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.

Views: 466

Comment by Paul Alfred on April 19, 2011 at 6:27pm

Nick .. If I were VP of Talent Management for a large Corp -  From a 50,000 ft level -  I think yes I would want to recognize the Elephant in the room ... pick the problem apart and deal with the issues as I would have a common corporate goal and problem I need to solve - the elephant a broken talent acquisition strategy ...


But why would the TPR care about the unqualified candidate his/her  goal is clear provide qualified candidates all of the blind men you speak of have specific goals and in the real world don't really care about the Elephant in the room.   And if it exist they work around it ... 

Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 20, 2011 at 3:20am
Here is the question. Does the elephant trainer want to waste time on mice who always wanted to be an elephant. No matter how much time or pleasant engagement or professional training is spent on the mouse it will never be an elephant.

By including the mouse in the elephant training class the mouse is given false hope that it may become an elephant. A disservice to the mouse.

The elephant trainer can spend an incredible amount of time trying to make an elephant out of a mouse it still won't be an elephant. A disservice to the trainer.

If the elephant trainer ignores the elephant while messing around at camp hopeless with a mouse who is goofy enough to believe that it is or can be an elephant, the elephant gets neglected does not receive the right training and the show does not go on. A disservice to the elephant.

The moral of the story. If you want to provide the best service to the guy who owns the circus and the people who come to watch the elephants, put up a sign that says Elephants wanted. Mice will not be considered. When the mice show up anyway because they can't read or think they are an elephant or wanna be one. Don't waste your time, the mouse's time or ignore the few elephants who do show up trying to make everybody happy or you will be working for peanuts. The word will get around with the elephants that you are a lousy trainer, the circus will fire you and you will spend the rest of your life with a bunch of goofy mice. The mice will eat all your peanuts then just go somewhere else and try to be an elephant. Mice are like that.
Comment by Sandra McCartt on April 20, 2011 at 3:30am
P.S. The only time the mouse will ever have a wonderful experience is if the dream of becoming an elephant is realized. The only technology that takes care of mice effectively is called a mouse trap. I love technology.
Comment by Mat von Kroeker on April 20, 2011 at 11:25am
I remember reading this "blind men & the elephant" analogy as a teenager, and still have the same opinion of it today.  Each blind man's interpretation of "what an elephant is" was technically incorrect--- as the elephant is the whole of all these parts. 

The blind men remind me of hiring managers with very narrow job descriptions--- when the position warrants the whole elephant. 


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