I love it when pundits pontificate about what’s wrong with human resources, but offer no useful map for change.
Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE, complains that HR is marginalized—and that “So Many Leaders Get This Wrong.” But Welch proposes nothing more than that HR people should be “part pastor” and “part parent.” In other words, leave your key HR functions to HR.
Nate Silver, the notoriously accurate baseball and election forecaster, is unapologetic when he warns, “Hiring—it’s not the kind of thing that should be left to HR reps.”
Silver’s view is dear to my heart because his hiring practices make my own advice about “Ferocious Recruiting” seem tame: “If you’re not spending 15% to 20% of your time recruiting, then you’re not a good manager.”
Boy, am I a recruiting wuss.
According to Time.com, (“How Nate Silver Hires”), since he merged his acclaimed FiveThirtyEight with ESPN last summer, “Nate Silver has spent an estimated 90% of his time interviewing candidates to add to FiveThirtyEight’s team.”
Ninety percent! How does the top guy in a new division of ESPN—who’s busy trying to prove FiveThirtyEight’s mettle—spend that much time on hiring? It seems clear he recognizes that nothing else is worth more of his energy than staffing his wildly successful editorial team with people that he is 100% certain will help make it even more wildly successful.
“He is fanatical about hiring,” reports Time.com. No kidding.
You might know Silver because you’re a sports fan or because you thrill at his data-driven analyses of politics. (I just love the statistics). He gained fame for applying hard data to predictions of baseball players’ probable performance and their value. So it should be no surprise that when Silver is picking his own players, this wunderkind doesn’t turn his nose up at the tasks that HR normally does in your own company.
You know what I’m talking about—finding, screening, interviewing, and judging the people who will make you look good if you pick the right ones. It’s hardly a task that should be left to—uh—“HR reps.” Right? So perhaps it’s enough to spend 20% of your time on recruiting while your team is operating in maintenance mode. (Is that how you see your team?) But when you’re ramping up for great new projects, don’t you think you’d better focus more of your time on deciding who’s going to make it all happen for you? (Hint: I don’t think it’s the pastor-parent types down in your HR department.)
I don’t think your hiring performance will turn out as good Nate Silver’s unless you’re recruiting, interviewing, and hiring virtually all the time. Maybe you can think of a better way to spend your time. But you didn’t just merge your business with ESPN, did you?