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Published: November 27, 2012
 / Winter 2012 / Issue 69

 
 

Talent Is a Strategic Asset: A Virtual Roundtable

We didn’t know, when we began running the company this way, that there would be changes in the industry or that Devon would refocus its portfolio, but the changes we made positioned us well. For instance, despite the shortage of midcareer geoscientists, we were in a good position to compete for energy-industry talent.

CASHION: Our highest levels of leadership, starting with CEO John Richels and the executive committee, decided in 2007 that HR was going to contribute in a significant way to implementing our business plans. For the first time, they created a head of HR position on the executive committee, reporting directly to the CEO. When Frank [Rudolph] arrived to fill that position, some of us expected him to come in with guns blazing. Instead, he took about four months to look at our practices and digest what he saw. Only then did he pull the HR group together and say, “Here’s what we’re going to do.”

At that session, he had several senior executives come in and talk about the business strategy. That showed us that they believed in what he was saying. Then he talked about changing our human resources functional structure. Our HR operations people would spend 90 percent of their time as talent managers, improving people’s capability. Many people’s jobs would shift. We would centralize many of our functions, like recruiting, performance management, workforce planning, and relocation.

The meeting was followed by the kind of upheaval you would expect. People went back to their offices and started questioning. “That’s not how it works around here — is it possible?” Some people didn’t believe in this direction and ultimately left. Others, including me, thought the change was fantastic; we would now get to do interesting, and vital, talent management work.

An Edge in Recruiting

EBERHARDT: In the past, when it “staffed up,” Devon used outside recruiters. They tend to be very aggressive — more like salespeople than talent scouts. My charge, starting in 2008, was to in-source this process: to have our internal recruiters be more strategic in how they work with our hiring managers.

We have become a lot more analytical and deliberate. Recruiters spend more time up front talking to managers about the type of talent they’re looking for and where they’re likely to find it. That’s a lot more focused than just posting openings on job boards and hoping the right people will come along.

RUDOLPH: Formerly, when our operational people in the business units did a search, HR would hand them a list of candidates. It would be their job to decide which candidates to see and then to sell the candidates on Devon.

Now, we in HR sit down with the business leader and talk about the need, and the strategy to fill the need. From there, the recruiter handles everything from sourcing to the selection process. The recruiter ultimately makes the offer. In addition, our recruiters give a great deal of attention to the candidates by educating them on our organization, and providing regular updates about what to expect next. This is a very high-touch approach, calibrated to make sure that it’s always Devon’s decision whether or not someone joins. We don’t want candidates to go through the recruiting experience and think, “Geez, I’m still mixed on whether to join Devon.” In 2007, about 42 percent of the external offers we made were accepted. Today, the number is above 90 percent.

All of the candidates being recruited are asked to fill out a 12-question survey evaluating the process of interviewing at Devon and the recruiters they met with. We look at the recruiters’ scores monthly. In effect, that allows us to measure how well we’re delivering on our high-touch approach.

 
 
 
 
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