The Underpinnings of Engagement (Every Sourcer Should Know) – Part I

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Aug 18, 2015

In this three part series we’ll discuss the core elements of behavior management for talent engagement. In the first part, we’ll review the theory behind behavior management and why it is key for sourcing. In the second installment, a road map for the initial stages of engagement will be shared. In the third, you’ll see how behavior management can attract and engage career consumers who reside in the top 10-20% from a talent perspective for any functional area.

As Talent Sourcers, we are the tip of the spear of every recruiting initiative. As the talent marketplace continues to evolve and become more complex (big data, mobile, social, etc.), it’s vital to dig a bit deeper into the mindset of engagement. There have recently been several excellent posts written about when, where and how (email, InMail, etc.) to approach, my goal is to provide the “what” in approaching talent. This will help open some locked doors and also help determine the caliber of the talent that responds.

For context, I am not a scientist or a psychologist, but I’ve spent the bulk of my efforts studying and refining behavior management. The practice is found pretty much everywhere you look. Marketers focus on creating a desire for taking action, salespeople focus on managing behaviors so direct action is taken. In the talent game we do both, but our approach takes on a more nuanced flavor that revolves around personal hopes and dreams and not merely products or services.

What is Behavior Management?

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 4.19.39 PMI can offer up a text book definition, but an excellent illustration is found in one of my first “real” jobs after undergrad, where I had to wear a suit every day and sold insurance door to door. I know, it all sounds prehistoric, but bear with me… Compared to a sourcing/recruiting call, can you imagine what it takes to get someone to allow a complete stranger into their home? Thinking back, I marvel at being able to do it and that it was actually possible – but it didn’t come easily.

My team met every morning at 7 AM and spent two hours drilling and role playing before heading out to the field. We were taught how speech inflection, pacing and tonality made a difference, how to use strategic requests and questions where “yes” was the only answer. We learned classic sales tactics like the reversal, the take away and derailing objections before they became objections. I did this job six days a week for a year and learned more about “life” than how to sell insurance. I was also very good at it, but quit the job because the people I sold to needed the money more than the insurance. Ethically it was wrong, but I took away a lifelong experience that behavior management when used wisely can deliver amazing results.

Un-comfort Zones

Many years later I landed a role as VP Recruiting for a global ISP where my team of recruiters were all former HR Generalists. Try as I might to make it otherwise, I learned pretty quickly that HR folks “typically” don’t make great TA people. Yet, it’s still common practice for companies to rotate their HR Managers into TA and I’m sure it works for some, but the mindset of an HR person is usually different.

I bet many of these former HR types and also some TA practitioners are uncomfortable with the concept of “behavior management.” If so, I would urge them to take a second to consider that any action one takes in life is influenced by some external force or another. It’s true that behavior management is used by hustlers and con artists, but fortunately TA Hustlers are thankfully found out pretty quickly. For those who take their TA career seriously (and anyone reading this clearly falls into that camp), building trust ethically and honestly is critical to our success. Whether you’re O.K. defining these methods or not, the best of us practice these techniques every day (many without thinking about it at all…).

Helping people recognize a career possibility by improving their ability to consume the idea is a good thing. Helping people deliver the right set of behaviors in an interview setting so their excellence is readily noticed is another good thing. Helping sourcers and recruiters separate out talent from the highest echelons of achievement is also a very, very good thing… All of these examples and more will be discussed in the next two installments, so stay tuned and let me know what you think of behavior management techniques in the comments.

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