyone but an “expert” can truly handle the extraordinarily complex world of recruiting, but it is true… much of the heaving lifting of recruiting in most organizations is done by a generalist or someone else! More than any other sub-group within the profession of HR, the recruiting world is very vocal, visible, and active. But often we fail to give recognition to the HR Generalists who do most of the heavy lifting in recruiting…along with all of the other “stuff” they have to do. For example, I had a great conversation today with an HR Director at a mid-sized company. She called me because she read an article on the SHRM website where I was quoted about the new paradigm of “unbundled executive recruiting” (more about that in another post). As the one and only HR professional in this company, she was being asked by the CEO and the Board of Directors to conduct a search to find a President for the company. This company has a few hundred employees, not-too-shabby revenues in the several millions of dollars, and multi-state operations. After I talked to her…I thought to myself…here I am working with clients to figure out how many dozens of recruiting experts they need to have, where they should be, etc., and this ONE person is being tasked to run a president-level executive search, along with ALL of the other stuff she told me about: recruiting non-exempt and exempt staff (about 5 open requisitions now), coordinating all employee relations, training and development, benefits, compensation, company culture, and being an active participant on the management team of this public company!  Whew… wow thats a job.

This person, is just one of millions of HR Generalists that need to be an expert in all things HR, not just one subset. And, many HR Generalists are skewered by their specialist contemporaries as not being expert “enough” in a particular sub-specialty. I am more and more in awe of HR Generalists who truly do heroic things… for example:

  • The HR Generalist team in a large company who was tasked to take on recruiting and staffing tasks after the recession hit and the company decided to layoff several recruiting specialists. Instead of whining about more work and not wanting to do this work… they jumped right into it and admitted that they were not experts but wanted to learn. The team of 5 HR Generalists then used their considerable relationships with the business to turn the recruiting task into something much more than transactional (as it apparently was when there was a team of specialists before the layoffs). Now, this company is in a position to hire more staff, but they are not going to hire more recruiters…they are going to hire some more support and coordination staff to support their HR Generalist heroes!
  • The one person HR department at a mid-sized legal firm who has from day-one served as the chief recruiter as well as all the other “stuff”. No, she cannot “do” all the sourcing, screening, and hiring herself, but she has made it a part of her overall skill set to be a great project manager of the process. She knows how to develop and set solid expectations and SLAs (service level agreements) with external resources (like search firms and agencies) to support her. Just because she project manages the “finding” and “screening” of candidates does not mean she does not serve as the “chief recruiter”. She still owns the process, and assesses and manages every single candidate after they have been submitted. She does “recruit”… lawyers and legal assistants are a competitive commodity, and candidates have to be “recruited”. She does this exceedingly well because of her relationship and closeness to the business.
  • The HR representative at a financial services company who is responsible for employee relations as well as recruiting for a large part of the company. One day may be filled with handling employee relations problems, performance issues, manager succession, and recruiting… and training 10 customer service representatives. How does she do it? She is great a managing her time… and contracting with the business: this is what I CAN do and when I can do it– and this is what I CANNOT do, but here’s how it can get done.

These are just a few of people that I have recently come across that are really doing great things, and are the essence of Human Resources. For all of us in the “Talent Acquisition Community”, we of course need to welcome with open arms our colleagues and compatriots: the HR Generalist Heroes who help build organization success just like we do! Let’s open our kimonos and share with them some of the secret mojo that we use to help us be successful… I know I will.

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Jeremy M. Eskenazi, SPHR, CMC

Jeremy Eskenazi, is the Managing Principal of Riviera Advisors, Inc.

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