By Harpaul Sambhi
At the tender age of two, I already knew I would be a people person.
I became entrepreneurial by renaming Fruit Loops “Harpaul Loops,” often selling small bags of cereal to my neighbours to pay for candy. Infringement warnings from Kellogg’s aside, I had a feeling it wasn’t the last time I would use my passion and never-give-up attitude to sell something of value.
I used that entrepreneurial spirit to start my first business — helping companies recruit some of the top graduates in universities across Canada. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet hundreds of CEOs across Canada and now, with my technology business Careerify, many more across the world.
I continually hear that, for a majority of CEOs, the greatest challenge is talent. Whether it’s recruiting great employees, engaging them to foster innovation or a focus on retention, talent is almost always top of mind. That’s why recruitment is a multibillion dollar industry.
I recently met with a group of HR technology executives. They represented diverse organizations, ranging from startups to mature software businesses.
They spoke about the consistent horrors of selling into HR, continuously facing an uphill battle with a financially strapped business unit that struggles to be heard at the executive table. Maybe the vendor’s solution wasn’t appealing. Perhaps it did a poor job identifying current needs. Or maybe they just came off as arrogant.
But what disturbs me is this large disconnect between vendors and CEO challenges, and hearing some HR departments say they don’t “have budget.”
In his bestselling book Winning, former GE CEO Jack Welch said: “Without doubt, the head of HR should be the second most important person in any organization.”
Yet, according to an Achievers report, only seven per cent report directly to the CEO. Are CEOs delusional when, on one hand, they say talent is a top challenge and, on the other, don’t allow the company to make investments on processes and products to address this issue?
Are HR vendors so behind the time they don’t know how to engage their buyers? Is HR truly dead, as some have speculated in the past? Or are those that run HR not entrepreneurial enough to build a business case to innovate their company?
The world needs more entrepreneurs or, at the very least, “intrepreneurs.” HR needs to create a stronger voice that proves to the C-suite it isn’t a “cost center.” HR should report into the CEO, and not the CFO.
We need to push our technology vendors, forcing them to build innovative processes that are intuitive for the true end-user, which is the employee or candidate, and not for HR. Vendors need to support us with metrics that predict the ideal candidate, trends on performance and identify star employees. We need to stop being conservative and set aside a small amount of budget for risk. Finally, we need to stop looking at our department, and start thinking about the overall business.
Our talent generates revenue for the business. Figure out what each employee is worth in revenue, and you will quickly get the CEO’s attention for each day those positions aren’t filled or when performance is subpar. This embodies the quintessential entrepreneur: Understanding the root cause, looking for ways to optimize and not giving up until you get what you want.
What is it that you want? My guess would be that it’s not money, but a voice.
Harpaul Sambhi is the CEO of Careerify, a company that develops social recruiting tools focused on employee referral programs with offices in Toronto and San Francisco. He is the author of Social HR, published by Carswell, which sheds insights in how social media is impacting human resources. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, (416) 840-6216 or visit www.careerify.net for more information.