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into Talent Acquisition
RaaS, Recruiting as a Service
An alternative recruiting model
used in digital recruiting
By Amber Grewal and Dave Putterman
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Digital is revolutionizing all products, services and industries at an incredible pace. By 2020
executives predict 47% of revenue will be influenced by digital.(1) That begs the question, “How do we adapt to
keep up with the change?” The ways in which our customers engage with us challenges the current operating
model and requires innovative approaches to thinking about talent and create value. The war on talent is a
driving force in rethinking the approach to attract, retain and develop talent.
GE Digital was founded with a focus on digital revolution to bring together the world of OT &
IT. To do so, GE is creating a cloud-based platform and an app economy. GE Digital set up shop in Silicon Valley
and is scaling from scratch, building teams, growing a global footprint, building operations and processes for
scale, and doing all of it quickly. Digital has gone from a few hundred employees in 2013 to being an
organization that has over 28,000 employees today. This transformation required and continues to require
new skills and capabilities from the external market in an incredibly short timeframe. To meet this need, Talent
Acquisition needs to have incredible speed, efficiently, agility and reliability for all phases for the digital journey.
In today’s competitive world, our ability to recruit talent is critical. At GE, we were challenged
to hire a huge volume of the highest quality, external digital talent across the globe. Not only that, but we were
challenged to do so effectively, with speed and reliability, all while dealing with unpredictability. To do this, we
needed a sophisticated, innovative approach to recruiting that could handle all of these challenges.
Disruption and Innovation in the talent acquisition model was a core driver needed to enable this
transformation and keep up with the pace of change in the digital world. We created an agile recruiting model
called RaaS (Recruiting as a service): to meet this need.
This model is an alternative to the traditional recruiting model used across the digital industry. The
Agile recruiting scrum team is structured to operate with speed and manage unpredictability in the same way
agile software teams build software. We took an approach that was focused on the customer, the highest
quality output, maintaining key priorities, and maintaining the ability to change direction and pivot as quickly as
the business changed direction, all without losing productivity.
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*(1) Source: The State Of Digital Business 2016 to 2020
Whether it’s development, company culture, or new age thinking, Agile has become the core of many efforts for
change and transformation. Unique to talent acquisition and the RaaS model, we take pieces of the Agile
software development methodology to build a recruiting process that is streamlined, efficient, responsive to the
customer, measurable, and predictable.
The goals of agile recruiting are to:
• Focus on priority items
• Limit work in progress
• Provide visibility daily to the team & stakeholders
• Measure performance
• Predict future performance
• Innovate & pivot at a moment’s notice
While this seems straightforward enough, we must ask; how do we go about achieving these goals? And how
does it impact traditional recruiting methods?
The model consists of four key elements:
1. The Recruiting Scrum Team (RST), built as a cross-functional team with all the skills necessary to
complete any backlog item; focused on the execution and delivery of 2–5-week sprint cycles.
2. The Recruiting Scrum Master, a new role created in the recruiting industry, is a certified agile
coach that facilitates the scrum rituals and retros, execution and prioritization of headcount
backlog, and shields the team from interruptions during the sprint.
3. The Headcount Owner, responsible for representing the voice of all hiring managers on their
backlog and setting the priority of each req.
4. Technology, a talent platform that connects talent pipelines, skills, technical assessments, and
headcount backlogs as well as feeds a Kanban board, enabling visualization of work in progress.
RaaS allows us to: keep priorities top of mind during sprints, be consistently aware of real-time statuses and
activities, identify bottlenecks, see historical velocity, and provide visibility and accountability to our customers.
The process helps us react quickly to changes within the business, our global markets, and shifts in
stakeholders’ requirements. We’ve also implemented a point system associated with every item in our backlog.
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This allows us to commit more efficiently, as well as analyze data to make more accurate predictions and
estimates for our sprint cycles. Data helps us quickly determine how difficult it will be to find and attract
certain skill sets, to understand the talent supply and demand, the desirability of the location, and be cognizant
of the perception of the product or business for which we are recruiting.
