Trends in Talent Acquisition for 2014

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak at the HRPA conference in Toronto on a few of the trends we are seeing within the Talent Acquisition function in Canada.  I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at a number of Human Resources conferences around North America each year and always enjoy how engaged the Toronto conference participants are with the challenges their organizations face with recruitment in Canada.

So what makes me so knowledgeable with the current state of Talent Acquisition?  As a former Global Recruitment Leader from a Fortune 100 company and having spent the last 6 years working closely with organizations of all sizes across every industry in every continent across the globe, I get exposed to every aspect of recruitment innovations, practices, and challenges.  I also participate in a roundtable event for senior recruitment leaders from the largest organizations in Canada held every 3 months where we discuss and debate the latest and greatest in recruitment practices.

So what’s going on in Talent Acquisition in Canada these days?  Number 1 is that many organizations are finally back to a focus on growth in terms of their talent – but smart growth.  Organizations are still being very cautious with their headcount and ensuring that the growth is focused on the customer facing roles best equipped to drive revenue and margins for their business.  Organizations are finally gearing up their recruitment efforts and ensuring their talent acquisition functions are appropriately equipped to source and select top talent once again…or so we hope. The past 5 years in the world of Talent Acquisition in Canada has been centred under one main theme – “doing more with less”.

Unfortunately most organizations in Canada are not prepared for the focus on growth specifically as it relates to their talent acquisition functions.  Based on my current observations, recruitment within most organizations in Canada is:

  • Under-funded based on the expectations and needs of the business;
  • Limited by the capacity of their current recruitment function;
  • Limited by the capabilities of their current recruitment function;
  • Treated as a transactional administrative process.

The key challenges within Talent Acquisition continue to remain the same:

  1. Finding good candidates.
  2. Filling positions quickly.
  3. Engaging the hiring managers and getting them to see recruitment as a priority.
  4. Candidate care and experience with the recruitment process.

So what are some of the other trends in the Canadian recruitment market?

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“Unplugging your ATS”

Before all the Applicant Tracking System providers get mad at me let me explain this point.  There is finally a push amongst organizations to “humanize” their recruitment process and get back to old school basic recruitment practices.  These old school recruitment practices simply involve ensuring there are live human-to-human touch points within the recruitment process – not so innovative when you really think about it.  However, these old school recruitment functions recognize that their candidates are also potential customers and clients and appreciate every candidate’s interest in their organization regardless of their qualifications.  A quick live conversation with a candidate will go a long way to appreciate their time and interest in your organization.

For years organizations have built a wall of technology around their recruitment function – not sure what they are truly trying to guard within those walls.  Candidates continue to be frustrated with investing their time in applying to an organization through their website and feeling as though their resumes are simply dumped into a “black hole”.  Sales and marketing professionals would go crazy hearing the way most recruitment functions treat people (a.k.a. consumers) who have expressed an interest in an organization and walk away from the process feeling frustrated and unappreciated.

Many organizations are beginning to realize the benefits of moving from an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to a Candidate Relationship Management (CRM).   The candidate centric CRM technology is helping to transform the focus of Recruitment functions and follow more of the sales and marketing principles and practices.  Hopefully this trend continues to gain momentum over the year and more organizations show candidates some appreciation.

Aggressive Candidate Sourcing

Over the past year, I have seen a significant rise in the demand for my firm’s assistance in designing and developing a greater organizational focus and capability on candidate sourcing.  Companies want to be more aggressive when it comes to candidate sourcing – so the corporate intentions are there to get away from the “Post & Pray” culture they have been used to.

The biggest obstacle for organizations in becoming more aggressive in candidate sourcing is their own capacity, or should I say the lack of capacity.  Recruitment resources at most organizations are already spread too thin these days.  On average, Recruiters are responsible for 30 to 40 open positions at one time.  Quality and aggressive sourcing takes both time and skill which is not possible when your current resources are constrained to simply operating in a reactive recruitment mode.  Organizations are beginning to look for ways to overcome this obstacle and are investing in new dedicated sourcing specialists to complement their Recruiters and hunt the market for talent.

Many of the organizations we work with are spending significant amounts of money and budget on great recruitment tools like LinkedIn Recruiter Seats and other social media platforms.  Unfortunately, these same organizations are not leveraging these costly tools to their fullest.  Most organizations and their Recruiters are not utilizing the direct candidate sourcing power of LinkedIn.  They are simply using LinkedIn for posting their open roles and are not taking advantage of all the great features LinkedIn provides for their clients.   It is critical to ensure your organization is getting the most effective use of the tools you are already paying for.

The starting point for an organization, who wants to be more aggressive and proactive with candidate sourcing, is to understand and align the business goals.  The business goals need to be translated into the talent strategy which should identify the key roles the organization will hire for over the next 6 months to 1 year.  These are the roles your sourcing function should build proactive talent pipelines for.   You cannot pipeline candidates for every role for your organization, it simply is not possible.  My recommendation is to target the top 3 to 5 key roles critical for your organization’s success and build a proactive talent pipelining strategy around them.

