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The Speed of Talent Acquisition: Slowing Down to Speed Up

In this blog post, we’ll explore the practice of slowing-down-to-speed-up and how it can actually help you to improve outcomes all across talent acquisition.

A favorite pastime of mine is to research what the future holds in talent acquisition. Occasionally, what begins as a slightly annoying or random thought (like the catchy jingle “Liberty, Liberty, Liberty!”) takes root and grows into real questions such as:

  • Which solutions or sets of tool in talent acquisition – if executed correctly – can deliver the best performance for cost?
  • If I was trapped on a desert island which talent tool would I wish I could think up? And why can’t I do this without the island?!?
  • If most predictive tools can’t even accurately forecast a candidate’s many potential future outcomes how will they ever deliver on prescriptive analytics?
  • Will workforce automation and robotics force me into early retirement? Or will Elon Musk turn me into a cyborg and force me to work for him on Mars?
  • Will there ever be a time when online credentials matter more to hiring managers than having a bachelor’s or master’s degree?
  • Will “gigs” and the “ATS” ever really disappear?

When a question piques my interest, I’ll usually invest some time to work up a formal research document and then I set it aside. Later, I’ll pick it back up, try to put aside any preconceived notions, and invest in another block of time to do even more research. Sometimes I do this 4-5 times or more before a strong opinion is formed.

Like over-chewing food before swallowing or measuring twice before making the cut, this process – doing research and then setting it aside – forces me to slow things down to focus attention and presence, acknowledge all the complexities, and encourage a deeper dialog before taking action.

Of course, I didn’t always believe in this slow-down-to-speed-up approach.

An article published a few years before the ’90s dot com bubble advised business owners everywhere to move online or die. And so I did what many other young entrepreneurs did at the time. I quickly identified a business partner and immediately set up a “dot com” incubator and began to vet ideas for new online ventures.

It wasn’t long before my partner and I settled on what we thought was a great idea – copy the traditional paper ad and upload it to the Web so businesses could reach more consumers. An online ad had a much longer “shelf life” than a traditional paper ad because paper versions were eventually thrown in the trash.

Soon after, we came up with an idea to allow users to save ads and images to their own private online space, create personal collections of ads and images, and even build personal pages or catalogs of ads and images to share with other online users. People would finally be able to interact with ads and images important to them – business suits, refrigerators, car parts, beauty products, funny ads and quotes, whatever.

But there was a major flaw in our thinking. During the late 90’s, social media was still in its infancy and at that time it was much harder to share images back and forth with others than it is today. The first blogging sites did not become popular until sometime around 1999, and Facebook and Twitter didn’t launch until 2004 and 2006 respectively.

The social and sharing components and future adaptations in behavior required to make image sharing easy and ubiquitous – simply weren’t mainstream enough for the average online user at the time.


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Without slowing down to fully appreciating any of this, we “locked-in” and built out the prototype, set up a core team, invested with our own personal funds, and began to look for capital funding. We ran right into the headwinds of the “dot com recession” in early 2000. Most of the money available for new startups at the time dried up, and so we eventually shut down the business and each went our separate ways into new jobs or entirely new careers.

Looking back, I believe the biggest mistake we made was “timing”. If we had taken a more patient approach, and slowed down to think before we acted, we might have been able to execute on our original vision. At least, we might have decided to push our skills, money, and efforts into another idea better suited to the moment.

Approximately 8-9 years after we shut down our business a similar one was hatched. It’s timing was perfect and this business eventually became “the next big thing”. Pinterest was conceptualized in 2009 and then the first prototype was launched by Ben Silbermann, Paul Sciarra, and Evan Sharp in 2010. One of the founders posted their first “pin” in 2010 and no one understood what it was. This, almost a full decade AFTER our team “got it”.

In no way am I saying that if we had our timing right we would have created Pinterest. That simply isn’t true or fair to those who did it. But here’s why my story should matter to you – consider your own sense of urgency, the 5000+ talent tools used all across talent acquisition and the many thousands of marketers and bloggers all vying for attention. It’s difficult not to be numbed by the cacophony of “expert” advice coming from every direction.

If you’re like most other talent acquisition professionals, you’re probably trying to understand where talent acquisition is headed so you can make the most of it. Don’t allow your discomforts and uncertainties in what’s ahead lead you to procrastinate or move forward for the sake of moving. Both inaction and the wrong action can lead you toward negative consequences.

Deciding to follow a more patient approach does not have to mean that you don’t have urgency. In fact, the opposite might be true. When we slow down to speed up, not as a reaction but as part of our formal strategy, we can move forward faster with more confidence. And who knows, it might even become the best tool in talent acquisition.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Christopher Mengel is the founder of TalentSum LLC, a strategic talent acquisition consultancy and best practices implementation firm. Some of the world’s most notable companies partner with TalentSum to activate a strong employer brand, attract more people who fit, improve engagement and experiences, and deliver high-performing cultures.

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