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New horizons: Finding staff outside the company

New horizons: Finding staff outside the company

New horizons: Finding staff outside the company

For all its virtues, a staffing strategy that's built almost entirely around promoting from within isn't always the best way to go - especially if your company has never taken the time and effort to develop a well-structured employee development program. Here are the basic arguments for looking outside the company to fill certain positions:

  • A broader selection of talent: Basic mathematics shows that if your search is confined solely to your current employees, the pool of likely candidates is going to be a lot smaller than if you're looking outside the company. This constraint may not be a problem for certain jobs, but for critical positions, you may not want to limit your options. 
  • The "new blood" factor: Bringing in outside talent can go a long way toward diminishing the "We've always done it that way syndrome," generally known as organizational inbreeding. Recruiting from outside the company is usually helpful for companies that have held on to the status quo for too long.
  • The diversity factor: Workforce diversity (or the effort to allow and encourage diversity in the workplace) enables a business to draw on the resources, expertise, and creativity of people from the widest possible range of backgrounds: gender, age, color, national origin, ethnicity, and other factors. And filling jobs from the outside may turn out to be the only way you can keep your company within EEOC compliance.  But remember, having a diverse workforce is not just a matter of satisfying the law. It also makes good business sense.  Diversity doesn't mean that you have to include employees from every possible background, which is impossible. However, a commitment to diversity means that you create a workplace environment supportive of a wide range of perspectives.

Outsourcing: The role of HR

Outsourcing is the practice of turning over an entire function (shipping, payroll, benefits administration, security, computer networking) to an outside specialist. In many cases, the outside firm's employees or consultants work side by side with a company's regular employees. In some cases, a function may be moved to a remote location miles away from your office-even occasionally out of the country. This latter approach, often referred to as offshoring, has grabbed headlines and generated much economic and political debate in recent years.

Of course, outsourcing is hardly a new concept. Small companies and Momand-Pop businesses have been outsourcing since the beginning of time? What's new is the emergence of outsourcing as an increasingly useful staffing strategy for companies that have historically used their own personnel? Companies usually outsource to save time and money, either because of necessity or choice. Necessity is the driving factor when a company's business demands outstrip its ability to handle a particular function without investing heavily in new equipment (or a new facility) or bringing in a large number of new employees. Choice is the driving factor when companies want to focus all their internal energies on those operations that contribute directly to their competitive advantage-and outsource those that may only be necessary for a discreet period of time or specific function.  In your HR role, you need to grasp the implications of outsourcing so that you can help provide strategic counsel throughout any hiring process-and contribute to decisions about whether to use this alternative in the first place. After all, any outsourcing effort inherently carries a demand not just for one discreet hire, but for many people-and your input about how to conduct an effective search for skilled contractors or consultants is extremely valuable.

Another reason to be aware of the outsourcing trend is that it is affects the HR function itself: Companies are increasingly outsourcing some of their HR services. But no matter which business process is involved, your ability to apply hiring principles can play a major role in ensuring that any outsourcing effort is implemented as efficiently as possible.

If you're making good hiring decisions, nearly everything else you do with respect to HR policies and practices becomes easier. You can create new initiatives and institute new practices that reflect your company's mission and its values. And you don't have to lose sleep over whether employees will understand, be receptive to, and be able to follow through on your instructions.  If you don't have to spend the bulk of your time each day putting out fires, you can concentrate on the big picture: where you or your senior management want your business to go in the years ahead, and what needs to happen on the HR side to get you there.

That's the benefit of good hiring decisions. A bad hiring decision (which brings to your company someone who can't make a meaningful contribution) produces just the opposite result. You spend more time as a firefighter and less time as a manager and strategic planner.

But you don't need to panic. Most bad hiring decisions are avoidable, assuming that you and others in your company approach the process with respect, understanding, and discipline.

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