It takes an investment of time and money to evolve your organization into a talent hunter culture.

Deeper Assessment of Candidates – Challenging the Status Quo

According to a survey by Harris Interactive in 2013, the top influencing factors for managers in hiring candidates are:

  1. A candidate’s sense of humour (27%)
  2. A candidate’s involvement in the community (26%)
  3. The better dressed candidate (22%)
  4. Candidates with whom the hiring manager has more in common with (21%)
  5. Candidates who are physically fit (13%).

This study highlights the flaws in the current way hiring managers’ interview and assess candidates for roles within their organization.  It’s scary that following are missing from the list of the top influencing factors in hiring candidates:

  • Experience
  • Achievements
  • Organizational fit
  • Potential

Additionally, you need to assume 50% of your candidates misrepresent themselves on their resume or exaggerate their experience in an interview – are your hiring managers equipped to properly assess the candidates coming through your recruitment process?  One of the leading challenges I see with hiring managers and their interviewing practices is that they take everything candidates say as fact and rarely probe deeper into the answers candidates provide to their questions.

The format and structure of a typical candidate interview is also a challenge.  The average candidate interview is an hour.  Is an hour long interview really enough time to truly assess a candidate’s true skills and experience, their fit within the organization as well as their future potential?  When you break down the interview with the usually banter and small talk, include time for the candidate to ask questions, the hour long interview is now approximately 30 minutes long.  The hiring managers are most likely trying to get through as many of the questions as they can focusing on the quantity of questions they can ask versus the quality of the answers.

Another top challenge for an organization is to align its hiring managers with the organization’s talent strategy and goals.  Most hiring managers are simply trying to fill their open role without thinking of the new hire’s longer term potential within the organization.  As I have cited earlier, hiring managers have enough of a challenging time simply assessing a candidate’s skills and experience for the role and are rarely able to assess the candidate’s organizational fit and future potential.

Organizations are starting to realize the gaps within their interview process are directly related to the number of poor hires coming into their organization.  They are beginning to engage firms like The Talent Company to design and develop more thorough interviewing platforms and provide training for their hiring managers to be more thorough and confident in their interviewing practices.

A great business leader once told me that filling an open position is as important as any other business decision for a leader – every open position is an opportunity to upgrade your talent.  Unfortunately most organizations are not properly equipping their hiring managers with the appropriate training and tools to make the best hiring decisions.

The Balance between Candidate Romance & Assessment

We work with a number of organizations who are struggling with the balance between their candidate experience and selling the value proposition of the opportunity to the candidate versus using the appropriate level of assessments and number of interviews in order to make the right hiring decision.

There are a number of frightening statistics when it comes to hiring success:

  • According to a Leadership IQ study in 2013, 46% of new hires will fail within their first 18 months with an organization.
  • A Harris Interactive 2013 study points out that 61% of new hires are unhappy because they feel that they had been misled during the hiring process.
  • The Recruiting Roundtable in 2013 states that 50% of hiring organizations or the new hires themselves regret the decision they made.

When I see these numbers, I applaud organizations who are trying to do things differently.  They have recognized that they hiring practices are not working and they need to change.  They are trying new tools and methods to interview and assess candidates and their fit.  It’s a tough balance as candidates can quickly get frustrated with robust recruitment processes.

An organization should never feel the need to apologize for their robust recruitment process.  With the statistics cited above, an organization needs to do a more thorough job of understanding and assessing their candidates.  The following is a simple remedy to balance your candidate’s experience to ensure they still feel the “love” and can be smitten by the opportunity while gaining a deeper and more thorough perspective on the candidates:

  1. Expectations setting up front with the candidates on your recruitment process.
  2. Regular communication touch points with the candidates throughout your recruitment process to maintain their engagement with the opportunity.
  3. Follow-ups with candidates after each stage of the process to answer any questions or concerns they have with the organization and process.

The Canadian recruitment landscape continues to evolve each year with new innovative ways to recruit talent.  Organizations need to review the success they have had in acquiring and retaining talent on a regular basis.  They should not be afraid to look at and try new ways of recruiting talent and should always have the top outcome in mind – hiring the best talent for their organization.

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Simon Parkin is the Practice Leader for Recruitment and Talent Management Solutions at The Talent Company – www.thetalent.co  Simon is recognized as a global thought leader in the acquisition and management of talent and has successfully transformed the Talent function for organizations of all sizes. Simon works closely with clients to build, develop and innovate their Recruitment, Talent and HR functions. He is a former global leader of Recruitment and Talent for a Fortune 100 company. Simon is a featured speaker at a number of HR and Recruitment conferences across North America and an author of many acclaimed articles on innovative Recruitment, Talent and HR trends and best practices. Simon’s full profile can be found at http://ca.linkedin.com/in/simonparkin1

Simon can be reached at simon.parkin@thetalent.co


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