In 2003, Oracle India was one of the companies setting up base in India as they expanded their international operations. The numbers at the Indian arm of the tech behemoth grew from 2,000 to nearly 38,000 - in part through acquisitions and referrals, but the recruitment requirement itself was often 300 to 400 hires, across business lines per week.
And they had four recruiters.
Obviously, they needed external help. According to Mr. Gunashekar Govindan, current Senior Director of Recruitment at Oracle India, the team used every possible means of recruitment at their disposal to hit their numbers.
They employed tried and tested HR marketing tactics like print ads - a half page in a leading newspaper cost them close to a lakh. Oracle India used hundreds of agencies across business lines and levels of experience to help meet their requirements. They would also organize job fairs where thousands of candidates would walk through their offices every weekend.
“In one instance, we had 10,000 hopeful people coming through our doors on the same day. We actually had to have police called in to manage the crowd!” – Mr. Gunashekar said about one of the more colorful experiences during that time.
As you can imagine, this kind of source mix lacked efficiency. The cost of hire was high, the quality of candidates was low, there was a fair amount of duplicated effort, and there was a significant waste of time for everyone involved - recruiters, line managers and candidates. Something had to change.
In a span of a year, Oracle India completely stopped job fairs, print ads, and most significantly, stopped all recruiting through agencies, while still meeting their targets, on time.
So what was their secret?
The Global Recruiting Model instituted at Oracle at this time was and continues to be one of the most effective and consistent recruitment models in the industry. Their entire recruitment process is split into four stages:
- Requirement gathering
- Messaging and Positioning
- Evaluating Candidates
- Hand-off to Line Managers
The model was also redesigned to measure four KPIs - Time to hire, Quality of hire, Quantity of hires and Cost of Hire, all while every recruiter was individually held accountable for their performance.
The Oracle recruiting team has produced some of the top names in Indian recruiting today. The core recruiting team, and many recruiters who have been associated with Oracle at some point in their careers, have gone on to become industry leaders in their own right. Some, like Gunashekar Govindan and Harish Muniraju, have risen to the top levels of Oracle recruitment. Others like Rajeshwar Rao, Savita Hortikar, Nadeem Pasha and Pushpa Latha (to name a few) have gone on to head recruitment teams at EdgeVerve, ThoughtWorks, Mindtree and Walmart Labs respectively.
Many of the best recruiters in India today have been associated with Oracle at some point in their careers.
We spoke to some of the members from the original recruiting team to find out the impact of these changes, and what recruiters today can learn from their example.
1. Building a Recruiter Army
One of the first inefficiencies that the team addressed was their dependence on external recruitment sources. In order to replace their cacophony of agencies, they grew their internal recruiting team from 4 recruiters to 40, within a span of 12 months. This gave them the man power to take on all the recruitment demand that continued to pour in every week - to find great talent, to engage with them and eventually get them in the door on their first day.
The recruiting army wasn’t just about quantity – the quality of recruiters mattered as well. They knew that the best prepared people to check the quality of candidates, and who would strive to improve the efficiency of the recruitment process, had to be personally invested themselves.
As the gatekeepers of any company, the TA function holds an enormous personal responsibility. Hence it is vital that they have a clear vision for themselves and a deep understanding of the business. Only then, they can identify and impact business, be it cost, quality or culture.
Recruiters constantly need to be thinking about creative solutions to recruiting challenges, how to solve problems even before the problem appears in the market, how to better connect with candidates and even how to evaluate candidates – a job usually left to Line Managers in the interview stage.
2. Get business on board
From the first stage of Requirement Gathering, recruiters speak straight to the business in the newly instituted module. If recruiters need to bring the best talent to the table, they need Line Managers to clearly explain what their version of the best looks like: what were the Line Managers looking for, what are the key drivers of the business, what are the problems that the potential employees will be solving, and more importantly, how will business be affected if that role is not filled? Recruiters were positioned as business partners, not merely filling in gaps, but gathering the necessary resources to meet business objectives.