Below are two examples showing the types of learnings we have made by using the data.
Example 1: We determined XXX was one of the best locations to yield the most qualified software
engineers in the fastest time. We also narrowed down XXX as the ideal place for Machine Learning talent. Using
these learnings, we could target our pipelining efforts and suggest regions for hire that managers weren’t even
Example 2: By looking at sub-cycle time for each requisition, we determined that we had a bottleneck with our
interview scheduling team in the United States. We then created a project team to build a new automated
interview-scheduling tool to reduce this portion of our cycle time, as well as shift headcount to this task in the
Additionally, the data and model allow us to make split-second decisions around allocation of work based on
bandwidth, locations, businesses, and skills. This model and approach resulted in 70% faster results in hiring.
A process that previously took over 15 weeks was completed in 3–6-week cycles, and it yielded 54% higher
customer satisfaction from the business groups due to the delivery of the right talent for the most critical
Focus on Priority Items:
What is a priority backlog? Who sets the priority? How do we use the priority backlog?
For recruiting, our priority backlog is a list of requisitions (reqs) that are ready to be worked on, in priority order.
For a req to be considered “ready,” it needs to meet a set of defined criteria. For example, it needs to be fully
approved, the funding allocated, and the business need to identify a contact (typically the hiring manager) who
will be available and responsive to the scrum team working on the req. Without all of those criteria being met,
the req is not considered ready to be prioritized on the backlog. This strict set of criteria ensures we do not
expend resources on a role that may not be approved, may be canceled, or doesn’t have a contact who is
ready and willing to be responsive to the team.
Once we have met the criteria to be included in the backlog, how do we prioritize the list? This is a great
question, and perhaps one of the more challenging questions to answer. Many factors play into the priority of
a req. See the chart below for a few examples:
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There are additional factors that can influence priority such as: Can we group a set of roles in similar locations
together to gain efficiency? Can we group roles requiring similar skill sets, aiding in candidate sharing?
Ultimately someone must make the final call. We call this person the Headcount Owner. The Headcount Owner
role is similar to the Product Manager role in the software development implementations of Agile. The
Headcount Owner is responsible for representing the customers and stakeholders in the process, prioritizing
the backlog and ensuring all reqs in the backlog meet the start criteria.
Limiting Work in Progress
In the typical talent acquisition org, roles were opened and worked on in various states of approval and levels
of urgency. This previous, standard mode of operation calls for constant context switching between different
roles based on which hiring manager yelled the loudest. Operating in this manner was not only incredibly
inefficient, but it also broke the cardinal rule of continuously focusing on our priority items.
We use a few different methods to ensure we are limiting our work in progress. First, the req being worked on
must be on the priority backlog, and there are no allowances for side reqs or special favors for a hiring
manager. The Recruiting Scrum Team (RST) works on reqs that have been approved by the Headcount Owner,
and on the priority backlog. This reinforces the focus on only priority items, promotes efficiency, and leaves less
room for distraction. Secondly, we set a limit or provide guidance on how many reqs should be worked on in
given amount of time (sprint cycle). Data analysis shows us the historical velocity of a team. Historical velocity
is essentially the average amount of work an RST has completed over past sprint cycles.
Provide visibility daily to the team and our stakeholders
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One of the fundamentals of our process is constant collaboration and visibility internally within the RST & Agile
Recruiting Managers (ARM), and externally with our customers. To achieve this goal, we hold Daily Scrum
Meetings, utilize a Kanban board, and use standard tools and templates.
