Last week I joined up with the Broadbean crew at iRecruitExpo in Amsterdam - a two day conference and exhibition looking at current and future trends in recruitment. There were over 60 speakers covering themes from technology and mobile to branding and future recruitment models, with a mix of case studies and thought leader presentations.
There was talk of disruption, and much of it was in the way we source and attract, creating an experience that keeps candidates as customers and mirrors the employee experience that they will find on joining. Here are some of the key themes:
Talent Tipping Point
Have we reached a time when we have access to all the candidates we need? Do we need to post jobs anymore? These were just two questions that appeared in a number of sessions. The second question may seem topical given the recent shift from Zappos, but is one that has been increasingly debated this year.
For large companies it could be that they know enough people already - through previous applicants, alumni, existing networks of employees and alumni, collaborators, partners - to create a shortlist for any new role. There were stats on internal mobility and re-hiring that tended to support this, whilst references were made to graduates not being recruited through external channels as many would already be known to companies through partnerships with colleges and previous interactions driven by an active graduate community.
This seems to shift the onus away from the recruiter to find and on to the job seeker to keep looking and connecting, which clearly works well for larger organisations (the majority of presentations were from global companies, and Google referenced receiving 2 million applications) but what about SMEs? Interestingly, the smaller businesses have often used networks and leveraged their wider communities - local, business and existing employees - to fill roles, although not every one is able to do so successfully. The biggest issues could be over fit and diversity, and the potential for diminishing returns from the reinforcement of cultural stereotypes.
Candidate or Applicant?
For this to work we need to look again at what we mean by these two words. An applicant is someone who applies for a role - the chances are that you don't know them because if you did you would have approached them. Most recruitment processes and technologies are for applicants - to gather them, filter them, pre-select them, keep them in the loop and reject them.
Candidates are people that you have identified as being suitable for the role. If we have reached the tipping point then it follows that we no longer need applicants as we'll have all candidates we need for a shortlist.
Another differentiation is that a candidate has effectively chosen to be connected to a company for as long as they want, whilst an applicant may only be connected until they have been matched.
Two things appear to emerge from this. Firstly that the ATS becomes redundant and needs to be replaced with a CRM system - "most ATS vendors are selling you the past but we're in the future now. Candidates don't apply, they just won't fill out forms any more" said Jerome Ternynck - and secondly that the candidate experience should improve as the current pain points (notification, expectation management, feedback) really relate to an applicant experience.
This may sound great in principle, but the flaw is that many job seekers are not actively part of a large number of recruitment ecosystems. They look at jobs, not long term relationships with businesses, and their needs, wants and locational availability change, as do the skills and capabilities required by a hiring manager. The job application process is still necessary to cover this.
Hire for Adaptability
It was Neil Morrison who challenged the thinking around selection by talking about the need to look for adaptability - "what about the skills we didn't know that we'd need 5 years ago and the skills that we don't know now but that we'll need in future". His presentation took it's title from one of his mother's sayings "weeds are only plants in the wrong place" and urged fellow HR practitioners to "understand the talent we have and how we can help them develop and move around the organisation. Look at who has the ability to develop and transfer between roles - that's talent management".
In the firing line was traditional performance management - "the devil's work" - and a call for fluidity as opposed to structured talent processes, and in keeping with some of the broader conference themes around talent acquisition this was another call for a different perspective. Looking beyond the mentality of hiring purely for job fit "No-one shows up at work to be unsuccessful. We set them up for that".
Peter Baker of Maersk observed "the competency model used by many companies is static, about the competencies of today not of tomorrow"
Stories not Jobs
'Talking jobs is about telling stories' said Prof Armin Trost as he took us through some examples showing the importance of being authentic, relevant and unique in the way that you describe the role. He used the example of Ernest Shackleton's famous advert, that attracted a good response:
"MEN WANTED for hazardous journey, small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful, honour and recognition in case of success"
Whilst I've yet to see modern job advert quite so stark, too many fail to reflect the real value and purpose of the role. Trost's other observations were to be fast, transparent and to show appreciation in responding to applications, whilst also stressing that sourcing, process and assessment all have to be great - "its a waste of time and money to attract top talent and then provide a poor experience. A poor selection interview can ruin the hard work"
In an earlier presentation Deutsche Bahn had talked of turning employees into brand ambassadors. Their campaign was called 'a job like no other' and employees were encouraged to use available networks and platforms to show potential candidates why their job 'was like no other'.
L'Oreal similarly talked of the importance of storytelling in their recruitment "its not about pushing out EVP videos and job descriptions"
Role of the Recruiter
Following the last four observations from a 'closed shop' tipping point to storytelling ambassadors it is the recruiter that underpins them all. The tech, the attraction routes and the overall experience are very much down to them. There were many quotes about the recruiter's changing role:
- The purpose of recruitment is to hire great people, not to track them
- Recruiters are no longer administrators, they are now the navigators
- We don't have a talent shortage but we do have a finding problem
- The recruiter is no longer the bouncer on the door, but now the person at front desk encouraging guests to come inside
- Bad recruitment is easy, good recruitment is hard
- Recruit for the company not the hiring manager
- Hiring managers care about quality and speed, not source of hire
- The best candidates expect to be approached; what are you doing about that
With many similar thoughts shared across the two days it's apparent that the recruiter's role is developing. Whilst data is important, it is the insights we can gain from them, rather than the reports created, which will be key for hiring and talent acquisition. The notion of recruiter as ambassador, facilitator, storyteller, relationship builder and connector will inevitably lead to a rethink of the core skills and competencies - less sales and negotiation, more influential narrator.
It was an interesting 2 days in Amsterdam. I wouldn't quite go as far as saying that recruitment was being disrupted…but it's feathers were certainly being ruffled...