Struggling with retention? Improve how recruiters, hiring managers work

Recruiters should play the leadership role in building or reestablishing an effective talent acquisition partnership with hiring managers.
By: | March 8, 2024

There is no shortage of theories on the root causes underlying the increased rate of voluntary employee turnover. They include the growth of the hybrid workforce and shifting personal attitudes regarding the role of work, largely driven by the pandemic and different generational perspectives.

Guidance on improving employee retention largely focuses on organisational culture and management of feedback loops, particularly with new hires. While wrestling with large-scale solutions to unprecedented challenges in workplace dynamics, HR executives should be aware that there is already a highly effective approach to employee retention that is embedded within the talent acquisition process. This frequently overlooked solution involves proactively building trust and engagement between hiring managers and internal or external recruiters.

Based on nearly three decades of recruitment experience, we have found that the quality and substance of the personal connection between the hiring manager and recruiter is often a major factor not only in filling positions with appropriate candidates but also affecting how long those new hires remain with the organisation. Yet, most companies pay little attention to the internal practices necessary to ensure a successful recruiter/hiring manager partnership.

Understanding the hiring manager’s world

When an employee resigns, their hiring manager’s concerns likely include being scrutinised for failing an employee, the threat of losing headcount and having to cope with a lengthy internal approval process to hire a new employee. They are also required to find time for interviews while stretching their team or their own work to cover for an open position.

In remote or hybrid work environments, hiring managers must also deal with different time zones and show respect for cultural differences and holy days, which can limit access to candidates and increase the time to fill positions. Time wasted with “no match” candidates also adds to their frustration.

The larger issue is that many hiring managers either have not had a positive experience with recruiters in the past or do not understand (or properly engage in) an effective recruitment process. This disconnect often leads to non-productive finger-pointing, where the hiring manager’s stated position is simply, “Where are my candidates? Work harder!” The perfect disincentive for any recruiter.

Unfortunately, the underlying friction between the hiring manager and recruiter can result in hires who may not be ideal for the position, which in turn results in a lack of hiring manager support for the new hire, fueling short-term employee tenure. Conversely, our data shows that when there is ongoing two-way communication, there are more positions that are filled faster, resulting in successful hires who last longer.

Keys to building an effective recruiter/hiring manager partnership

Because this is their area of expertise, recruiters should play the leadership role in building or reestablishing an effective talent acquisition partnership with hiring managers. Whether they’re engaged as an internal or outside resource, a recruiter must view and manage hiring managers as important clients, regardless of any negative attitudes or low levels of engagement they may face.

This means that the education of and communication with the hiring manager by the recruiter are as important as the outcome of the search. In fact, the effectiveness of the recruiter/hiring manager partnership process will drive the quality and retention of the hire.

Here are four proven ways for recruiters to forge effective partnerships with hiring managers:

1.  Establish well-defined goals and processes

At the outset of every search assignment, it is important to truly understand what talent is needed, establish a recruitment strategy and agree on how the relationship will work.

The cornerstone of this planning involves a shared understanding and agreement on the value proposition of the position for the candidate or current employee. This employee value proposition—which, ultimately, is the key to employee longevity—provides a clear definition of the skills that are required, as well as what onboarding and/or training will be needed.

The critical planning components involve agreement on the following:

  • The approach and guidelines on how to interview candidates, based on the skills identified in the EVP.
  • Which internal stakeholders are involved and what process will be used to communicate with them. Alignment of recruitment, onboarding, training and hiring manager based on the EVP is an essential element in employee retention.
  • What metrics will be used to track what is being learned in the talent acquisition process so that information can be leveraged, expectations can be managed and trust can be maintained throughout.

2.  Provide meaningful data

Data is one of the most effective ways to build credibility with hiring managers. Show data that supports your work, including the following:

  • Time to find and time to engage
  • Pipelines of targeted candidates
  • Skill sets of candidates and their availability in the market
  • Competitors’ recruiting information and salary comparisons
  • Reasons why candidates are declining offers to interview
  • Market factors that may be affecting application volume

Data empowers recruiters to have meaningful conversations with hiring managers that lead to hiring success.

3.  Maintain ongoing communication

Consistent communication is the most important aspect of building hiring manager partnerships. Start by defining the process and timeline for reviewing resumes, as well as for providing feedback on resumes and interviews. Learn how the hiring manager prefers to communicate—by phone or video call, email, text or some combination—and whether their preference is short messages or detailed explanations. Recruiters also benefit by gaining insight into the hiring manager’s domain—notably, the culture, demographics and attitudes of the people who currently work in their organisation or department.

Establishing a weekly or bi-weekly call or meeting is important, not only to discuss progress and review candidates but also to ensure that you are still aligned on goals and strategies. In most cases, communication will be more frequent (sometimes multiple times a day) but maintaining at least one scheduled touchpoint helps to validate that the effort is organised and well-managed.

READ MORE: Why HR’s ally in the war for talent can be its CMO

The most effective recruiters maintain some level of communication with their hiring manager “clients” after a search has been completed, which serves to strengthen the authenticity and duration of the partnership.

4.  Share your knowledge and skills

Hiring managers often have little time or interest in understanding the nuts and bolts of talent acquisition. However, there is value in providing hiring managers with a basic understanding of the methods you are using to source and qualify candidates. There is even greater value in helping hiring managers with their role in critical parts of the process, notably interviews with prospective hires.

In our experience, we have found very few hiring managers who were effective interviewers without proper coaching. Recruiters need to play a role in providing hiring managers with guidance on compliance- and bias-related issues, as well as assistance in developing interview questions consistent with the EVP. These can reveal important insights into a candidate’s qualifications and intentions, including their potential to remain with the organisation.

The quality of the working relationships between hiring managers and recruiters and the application of an effective EVP-based talent acquisition strategy play an important role in any organisation’s ability to attract, hire and retain the people they need to succeed. Unlocking the power of these company-wide partnerships requires a senior-level commitment to establishing and maintaining internal process disciplines that are based on sound management practices rather than investment in costly, enterprise-wide initiatives.

About the author: Christine Nichlos is CEO of People Science, a recruitment process outsourcing and talent acquisition consulting firm she established in 1997. This article was first published in Human Resource Executive.