Blind Men and the Elephant

Last week I posted a blog (Acknowledging the Elephant in the Room) that received a great many well thought out and passionate comments. It is the goal of any blogger to draw attention to some topic that is relevant and sparks a good deal of give and take. Needless to say I was pleased and as the comments kept coming in I wanted to respond but felt that a comment or two would not adequately address this issue. I needed to write another blog about the Elephant.

There is story that has its roots in ancient India. The story says that six blind men were asked to determine what an elephant looked like by feeling different parts of the elephant’s body. The blind man who feels a leg says the elephant is like a pillar; the one who feels the tail says the elephant is like a rope; the one who feels the trunk says the elephant is like a tree branch; the one who feels the ear says the elephant is like a hand fan; the one who feels the belly says the elephant is like a wall; and the one who feels the tusk says the elephant is like a solid pipe.

A king explains to them:

“All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched the different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all the features you mentioned.”[1]

The talent acquisition and retention process, the recruiting, hiring and promoting of great talent is our Elephant and we, all of us in the talent acquisition and retention business are the blind men. We each “see” the elephant from our own perspective of sourcing, screening, selection, on-boarding, promotion, succession planning, recruiting, human resources but rarely are able to say that we “see” the whole elephant.

To carry the analogy further, we, all of us in the business, are blind or have blinders on since we only “see” what we do. We are sourcers, screeners, job posters, 3rd party recruiters, HR specialists, managed recruiting consultants or a combination of any of the above.

And because we only “see” part of our Elephant we then work with our part and treat any issues or problems without any regard for how our fixes or process improvements will effect the other parts of the elephant that we don’t “see”.

I suggested last week that the elephant in the room was the job posting. I should have been clearer. It is not so much the posting but the actual job description, job requisition, job order or as Lou Adler would want, the performance profile that sets in motion most every facet of the talent acquisition and retention process.

Creating and developing clear, well written, real job descriptions that tie into the process would then allow everyone involved to “see” the whole elephant.

If a job requires a certain type of experience, skill level, education, good communication skills, similar experience, passport for travel, drug screen then efforts should be made, with the help of technology, to allow for a consistent flow of qualified, interested and available candidates to be sourced, screened, selected, interviewed, hired and promoted. A similar effort should be made to allow for a respectful treatment of candidates, both qualified and not qualified, by giving them access to the talent process and allowing them to become engaged with the process on a professional level.

In thinking about our elephant it is big and perhaps slow to turn. All of us in the industry should have as our collective goal to try to “see” the whole elephant, understand how our piece of the elephant impacts and influences the other parts. Then and only then will we be able to acknowledge the elephant in the room and make sure that it pulls its weight.

There is now an opening in your company for a new job, Elephant Trainer, and you won’t be working for peanuts.


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