Daily Scrum Meetings, as the name suggests, are quick, 15-minute daily check-ins for the RST. Our Kanban
board tracks the flow of candidates through our recruiting process, provides a visual representation of the
states of our candidates, allows for quick visual inspection of bottlenecks, and provides our first level of
common reporting. Utilizing a standard Kanban board and standard reports eliminates individualized
spreadsheets, paper tracking, and offline data. Customizable, cloud-based boards track progress and allow
instant visibility to all our stakeholders directly with little to no effort. This reduces time and effort spent
handling stakeholder requests, allowing the RST to focus on recruiting and operate more efficiently. This level of
visibility and transparency is uncommon in the industry, and it not only builds trust but also ensures the team
stays focused on the priority deliverables.
Measure & Predict Performance
Measuring execution and predicting completion time was one of our primary goals. The largest shift in thinking
we faced was the common misconception that all reqs are equal and productivity should be measured as
such. However, an entry-level role in Atlanta is very different than an executive role in San Francisco. To
measure and predict, we assigned a “size” to each of our reqs.
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There are many factors that contribute to sizing reqs. A few can be seen above. In some scenarios “rules” can
be set, often resulting in something resembling a “recipe.” San Francisco may add 5 points to your size, while
Atlanta only adds 3. Executive level adds 10 points where as entry level only adds 4, etc. In our case, as a
starting point, we compared reqs on our backlog, and relatively sized them. There are many different scales for
sizing such as: animals (ant, mouse, cat, dog, horse) and T-Shirts (S, M L XL XXL),. We chose the Fibonacci
sequence to allows the use of numbers to predict and forecast. Though arguments can be made against the
accuracy of these numbers, we have found this method to be extremely efficient and directionally correct,
especially given that previously we considered all reqs equal.
Once a size has been assigned to a req, the Headcount Owner can use this information to inform priority
decisions. For example, it may be more valuable to prioritize 2 “smaller” reqs, rather than one “large” req.
Once sizes are in place, we can efficiently track historic velocity. We built velocity charts to track the number of
points committed to by the team, as well as the number of points completed each sprint. The average number
of points completed each sprint gives us an RST’s velocity. This velocity serves as guidance to the team as it
decides how many points to take each sprint in an effort to not over-commit, and to maintain focus on limiting
work in progress. Additionally, once points were assigned to all backlog items, we could fairly accurately
predict how many sprints it would take to deliver the entire backlog, allowing us to better-set expectations. In
reality, the backlog grows and shrinks as demand ebbs and flows, but this too can be tracked and predicted.
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Innovate & pivot at a moments notice
Our customers’ priorities can change at any moment. By using Agile Recruiting, we have a set cadence to re-
evaluate and adjust our priority backlog. By taking the time every cycle to hold a backlog-grooming meeting,
we ensure our ability to pivot at a moment’s notice to adjust to the new priorities in the next cycle.
After every sprint we take the time to gather feedback from our customers and hold a retrospective meeting to
introspect. We use this information to improve our team and methods. In the retrospective, the RST discusses
what went well, what didn’t go well, and determines which actions to continue, and what to try differently. By
putting a focus on continuous improvement, the team is constantly innovating, trying new things, and working
to drive higher business and candidate satisfaction.
Since we are sizing our reqs, prioritizing our backlog, focusing on our top priority reqs and able to view and
predict our velocity, are now able adjust our teams as needed based on the backlog. If we see our upcoming
backlog contains a higher demand for a specific region or role, we can take action. Similar to how additional
virtual machines can spin up to handle spikes, we can spin up additional RSTs, or reallocate existing RSTs.
We believe innovation is all about thinking differently, connecting all the dots, and providing a new solution or
outcome to a challenging problem. We had a very clear challenge involving explosive growth, a highly
competitive market, and a legacy practice. We took strands of Agile DNA, and embedded it into the RaaS model
to deliver higher quality and streamlined hiring. We hired Agile coaches and developers to act as key
contributors on the talent acquisition team, and built enterprise quality software to enable this process. We
firmly believe that in a world that is becoming more and more digital, a recruiting model like RaaS is necessary
to keep up with the incredible hiring demands associated with this transformational change.