The Impact of Implementing a Differentiated Recruiting Model - An Interview with Jim D'Amico

January 21, 2020 at 12:26 PM by Ryan Frazier


The Impact of Implementing A Differentiated Recruiting

Currently the Global Talent Acquisition Leader at Celanese, Jim D'Amico is an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience in Talent Acquisition. Throughout his tenure, he has seen what's worked and what hasn't - and has some advice on what we should change to put our recruiting team on the path to success. We sat down with Jim to learn more about his unique approach to the recruiting function - the Differentiated Recruiting Model. 

1. You’ve previously discussed the concept of a differentiated recruiting model. Can you remind our readers what this is, and where you got inspiration from to implement this with your teams?

Let me start with the point of inspiration, and then discuss the application to talent acquisition:  Twelve years ago while with The Schwan Food Company, we worked directly with Mark Huselid, who along with Brian Becker and Richard Beatty had conducted years of research and published their book The Differentiated Workforce, to implement their teachings into our Talent Management structure.  In a nutshell, their research shows that there are three types of roles in every organization: Strategic roles, Support Roles and what they termed Surplus Roles, but I refer to as Tier II Support Roles. Strategic roles, directly impacted share/stakeholder value, Support roles enabled the effectiveness of strategic roles, and Tier II Support roles performed necessary functions, but didn’t have a significant impact on value.  The number of these roles tends to be pyramidical in structure with the fewest roles in the Strategic tier, more in the Support, and the most in the Tier II, however the width of the pyramid can vary widely by company.

Here is an example to help clarify:

At XYZ Widget Manufacturing the VP of Sales is a Strategic role, that role is responsible for creating the sales strategy that generates the company’s revenue.  The TA Manager is a support role, that role provides talent to fill vacancies, but doesn’t directly impact sales, only support their success. The Custodian is a Surplus role.  It is needed, but the performance of that role does not have a material impact on company value.

So in the Differentiated Workforce model, you structure your HR to support each tier differently as they have different needs, and it behooves the company to provide the most support to where the most value resides (note this does not mean there are roles with no value, but to enable success, you have to help enable efficiency and support where it can have the most impact first).  

So again, as an example, let’s look at how a company may structure their onboarding for the three roles mentioned above:

VP Sales onboarding may include a new leader assimilation off site for a day, a 1:1 session with the benefits team to ensure they understand benefits and are properly enrolled, a formal 30-60-90 day follow up sessions to add new information.

The Talent Acquisition Manager, may have a group orientation with other new hires with an introduction to the company, values, mission, and plan for the year, but assimilation is managed by their leader, and is less formal.  Benefits are reviewed, but the TA Mgr. does their own enrollment. There are no formal follow up sessions.

The Custodian may be inducted vs. oriented.  They fill out necessary paperwork, get a benefits overview for a generalist, and have no line of site on company plans for the year.

Hopefully that helps level set the concept.

As for applying it to TA, as we went through this process and learned more about the concept, it felt odd that TA wasn’t questioning why we had a one size fits all model to recruit (recruit is used to describe full life cycle recruiting, branding, candidate experience, etc.) for all roles.  Roles came in, they were posted, they were sourced using the same tools and techniques, the application process was the same, the recruiter interview was the same, the interview process was the same, the offer process, everything was the same! I felt there was an opportunity to reorganize how we recruit to better efficiency and better service to the business.

By taking an opportunity to look at our processes under the lens of a differentiated model, we begin to align the team, process’s, tools ect, based on where the role fit in the pyramid (three tiers) versus location, business line, etc.  Up until this point a single recruiter might recruit for all of a single location or business function, regardless of the tier of the roles, which meant they may be managing three very different processes, which meant that roles that needed more attention were not getting it and roles that required little resources to fill, we’re receiving more than they needed.

2. What are the biggest benefits of using this model?

  • Efficiency – When the team is structured by tier, they are managing a single process consistently.
  • Time in process – when you look at times for each step of the process, when recruiters are working single process and their req loads are properly balanced, you can reduce a lot of time in process.
  • Customer Service, internal and external – recruiters when assigned a tier can be much more effective talent advisors to both their Hiring Managers and their candidates.  They are more attuned to the unique needs of roles by tier, which differ greatly, and are better able to provide context (the why) to candidates appropriately.
  • It allows TA leaders to better allocate their resources.  Instead of allocating against volume, the right move is to allocate against impact to the business. A role that you are recruiting for that has a disproportionately large impact should by necessity have more resources applied against it than a role with lesser impact.
  • Recruiter development!  By having a career path where recruiters can progress from Tier II Support roles, to Support roles and, ultimately to Strategic roles, they can develop their skills in a logical and incremental fashion.


3. What are the challenges talent acquisition teams should look out for when transitioning to this type of model?

It’s a complete change in years of thinking!  The standard still remains that a recruiter focuses on all jobs for a location or business with no regard to where the roles fit in the hierarchy.  The internal customers have been taught “this is the way we recruit.” It nominally makes sense: What could be better than a single point of contact?  A dedicated resource at my team/locations disposal? When you get past conventional wisdom, and really look at desired results, the answer is: a recruiting function that can better deliver quality!

Volume and time to fill have been the traditional measures of success for TA functions.  When you run a differentiated model, Hiring Velocity, Quality of Hire, and Employee Advancement, become your primary measures for Strategic and Support roles.  These are more nuanced metrics that require partnership to establish the measures, and time to see the results. In a differentiated model equal skills are needed in recruiting and business acumen.

The load balancing for recruiters looks very different.  The recruiters carrying the Strategic roles should only carry 3-5 openings at a time, Support, no more than 15, and Tier 2 Support up to 40 (based on the transactional nature of that process). 


4. If someone was looking at utilizing this model at their own organization, where would they start?

Start by working with the business to determine  which roles at your company fall into each category.  Do not ask hiring managers, this is a high level discussion.  The “bucketing” should take into account:

  • The expected financial value to the business of each role
  • The barriers of entry to each role
    • Education, experience, etc.
  • The Difference in outcomes between “good” and “great” performance
  • The size of potential candidate pools for the role

  • Assessment of the current TA organizational structure
    • Roles, responsibilities, req load
    • % of spend allocated to each role

5. Could you share some stats/successes you've had since switching to this model in your organization(s)?

I will use some data from Spectrum Health, since we had enough time to test against and the data was peer reviewed (Strategic HR Review, Vol. 14, No. 5)

  • Increased hiring velocity by 12%
  • Offer Acceptance Rate 99.6%
  • Time to Fill for Strategic and Support Roles reduced by 10% 
  • Increased days of workforce production – 21,000
  • HM and Candidate satisfaction 94%