No Talent Acquisition team is an island

Blog post by Johan Sellgren, HR Business Partner together with Anders Winberg, Talent Acquisition Team Lead

The previous post on this blog explained the thinking behind our recent Talent Acquisition reorganization. With this post, we want to follow up and share some more context and insight into what this has meant for the HR teams in our hands-on day-to-day work.

Partnering up

Talent Acquisition is a big part of our People Strategy, for obvious reasons. We’re growing, which means bringing in the right talent at the right time is critical. But no man is an island, and no team within HR can be one either. TA is central to our success as a company, but they can’t do it alone, they need to be embedded in both HR and the business. 

The reorganization was debated a lot internally and threatening to many, which is only to be expected. Change and disruptive moves are not for the faint-hearted. But it made it a lot easier for us to partner up with the business, as the organizations are now aligned. Each company must do what makes sense for their organization and for us that’s to stay close to our core beliefs and the company’s DNA. And that means we must set, and hold ourselves accountable to, contrarian beliefs. 

Looking ourselves in the mirror

Once we had the new organization in place we needed to really look ourselves in the mirror. Were we, within HR and in particular between the TA team and HRBP team, working together in a true partnership? In some pockets, it was better than in others but for our particular area, the brutally truthful answer was “no”. We realized that if we’re going to get where we want to go, we needed to partner up in a different way than we used to. What got us here just won’t get us there, and we need to go there fast!  That, in turn, required some open and decisive discussions and a lot of guts. In parts of the organization, this led to some very good people leaving the team as they didn’t believe this kind of change was doable, so we also had new collaboration teams that needed to align and commit.

Running in the same direction

In this particular case, the two of us (the HR Business Partner and the TA Team Lead) have a combined Spotify tenure of more than 12 years. And the brutal truth is we agree that it feels like we’ve spent more time together in the six months since the reorg than we did during all of the previous years combined. At least we have spent more productive time together during this period. With the new setup, we have shared targets and we’re dependent on each other to be successful. We’re running as hard as we used to, but now we’re doing it in the same direction, together, and it makes all the difference. 

We should have done this ages ago!

In hindsight, our new way of working feels obvious. It’s fair to ask why we didn’t do it earlier. But just like it says in the previous post on this: Sometimes change is hard. Especially so when you need to change while also delivering the day-to-day, and it’s all moving at 100 mph. The pressure of hyper-growth can easily create “we and them” thinking between teams, such mechanisms will slow you down in the end, and it also makes change feel more difficult and less attractive. 

We believe that lack of efficient partnership between TA and HRBP teams is a huge factor stopping HR teams from becoming true partners to the business, both when it comes to tactical hiring and in the Strategic Workforce Planning. There are a lot of TA teams out there that believe they’re not HR or a part of HR. This was not the case for us, but we had an in-group/out-group kind of trap where a super-strong “us against the world” team feeling got in the way of shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration with everyone, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Working like we do now is hard work, we constantly have to challenge ourselves in order to really work together as one single united HR team and stay aligned. But it’s worth it, because we see the change and effort show in the end result, and it’s building increasing trust from the business. 

How we do it now, as a team

We still iterate on this change, and we still have many things left to improve. The good thing is that the new model enables us to learn fast and iterate with a tight feedback loop from our stakeholders. Everything that needs to be fixed is within our own control, and we do it together as we have shared objectives and accountabilities. The old model was harder to navigate and the feedback loops (both within HR and from stakeholders) were too long and complicated. Important feedback got lost or fell through the cracks. Accountability was fuzzier and the partnership was weaker. And most importantly, it was less fun. 

One very hands-on and simple change that is really making things easier for us is the new and improved cadence we’re both following. Annual, quarterly and monthly we assess data, insights and learning together with our stakeholders. We do this in a simple and transparent way, and it helps us make sure that the TA team is spending their time where it makes the most impact at the moment. This feedback loop triggers ideas and engagement on how we team up to in the best possible way to find new talent.

We speak pretty much every day. We have full transparency between us and we use each other as sounding boards. We challenge each other and we split tasks between us to get the job done. Drawing the line between who’s responsible for what is not always easy, but these days we spend less time discussing who should do what, and more time actually doing the things we need done. It’s still a work in progress but we find that generally, involving members of the TA team and delegating accountability gets us moving a lot faster. Our hiring in Q2 of this year increased by 26% compared to Q1, so we know we’re on the right track.  

Finally, this post is focusing on the collaboration between the HR Business Partner and TA Lead. But this renewed and stronger partnership has also helped strengthen the partnership with other teams that we are dependent on, like FP&A and People Analytics. Perhaps that will be the topic of a future post because we are not even close to done yet. We’re just a few quarters in with the new model, so the best is yet to come.