To recruit or develop: That is the question leaders wrestle with. The relationship between recruiting and development is often clouded and disjointed, but the reality is that organizations must both recruit and develop to be successful. Leaders need to call for recruiting and development to unite!

Have you ever watched a college football game, marveled at how well a team plays and wondered how they became so good? The team seemed to move the ball effortlessly on offense, their defense came up with big stops and their special teams made all the big plays. Teams of high-performing individuals working together are never developed by accident but are the result of purposeful and targeted recruiting and development. No team would ever recruit a five-star quarterback with a rocket arm who runs like a gazelle and expect them to show up ready to win the opening game without any development. Likewise, no team would ever recruit a couch potato with a spaghetti arm and expect to develop them into a star quarterback during the offseason. Here are some ways organizations can act more like a football team to recruit and develop.

Horizontal Collaboration

Learning professionals often collaborate vertically within their line of business leaders. However, they often miss the critical opportunity to collaborate horizontally with other functional partners such as recruiting, human resources, instructional design, employee relations, organizational effectiveness, talent development, risk and compliance, and finance, as these groups frequently report up through different lines of business. Regular horizontal collaboration between learning and recruiting will help everyone understand each other, increase trust and engage all groups with a single purpose. In this way, organizations can act more like a football coach, who both recruits and develops talent.

Can you imagine the “wow” experience a prospective employee would have if recruiting personnel were to brag about the learning and development team they were about to work with? Likewise, consider the impact on a recruit if the learning team were to reference the recruiting process and give kudos to the recruiters who just hired them. This collaboration would be much like a baton seamlessly passed from one runner to another. It reaffirms to the recruit they made the right decision to join the organization.

Development as a Competitive Advantage

Just as not all scholarships are created equal, not all job offers are equal. Even five-star football recruits are not “plug-and-play solutions,” as they will accept the offer that will best help them reach their greatest potential. Similarly, organizations can’t rely on paying the highest salaries in the industry to attract recruits; they must find differentiate themselves with their development opportunities.

One of the most effective ways an organization can differentiate itself is to educate recruiters on development, for example, by providing an overview of the onboarding process, the learning plan, continuous learning, learning resources, support from the manager and support from peer coaches. Recruiters also need be able to share with recruits how long it takes recruits to reach proficiency, performance expectations, how success will be measured and historical turnover. Recruiters should share onboarding survey results with new hires, including overall satisfaction with the onboarding experience and engagement of new hires. They should also be able to speak confidently about career paths and how the recruit could grow in the organization. Sharing these insights will allow the organization to recruit and retain top talent.

Recruiting as a Competitive Advantage

Recruiters often don’t know what happens to recruits after they are hired; they seem to move into a twilight zone, never to be seen again. Consider the impact if learning and development were to collaborate horizontally with recruiting by sharing how the recruits progress during their development and how they perform on the job. Closing this loop would be a huge lift in engagement, and recruiters would be able to see the fruits of their labors for the first time.

The line of business should share performance data on the new hires, filtering that data based on education, prior position and experience. Sharing this information with recruiting is like seeing the answers before the test. Armed with this new information, recruiters can improve their sourcing, write better job descriptions, screen resumes better, write better interview questions and evaluate recruits more effectively. Recruiting better people means more of the right of people are in the right seats and therefore will reach proficiency more quickly and perform better on the job.

As recruiting and development begin to collaborate, they will start to see themselves not as independent groups but as branches of the same tree with a single purpose—like different positions on a football team working together to win a game. The momentum will grow as they hire more of the right recruits, who will reach proficiency more quickly and produce better results. Engagement will increase, turnover will drop, customers will be happier, the culture will change and the organization will be transformed into a winning team.