Employers must be open-minded in order to win the war for talent
Delivering the opening keynote, minister of state for employment Alok Sharma said that while employment rates for women, BAME individuals and the disabled are at record levels, there is “still some way to go”.
Sharma spoke about the importance of tapping into more diverse talent pools.
“One of the things I hear from employers is that there’s a war for talent,” he said. “But on the other hand there are a lot of people who have that talent in our country – whether returners, young people or older workers.”
Employers need to be more open to flexible working requests in order to tap into diverse talent, Sharma urged, expressing reservations around the role the state should play in legislating: “As a Conservative I’m more of a fan of the carrot than the stick… The response [needed from employers] is being more flexible in how you hire people.”
Sharma reported that work is currently under way in his department looking at interventions for people on low pay, which he said is some of the most “innovative” work in this area. He urged: “If there’s something you think government ought to be doing, write to us… What doesn’t work is if you have a lot of great things going on but you don’t shout about it.”
RPO is an unhelpful term
“I’ve always thought that RPO [recruitment process outsourcing] was a terrible name for what we do,” said Simon Bradberry, managing director EMEA and Americas at Resource Solutions.
Speaking on a panel about 'Moving from RPO to RXO', he said: “Recruitment is a service rather than a straight process and transactional.
“The reason experience is so important now… is because everything you do [as a consumer] has completely transformed... from booking a holiday to ordering a pizza,” he added.
The panel also explored how important a dedicated team for internal hiring can be. “The experience those [internal candidates] have is fundamental,” said Annabel Morris, global head of recruitment at Credit Suisse. She reported that her company approaches this as “internal headhunting”: “If every person will get a call from a headhunter during their career then why aren’t we doing that too?”
Embedding a new system means limiting opportunities for staff to circumvent it
Jo Davis, group HR director of Mitie, told how she joined the organisation in January 2018 that “was going to go under in 18 months” if action wasn’t taken. The company had very little in the way of HR systems, she explained, with no clear reporting even around how many people worked there. Despite hiring 20,000 staff a year, there was “no resourcing function”, she said, and hiring was typically done “in the pub or Asda car park”.
Regarding getting people to adopt new HR tech, Davis commented: “As with all new processes and as with most people, we all try to find a way around something we’re not comfortable with… so we tried to close off all loopholes where they could get around the new system”.
Davis reported that the business has just recorded double-digit growth – “its first strong set of results”. She added that transforming the business for the better has been a “huge opportunity to improve things for people by listening to what they had to say”.
Candidate experience should be good but also personalised
During a panel session on 'Effective candidate engagement', Janine Chidlow, MD for finance/insurance and retail/consumer at Alexander Mann Solutions, spoke about the need to be able to “switch on different candidate experiences”.
“It’s building out those personas and working out what the journey should be for each of your candidates,” agreed Sasha Worthington, global talent acquisition at Ericsson.
On the topic of providing feedback to unsuccessful candidates, Chidlow highlighted the sobering stat that businesses lose $5 million a year as a result of losing as customers the candidates that never hear anything after applying.
Rick Sherlock, head of talent sourcing EMEA at Microsoft, reported that hiring managers at his company aren’t allowed to move to interview stage until each rejected candidate has been informed. “We owe it to those candidates making that big life decision to apply,” he said.
Recruitment teams need the equivalent of a Harry Potter Sorting Hat
Speaking on a panel on 'Assessment, diversity and flexibility', MD and co-founder of Arctic Shores Robert Newry talked about the importance of organisations hiring for attributes and potential rather than past experience and technical skills – likening this to what the sorting hat in the Harry Potter world does when it assigns new students to one of the four houses.
Also speaking on the panel was Jessica Hayes, group head of talent at McCann Worldgroup. She shared her top tip of making hiring managers write down their first impressions of candidates so they can work during the interview to overturn these, and so that this gut impression doesn’t remain unvoiced and unchecked by the recruitment team.
The panel voiced doubts on the efficacy of unconscious bias training to counteract these first impressions, with Shilpa Shah, director of global talent acquisition and candidate experience at GE Healthcare, sharing the strategy of producing one-minute videos for hiring managers to refresh themselves on how to avoid bias each time they interview.