[Editor's note: Dear Shannon is a career advice column for sustainability professionals and wanna-be professionals. If you have a question for Shannon, send it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let us know your thoughts on the column in the comments section below.]
I am the new director of energy and carbon for a large telecom company and have quite a big team structure with an energy budget of around $50 million per year. I know that the jobs market is competitive right now, but I still have trouble recruiting top talent for energy roles. Part of the challenge is the required coordination with our HR department. Could you advise me on how to structure a tool and process to help HR help me recruit and hire up-and-coming leaders in the energy sector?
— Sandra, London
You have a considerable budget, so it is clear you already have board level buy-in and a mature energy program to propel forward. Your relationship with your internal business partners is crucial to your success as a leader within your company — the most important asset you have to deliver is your people.
Despite being seen as "overhead," HR departments hold a lot of power as they are the gatekeepers to finding, developing and keeping top talent. Your investment in creating a collaborative and personable relationship with HR will serve you well, far beyond the recruitment of new leaders in the energy sector.
To be truly effective, however, I need to stress that it will take considerable time and resources from you and your team. Below I outline five steps that will help you maximize your long-term recruitment success.
1. Seek to synergize with HR
As with any sustainability strategy or journey, being able to influence and negotiate are key skills for senior leadership. You need to create the time to build a longer-term relationship with HR, both with HR leadership and the HR team. Start with some time outside the office for lunch or a coffee to understand how that HR director or team member is hardwired on a personal basis. Turn him or her into your champion, your friend first.
Then have a one-hour interactive planning meeting to map out and brainstorm what is important to HR in the process of hiring of top talent. To many HR staff, you are the (internal) client with a need that they are trying to meet, and they are likely to be under pressure with many balls in the air from other departments all at the same time. They may be surprised that you care about their priorities (to post jobs, shuffle through piles of resumes, schedule interviews) and this extra attention and care could give you a competitive advantage as a "preferred client" in the context of their competing priorities.
Next, help them to understand your top five drivers or needs in the recruitment process and communicate clearly that you would like HR to deliver actively with you, not for you.
Maintain this casual, clear dialogue by keeping connected and communicating every few weeks. This will help HR staff keep your needs in the front of their minds, without you coming across as demanding.
Next page: Keep your ear to the ground