Elizabeth Lembke on Sourcing Management in a Disrupted World

It’s a unique experience to come to a conference for the first time, as I was able to this year. Until 2020’s digital conference, SourceCon had always held their convention for sourcers and recruiters in person. As we know, not only is it hard to plan a conference around a pandemic, it can be a challenge even to plan your day.

Add on to that a year that is turbulent with racial strife, the most partisan election of our lives, and wide-scale unemployment, and sometimes the question isn’t just “how do I source candidates,” but “how do I even approach them?” Because right now, a lot of people simply don’t feel okay in the world of 2020. Furthermore, not only do we need to consider the emotional state of those we’re prospecting for, but also that of our teams, and lastly (but not leastly), our own. How are we doing?

The wonderful surprise of Elizabeth Lembke’s presentation was her willingness to tackle these matters head on with frankness and empathy. “Soft is the new hard,” she began. As soon she spoke those words, the whole of SourceCon Digital 2.0 began to buzz.

What Elizabeth described next was nothing short of a paradigm shift. It reminded me of Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire telling his CEO that business would be better if they took on fewer clients, because they would be able to better serve the ones they have. (Now, anyone who has seen Jerry Maguire knows that Jerry got fired after sending that message, but that’s neither here nor there.)

I think what Elizabeth was getting at isn’t so different than what Jerry was after. As Elizabeth pointed out, as we adjust to this new normal (which admittedly is still being developed) we have to start thinking about the way we are going about our work. Is it enriching our lives and the lives of others? She went on to make an argument for the virtues of fulfillment over efficiency, collaboration over dictating, inclusion over mandates, adaptation over prescription, and contribution over head count.

That last point really stuck with me. Because it comes down to this: Do we just want to put bodies in roles, or do we want to put the best people into these positions? Is the measurement of success a 100% headcount fulfillment? Or is it to have those that we bring on be strong, successful employees that will make the hiring manager look back at us with appreciation?

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What all in attendance heard from Elizabeth Lembke was to think differently. Where do we go from the current chaos we are living in? What questions do we need to ask? Have our customers’ needs changed? Elizabeth says they have. Job seekers are now not only looking at economics, but for ways that they can make a difference at a time when making a difference is necessary.

As we try to navigate this complex new world, how do we approach these emerging needs? And just as importantly, how do we meet our own needs and the needs of those we work with? Where are we going and why? How will we know we are headed in the right direction? What are our metrics now? Who is coming along for the ride?

These are all enormous questions. But as I listened to Elizabeth’s message, I also found them to be practical, and perhaps even long overdue, questions. As the internet age has come into full bloom, it has become easier to see people as just numbers and commodities. What Elizabeth’s presentation drove home is that they aren’t that at all—they are all real people. Every one of them has a story. Every one of them has a need to fill. Every one of them is deserving of empathy. As are we.

So what is our approach going into the next phase of this very uncertain world?

Elizabeth stated it plainly:

“Soft is the new hard.”

Act accordingly.

David Phillips is a remote management professional at Kaplan Test Prep. A recent graduate of SourceCon Academy, he has written articles on talent sourcing and management for SourceCon's Blog. By night, David conducts interviews and writes on film and television for Awards Daily and writes on boxing for NY Fights. His editorial "My Black Grandpa" was shortlisted in The Bitter Southerner's best of 2018 Folklore category. He currently lives in South Bend, Indiana with his wife, two dogs, and two rabbits.

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