Go big or go small? That’s a question I get a lot when consulting talent organizations. Many teams working for large organizations are layered and have huge numbers of recruiters. In my experience, smaller, tactical teams usually win more often than large. Here’s why smaller teams have more benefits than their counterpart.
The key benefits to smaller teams are speed and information flow. Rather than being stagnant or slow moving in decision making, a more free-flowing group of independent tactical units will provide you an advantage. According to the Contingency Theory, there is no one best way to handle any task or process. Whether organizing an entire company or planning a production workflow, the best solution is influenced more by internal and external constraints than by a predetermined method or management style. The flexibility to react quickly based on rapid fire information from the “front lines” will equip any Talent Leader with what they need to remain competitive.
The autonomy of the smaller teams allows them to respond to situations as they happen using a framework provided by leadership to make decisions. This prevents the sluggish, uphill communication stream exhibited in many large organizations. It also helps for the teams to have more direct access to the leader who can use this access to use the team as a network and augmentation of their personal presence. Martin van Creveld referred to this decentralized organizational approach as a directed telescope. The “directed telescope” allows a senior commander to focus attention on a direct’s activity without requiring a large mass of regular reporting, or curtailing or questioning team member’s initiative. The concept of maintaining control is a mirage in most organizations. The most effective leaders infuse their teams with the core values and directives of the company in a way their network of teams can confidentially and efficiently execute decisions. Roy Oliver Disney was an American businessman and co-founder of The Walt Disney Company and was quoted saying: When your values are clear, making decisions becomes easier.
The first step in creating your tactical units is determining what type of leaders you have currently. According to a McKinsey & Company study, there are four primary archetypes of leaders-each bringing pros and cons to the decentralized model. I will only focus on three of the four that apply to most talent organizations.
The powerful commercial leader
This business-unit leader prefers to have little to no control over most groundlevel functions. This leader operates well with fully centralized functions and clearly defined service-level agreements. In recruiting organizations, this leader tends to gravitate more towards the operations or sourcing side of the function where structure and centralization is a key factor in production or mitigating risk.
The line-of-business integrator
These are often referred to as strategic controllers. This type of leader has control over functions, typically those requiring more localized oversight. Strong centralized functional roles best support this type of leadership style. In recruiting organizations, this leader tends to gravitate more towards the operations side of the function where structure and centralization is a key factor in production or mitigating risk. Successful leaders in this unit find ways to still remain innovative and supportive in their centralized functional area. Conversely, there are others who tend to be a cog in the wheel and are limited by their ability to be supportive without being dictatorial.
The empowered general manager
The empowered general manager is a strategic architect and plays a prominent role in shaping and executing the agenda. However, this leader looks to centralized functions to support a narrow range of shared needs. Consider this a hybrid leader who understands the need for a balance between a centralized vision but decentralized execution. As an example, if your company’s marketing department were to decentralize, a successful leader would set forth a brand strategy including fonts, specific colors to be used or even iconography but allow the marketing team to work within that framework to executive the broader marketing goals for the firm.
The autonomous business-unit leader
Autonomous leaders not only give the people who work for them the complete set of tools and resources they need to do their jobs, but also empower employees to succeed by giving them the independence and authority to make decisions about their roles. Think CEO of a startup. They have to give their teams autonomy to make decisions on the fly or the company will flounder and trip over themselves preventing growth. The CEO sets the vision and context but leaves the control of execution to the respective teams.
Your “Go To Decentralization” strategy will largely depend on the leaders you have. If you’re heavy on commercial leaders you may need to reconstruct the organization of your group entirely. It is an arduous process but needed if you want to remain flexible and responsive to the fast-paced changes in the talent market.
and Sprint Recruiting
I joined the HR industry in 2004 after working as a sales leader in the Financial Services Industry for eight years. After spending his first couple of years in HR trying to fit in, I found my voice. Now I leverage all of the things I once hated about HR to become a consultant and invaluable partner to the businesses I support. I contribute to the HRGazzette and to DataDrivenInvestor on Medium. WARNING: my writing style is raw and in your face, not what you would expect from an HR executive.
- Get helpful recruiting tips sent to you monthly!
- Read each chapter of the book Sprint Recruiting as it’s written
- Resources including graphics, reports and training
- Special Q&A sessions to learn how Sprint Recruiting can help you transform your Talent Strategy.