It shouldn’t be a situation when recruiters are asked ‘Can you do it?’, instead it should be a collaborative effort between recruiters and business as partners asking ‘Can WE do it?’
For this to be successful, it was important for recruiters to speak the same language as Line Managers. Recruiters at Oracle were trained to be experts in the field or business line they were recruiting for - whether it was tech, product management, design or marketing. Only when a recruiter has a thorough understanding of the role, can he or she can start looking for candidates to fill it.
3. Independence of recruitment
Another key differentiator of the recruitment team at Oracle is their autonomy. Except at the very highest level where the Head of Recruitment finally reports to the Head of HR, the recruitment arm of Oracle’s HR works completely independent without interference from the HR team - a common, yet frustrating stumbling block for most recruiters. Instead of getting diverted in HR processes, recruiters could make independent data-backed decisions in salary negotiations, design recruitment campaigns or map a candidate’s experience without HR involvement.
Most importantly, recruiters had their own seat at the table when it came to business strategy. Previously, the head of HR was the conduit between business and recruitment, but now recruitment could predict the talent availability during the making of the product road map - thereby getting an early understanding of their targets, and influence decisions based on their expertise of the candidate pool.
Recruiters need to operate as salespeople - selling the opportunity to the candidate; but should also work as partners to the business - offering risk analysis, marketplace intelligence and in-depth industry knowledge.
Only when business understands that recruiters are not just closing a hire, but helping solve business problems, will the relationship between the two align.
4. Always be learning
Much like in any other field, only the most passionate and hardworking succeed. For recruiters, this means that the only way to stay relevant and command respect from business and from talent is to keep learning and keep evolving.
Each recruiter at Oracle is an expert in the field of business that they work in – always being up to date with new skills, new tools, market development, competitor landscape, etc. So in a meeting where the business suggests a road map which doesn’t have a correct understanding of the talent landscape or has job descriptions that are too niche or complex, a recruiter armed with his own expertise can advise the business on the necessary edits.
When the business sees consistent value from having recruitment at the table, it’s hard to ignore its importance.
Apart from being experts in their respective fields, Oracle recruiters were also encouraged to take on pet projects. Recruitment cannot be a static field, because people are not static. Each time human interactions evolves, recruitment needs to evolve as well. With the internet, Oracle organized a Web 2.0 workshop where recruiters found innovative and effective ways to find top talent using the new resources offered by the internet to find and engage with talent. Each recruiter continues to try new methods of recruitment as their projects and if successful, the same module is introduced to the other recruiters as well.
5. Old problems, new tools
The challenges of the Oracle team in 2003 are similar to the challenges facing the industry today -- finding the right talent, getting them to accept the offer and getting them to join. What has changed in the last 12 years, is the number of resources available to make the recruiter’s job easier.
The mindset of the recruiting industry needs to change - most recruiters are too dependent on traditional channels.
Only when recruiters understand how using new-age tools will impact the way they work, and impact customers and candidates, will they understand the value of adopting new technologies
Previously, when recruiting at the highest levels, recruiters depended on their own network, and used the information that was accessible to make a personal connection. With the rise of the internet and social networks, there are tools that offer deep, insightful information about every potential candidate.
Recruiters need to apply the ‘always be learning’ mandate especially when it comes to new technology. The Oracle India team continues to constantly implement cutting edge solutions to increase the efficiency of the recruiters. It’s not enough to have access to these tools, successful recruiters understand the importance of evaluating and using them to improve their process.
“There’s a way to do it better, find it.” - Thomas Edison
As one of the pioneers in the recruitment space, the innovations at Oracle have simplified and changed the way that recruiters work even today.
Currently, recruiters face new challenges – sourcing great (and relevant talent), nurturing candidates at the top of the funnel, reducing candidate drop off rates, aligning with business objectives, etc. How will recruiters today innovate to ‘do it better’?
Do share your thoughts in the comments!