Has the way we identify and select talent changed forever? Abigail Scott, MD of Sova APAC recently hosted an online discussion for the Sova community to discuss how businesses can build efficient and resilient talent processes fit for the future. She was joined by Sova’s founder and CEO, Dr Alan Bourne and by leadership expert Rebecca Houghton.
2020 was a year none of us could have planned for. Despite this, the talent acquisition function embraced change in the face of a huge increase in applications and the challenges of quickly adopting new virtual processes. In this blog we share 10 key points from our discussion that can help shape your approach to TA in 2021. To listen to the full webinar, you can register on our website here.
Many of the initiatives that HR had been championing for years, like the ability to be more flexible had, in the past, been blocked: “Then one day it was magically all done,” says Rebecca. “Well done HR, it doesn’t matter how these agenda items get done but HR closed the deal on remote and flexible working.”
Now we need to be careful that our organisations don’t ping back to the shape they were before, she cautions, and it’s likely there will be some values-based tension between leaders and workers about how we go back to work. In planning the return, safety is critical, says Alan: “The question is about how much choice people have. How much choice do candidates have? For example, can they go through recruitment virtually?”
“TA has been battle hardened by previous challenging times,” says Alan. This preparation meant TA recognised the need to act immediately in response to the growing crisis. The talent function had an ability to respond quickly through either accelerating, or making quick and agile changes to, virtual recruitment and assessment technology.
In fact, of all the people functions, TA has led the way on going virtual: “When I look across all people services in an organisation, TA has always been the most tech enabled,” says Rebecca: “There is no other part of HR that can work this seamlessly remotely. Was TA ready? Miles ahead of everyone else. Simply better prepared”.
Despite the fact that TA was quick to pivot to remote working and hiring, significant pressures remain. Application numbers have tripled or even quadrupled. The talent function has been through the wars over the last 12 months and this has had a knock-on effect on candidates:
“When people are in frugal mode and the CFO can see the need to invest and that candidate numbers have gone up, but they can’t afford it, they compromise on other things like candidate experience.” Says Rebecca.
Alan agrees, and sees a lot of pressures on TA teams: “Cost per hire should have gone through the roof but people are putting in the hours themselves. It’s not sustainable and applicants don’t feel like they are being looked after.”
A change that both Alan and Rebecca noted during 2020 is that TA has started to act as an internal mobility function, focusing on internal as well as external talent. Rebecca has seen TA stretch into learning and development and career pathing, becoming talent advisors not only sourcing advisors.
This is happening because TA teams are the most thoughtful about candidate experience, says Alan. “In the past, internal development was an intervention. It’s now a lifecycle experience and TA is the only team with the capability to design these experiences”.
This extraordinary year has accelerated the conversation about mobility. More organisations are thinking about working with what they’ve got rather than bringing in new hires. People have got better at developing, reskilling and mobilising their own workforces, says Rebecca:
“People are looking at upskilling because of frugality. How do I develop my team so they can do the work rather than bringing in an expert? You’d spend 20% on a new hire and you’d spend 5% promoting someone internally. Plus, they already know the business, so you don’t lose three months of productivity.”
The recruitment process is an opportunity to showcase your culture and your people. But in the past, we’ve perhaps not done as well as we could have here. With in-person assessment centres it was sometimes hard to get the right senior people to participate. A move to virtual assessment opens up new options, so why not challenge your CEO, CFO, CHRO and other senior leaders to be part of the journey for candidates?
With in-person recruitment days, “We were super casual about who the right people were and so people end up having the wrong conversation or half the conversation. Virtual assessment centres can offer more of a human touch. Candidates get to meet people they never would have done in person – they get extra exposure and extra insight”, says Alan.
TA has proved that it could “work from the moon” says Rebecca. What’s missing? The social fabric of personal connection, the watercooler conversations that are part of networking. However, a remote return to work need not be a barrier to development says Alan.
“One of our clients, Petrofac, has moved executive assessment and development online. Because they’re based in multiple countries, they already had the challenge of not having watercooler conversations. So, this approach is more inclusive because it has levelled the playing field. You can use virtual to make more people feel included.”
People have undoubtedly worked incredibly hard during the pandemic. But that’s not sustainable. “We can’t expect people to keep working longer and harder. At some point you need to think about the role that tech can play,” says Alan. And TA will need to build the business case:
“Your business case needs to be cash based and able to show savings over time or cost avoidance” says Rebecca: “You need to speak the language of the CFO. There is no one more influential in your organisation at the moment. By investing in tech, you mitigate the risk of further volatility. You flatten the impact of volatility if you use AI. People get burned out. AI doesn’t care if it’s analysing one or 600 candidates.”
If you’re the TA leader, make sure you are talking to the right people and having the right conversations, advises Rebecca. In the unstructured communications of the remote workplace, take the opportunity to influence decision makers about the importance of talent.
If you’re unsure where to start, begin with nailing their pain points says Rebecca: “Get the problem statement right. What are they concerned about? Spending money? Bad press? Find the pain point and make it your own so they feel you understand them.”
As 2021 evolves, our advice is to let this be the year that you go from immediate response to sustainable solution. As Rebecca says in her closing thoughts: “Fortune favours the brave. Make the changes you wanted to make two or three years ago”. The opportunity to elevate the TA function, the opportunity to hire virtually without compromising on candidate experience, the opportunity to mitigate against future volatility is there.
If you’re looking to make changes to your hiring process to ensure that it’s fit, safe and right for the future, get in touch with Abigail here.