Nowhere have I seen a more strained organizational relationship than the one that exists between recruiting and business development in the government contracting space. Having spent a lot of time examining this I can best explain the dynamic like this…

Simply put, business development operates in the future, operations operates in the now and recruiting is required to support both organizations. Priorities and mindsets of these three organizations are often times not aligned, which creates dissonance between them. Business development is concerned with the potential of upcoming work and operations services work underway. I am sure you have heard business development complain about recruiting not bringing candidates to the table for proposals, operations complaining about their backfills not being filled fast enough and recruiting complaining they are not receiving quality information or quick enough feedback from either. This is a very common struggle in many organizations that leads to finger pointing, posturing and the implementation of solutions that may never address the inherent problems that are creating this environment.

Let’s look at a scenario from Business development’s side

The capture and BD team have done a great job marketing the client, aligning company capabilities, building an effective team that delivers value to the end customer while developing a price to win that will be competitive and profitable. All they need is recruiting to step up and deliver key resumes and contingent offer letters, but they have not seen any movement on any of their positions. They put their job orders in the system a couple of weeks ago, how can it be this hard to find people?

The growth of the company depends on continually bringing in new work and this is impossible to do when the proposals fall apart last minute because of a lack of key personnel. This should be the main priority, expanding business, and more resources should be allocated to supporting the BD team’s proposal efforts.

Let’s Look at the scenario From Recruiting’s Side

The current employment market is incredibly stressed, and employees are jumping ship to take offers from our competitors for sometimes 20% more. It seems it is taking much more effort and time to bring candidates into the mix and as quickly as we can get them interested, they are gone. We also can’t seem to get a handle on attrition, because we are tied into LPTA rates from 5 years ago. To make matters worse we have a backlog of proposals being bid under market rate again that need our attention. This seems to be a cycle that we can’t get out of.

The existence of the company depends on filling our current backfills and making sure we leave no revenue on the table. Extended vacancies at best cost thousands of dollars and at worst can lead to lost contracts. If we are losing all of our contracts due to lack of performance, we won’t have a company to win contracts for.

These are both very valid scenarios and they stem from a lack of alignment across internal organizations. BD, operations and recruiting often roll up to different executives within the company all with their different processes and goals and suffer from a lack of integration.

How to Fix it:

1. Embed recruitment with BD

If you have the budget, hire a recruiting team that is embedded into business development and does not support operations. Make this a sales position and give them the tools and bandwidth to pipeline candidates which align with the deals business development is bringing to the table. Problem solved, no need to read further….

Oh, you’re a small business and don’t nearly have the budget or resources for this? Read on…

2. Educate, educate, educate

Educate each organization on the process and goals of the other, much of the solution can be centered around communication. It is essential that recruiting supports the sales/BD function of the company and understands the targets and “must wins” of the BD organization. If recruiting is briefed on the deals the team has coming down the pike, it is much easier to recruit and look for those skillsets in tandem with other responsibilities, rather than creating a crisis by not communicating the need early in the capture process. After all, BD should target opportunities further than 18 months out, this is an ideal time to brief talent acquisition and get them spun up on the requirements, not 2 weeks before proposal submission.

3. Consider capabilities, bandwidth and abilities

Understand the bandwidth of the team, their capability and that in the short term, supporting one thing means not supporting another. Just because you open a requisition and tell the team about it, that does not mean it will be worked on. Not all business is good business and there should be a serious prioritization of work based on the nature of the position so there is no question amongst the organizations. Funded backfill = High priority fill and Task Order thrown over the fence with five day’s notice = low priority. With a clear priority alignment, it makes workload easier to manage as well as the expectations of the organizations.

4. Create review processes

Create an internal gate review process for the recruiting team similar to what business development does with the deals they are running capture on to get approval to dedicate resources. This does not have to be an extensive approach but should involve uncovering the importance and realism around filling the position and if the recruiting director should allocate resources.

    • Has the team met with and marketed the customer?
    • Does our Past performance align with this work?
    • Do you have vetted job descriptions?
    • Is there significant time to develop the proposal?
    • Is it on a vehicle with limited competition?
    • Etc….

If you answered yes to all of the above, great let’s take a swing and get to work, if you answered “no”, maybe we want to take a look at if this is where we want to expend our resources. To be clear, I am not advocating for additional red-tape to be added to the process and believe these reviews should be done quickly.

5. Create accountability

Business development and recruiting need to be accountable to each other and provide each with adequate support. Whether we like to admit it or not, most companies in GovCon are in the business of staffing and when called on, the recruiting team has to step up to deliver resources to whichever organization requires them. Conversely there should be a chain of accountability downstream to the long-term execution of contract wins. What is point of winning a contract that simply can’t be successful in execution? We have seen this a lot over the last five years with companies winning on low price and unable to keep their positions staffed due to the very low supply of cleared resources. Not only does this kill your billable revenue, it creates attrition with your overhead recruiting resources while they look around and ask, “who the heck got us into this mess?” This is not intended to be a finger pointing drill but rather a recognition of lessons learned.

The relationship between BD and recruiting does not need to be a difficult one and when executed properly, recruiting can even deliver competitive intelligence to the team. You would be surprised the intel recruiters can deliver when they are informed and prepared. Think of them as your open source intelligence analysts in the field, but appreciate the limit on their resources and be accountable to the information you deliver to them. A company without an effective BD organization can’t deliver growth and growth can’t be delivered without acquiring the right talent so creating a constructive relationship between the two organizations is essential.

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Tom Weinert is a DOD/Intel Talent Acquisition advisor and Founder of Mount Indie, a firm based in San Diego focused on helping small to large DOD contractors reinvent their TA strategy to compete in today’s market. With over a decade of experience in DOD program management and recruiting, Tom brings fresh ideas to the space focusing on out of the box sourcing, process improvement and strategic guidance in the cleared market.