Strategy at the Center of Talent Acquisition

Lessons Learned from a TA team of a Fortune 500 Start UP

An Interview with Michelle Rochon, Director of Talent Acquisition at WESCO

Michelle Rochon began her career with GE Lighting as a field sales representative and quickly made the move to Recruiting when the Head of HR identified her natural abilities and enticed her to join the team. From HR at GE to OD then back to HR at Key Bank and then onto an HR Global role with Wachovia, Michelle’s career has progressed within large companies with established Talent teams and processes.  That is until about a year ago.   In February 2012, Michelle accepted her current role as Director of Talent Acquisition with WESCO Distribution a  Fortune 500 Comapny who is a leader in industrial supply with an extensive offering of electrical, data communications, general maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) and electrical OEM products.  WESCO, as it happens, was also making about 1400 hires a year without a talent acquisition team.

Michelle was brought on to build Talent Acquisition from soup to nuts and – from scratch.  Michelle’s unique story prompts a lot of ideas and questions so, we were happy when she agreed to share her findings.

People Science: What prompted WESCO to create the role you are in currently?

Michelle Rochon: Prior to Oct of 2011 WESCO ran the HR organization by paper. It was the vision of the VP of Human Resources, with the support of our CEO, to create a centralized Talent Acquisition Function and implement an HRIS. Prior to my arrival, all recruitment was done at Corporate and in the field by managers. By implementing a centralized TA system, it will help evolve the hiring ability of our managers.

 PS: With all the challenges of building the department from the ground up, what attracted you to the position at WESCO?

MR: The Opportunity! Talent Acquisition is my passion. The opportunity to actually build an organization is exciting, and the reason I come to work every day energized. You need to have a passion for this work.

PS: Can you outline your plans or strategy in building Talent Acquisition in WESCO?

MR: My plan is still evolving but I like to run Talent Acquisition as a business and therefore use the 7 “S” management model as a guideline.  The model states that Shared Values are central and encircled by Systems, Style, Staff, Skills, Strategy and Structure.

To get started I went in search of finding the voice of the customer, which in this case was the hiring managers.  I interviewed over thirty employees and asked them the same eleven questions. I then analyzed the data to see what our employees thoughts of our current hiring process. From my findings I put together the strategy you see depicted in the image below.

Keep Customers at the Top of the Plan, Talent Teams Central and develop partnerships with those who share our interest.  On the left our high level goals, the right our high level tactics.

A key component is assuring alignment with the business by taking a business approach.  This includes speaking about total recruiting cost, Cost of Vacancy (COV), and Return on Investment. This will allow ensuring that we will always operate in a model of continuous improvement and keep within our lean culture.

When it came to staffing since we are building from the ground up, we needed experienced professionals.  The core staff needs to be able to jump right in with little training.  Enacting the model meant creating and implementing Service Level Agreements for both TA and the business in order to make sure we all understood expectations and shared the accountability and responsibility. This set the tone for open communication which is invaluable.

We are currently working on the model and its development all while making sure we continue to align with the business and keep cost in mind.  Since we are starting with a clean slate, we are using Cost of Vacancy (COV) as compared to simply Cost of Hire to help us prioritize our recruiting efforts.

PS: What are some of the key metrics you have used or are using?

MR: Quality of hire and Cost of Vacancy are the two most used; also including the traditional metrics of productivity, time to fill, diversity of slate, candidate and hiring manager experience.

PS: What are some of the challenges you are facing with your strategy?

MR: We have two major challenges.  First is to reduce our over reliance on search firms and our Hiring Mangers belief in our dependence on search firms.  Second, to help the hiring managers understand the “big picture” of the Talent Acquisition function, and all the benefits we can offer them.

PS: What are some of your wins so far?

MR: We have done some really great things so far. We have gained senior management “buy in” to our model. We’ve created a strong employment brand and implemented a talent referral program. We introduced a reporting function that shows data around open positions which is changing the companies’ views and thoughts around finding talent. Lastly, we established a strong set of SLA’s which is strengthening our relationships with the hiring managers.

PS: Looking back at your career and after beginning to build a Talent Acquisition Department from the ground up, what advice would you give to other Talent Acquisition professionals, who are in the same position you are in or already have an existing TA Department, to help strengthen their own business?

MR: Don’t be afraid of the data! Take the time to listen to the voice of the customer and use your findings in your strategy. It doesn’t have to happen overnight, but let them know you have heard them and are putting a plan together to address their concerns. Find out the Cost of Vacancy and build that into your strategy or business model. This is a huge help in aligning Talent Acquisition to the business and opens up the relationship.

PS: What recommendation would you have on getting started in figuring out COV?

MR: First you must look at all parts of the business; both revenue generating and non-revenue generating. Then work with your analytics and finance team to figure out the cost of that business when a position is open versus when it is filled. The People-Science Cost of Vacancy tool you sent me was very useful in building ideas on how to do this.

We aren’t sure if building from scratch is easier than re-building talent acquisition.  Both obviously have their challenges.  But having a clean slate to start, while our profession is in a serious state of change, well, sounds tempting.  At least Michelle thought so……