Effective staffing teams don’t happen accidentally, especially in defense contracting for the federal government. They’re the end result of effective recruiting managers who lead by example, build healthy recruiting processes, and helps talent acquisition professionals to thrive.

Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and you will probably find yourself on a recruiting team that has a toxic manager, co-worker, or overall environment, and issues may be more difficult to spot than others, ultimately stifling progress.

There are some tell-tale signs your team could be nearing dysfunction or are already there. If you can identify the symptoms of the issue, you can take the necessary steps to get your cleared recruiting team back on track.

Using the same strategy to tackle problems

Einstein said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If you’re on a recruiting team that does just this, posting requisitions to the same tired job boards, sourcing from the same outdated database, but complaining that there are unfilled billets, it can make you want to bang your head against the wall. Even worse, customer’s missions are not being fulfilled, ultimately upsetting your company management team.

The best way to energize your recruiting team is to set some time aside for research – talent acquisition is a piece of national security that needs to be innovative as well, and reinventing other’s ideas or reading blog to spark your own idea could be something to put your company on the map to potential candidates. You should also rely on other recruiters across different companies – friendly competition is natural in defense staffing but sharing ideas should be happening, too.

Lack of communication & absence of trust

Trust is the groundwork of a productive recruiting team and the non-existence of it is a clear path to a dysfunctional team. Groups or individuals that don’t have trust in one another presume malicious intentions, hate spending anytime speaking with one another, but most of all, don’t ask for support when they really need it. Recruiting or headhunting is a tough gig, and you need to rely on your fellow recruiters to avoid burnout. Recruiting managers can start nurturing trust by establishing a team culture of openness, promoting honesty, and cultivating good communication practices. A lack of communication across recruiters or with other teams in the hiring process is a red flag that your recruiting team just isn’t working – it can be demonstrated in sidebar chats outside of your virtual meeting, low morale, decreased engagement, etc.

HIRING managers don’t know status OF POSITIONS

Speaking of communication – if your hiring manager, account manager, or program manager doesn’t know the status your openings, the recruiting team is in trouble. The program manager is technically your biggest customer as a recruiter (besides the actual customer). Not being in the know is very frustrating since these individuals are usually the ones interfacing with the government / agency. Your team should be having a weekly update with these personnel outside of your weekly recruiting tag up and I would even send a Friday afternoon email with all updates on hot positions or candidates (i.e. still waiting on our intel analyst signed offer, finalized salary negotiations with our data scientist, have an interview scheduled over the weekend with a highly motivated candidate for our hard to fill software engineer role, etc.)

Meetings are passive aggressive instead of productive

Everyone is aware of those cringe-worthy meetings where someone throws a backhanded comment that is just plain not helpful. We’re all human, and recruiters have long days, sometimes tough candidates, pressure from hiring managers, and just life. Attitude happens but having a passive aggressive recruiter on your team doesn’t develop from scratch, so there is usually a deeper-rooted issue to uncover. Recruiting managers can create a culture of vulnerability and set an example of being upfront and honest right when things happen. I even once had a manager that said if anyone on the team was feeling the attitude or had some type of problem with someone, they could waive their figment surrender flag and tackle the issue head on.

All this honesty and communication will allow the recruiting team to be more productive in the end.

Tattling & the blame game

We’re not five years old. Don’t tattle. Talk to the person directly. Own your mistakes and move on. There is a difference between tattling and reporting actual problems. If your team needs to fix a problem, it’s okay to bring it to the light. But the goal should be working towards a solution rather than shaming the culprit. The goal should always be the good of the company and the customer, rather than self promotion.

It’s Never too Late to Do the Right Thing now

If you want an effective staffing team, you have to work for it a little harder in defense contracting. Build healthy recruiting processes, help your talent acquisition professionals to thrive, and keep your eye out for any clues in the daily interactions that might be driving your team to being ineffective. It’s never too late to turn things around.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