Hiring managers have gone through a seismic shift.
Our HR functions and hiring managers have gone through a seismic shift when it comes to sourcing and recruiting talent during the Covid-19 crisis. As businesses adapt to a new normal, HR leaders will need to play a leading role in transformation while simultaneously managing a remote workforce, acting as guardians of the organisational purpose and ensuring the right balance is struck between technology investment and looking after people within the business. We spoke to Recruitment and HR Strategist John Hodgkinson about what’s keeping HRDs and recruitment teams up at night and which processes need to change to meet the challenges ahead.
Q: What are the top concerns for HR and hiring teams right now?
JH: Retention seems to be a consistent theme, both in terms of resources but also how businesses retain their top talent. Those responsible for talent really need to question whether they are placing enough importance on recruitment and retention. It’s tempting in a challenging market to focus on cost saving, but this isn’t necessarily the right approach for the longer-term.
I think the most informed and innovative hiring teams are looking at how they can partner more closely with sales and operations in order to boost productivity in what is, for most, a completely different and disrupted workspace to the one they were in six months ago. Most HRDs and recruiting teams are certainly thinking about how they prepare for the future. What opportunities exist for growth? What decisions are being made at executive level which will impact the workforce?
We should also remember that while some organisations have been challenged by Covid-19, others are thriving. These may have been businesses which were better prepared or are in a sector which was less impacted by the lockdown, either way many are looking to expand. How do they do this while the workforce is remote? Although hiring has been taking place, it has slowed during lockdown as businesses acclimatise to recruiting in a new way.
Finally, I think it’s important to appreciate that HR functions themselves may feel under threat. If businesses are cost cutting, talent managers may feel uneasy and insecure themselves and this may stifle the process of bringing new people into the business.
Q: What role are HR and recruiting teams going to play in post-Covid transformation?
JH: I hope we will see HR and recruiting teams becoming more embedded in those areas of the business that most need their help, support and expertise. If we look, for example, at a technical hire and imagine a scenario where a Head of HR is discussing with their Head of Project Management the requirements for a Java Developer. HR professionals are not doing a technical role so may need support with the skills, experience and capabilities needed for any number of job descriptions. The beauty of Elbo is that is provides the HR function with a language and methodology to discuss these types of roles and so embeds them in the process of hiring digital talent.
The Elbo platform provides non-technical teams with a methodology and language to have productive conversations with CTOs and Heads of Project Management about the requirements of technical roles.
As organisations embrace various digital transformation programmes in a post Covid-19 world, we need to give HR teams the tools needed to support hiring for innovation. If they have the language and understanding of the complexity of the roles required, their credibility will be transformed and they will become valued partners to those parts of the business seeking technical skills and capabilities. I do believe that unless HR teams embrace new technology, which enables them to interact at this level, they will get left behind and, indeed, many already are at risk of this.
Q: Post Covid-19 are we likely to see a flood of talent hitting the market? Are organisations equipped to compete for this talent?
JH: Many businesses will be in survival mindset as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic. This will blind them to the opportunities out there. However, most organisations have gone through periods of boom and bust before, albeit not quite as quickly as we have seen in the current crisis. The Financial Crisis did make organisations think about how they would respond to another serious downturn.
The reality is, many successful organisations will be releasing a lot of good people into the market over the next few months, not because they want to, but because they have to. It means intelligent organisations which are ready, well-funded and have a ‘killer instinct’ will be a unique position to be selective, and even to approach individuals within roles who may be unhappy with the approach their existing employer has taken to Covid-19. By offering potential candidates benefits they are not getting from their current employer, like opportunities to progress or development opportunities, I think we will see an escalating tech talent war as a result of the pandemic, on a scale we have never seen before.
If you have a senior management team which is only in survival mode, they won’t be focused on the opportunity to compete for available talent and are likely to miss out.
Q: What about the approach to recruitment? Will efforts to absorb available talent be hampered by outdated hiring practices?
JH: For a platform like Elbo, the current situation provides a massive opportunity. Elbo offers everything you need to source, assess, shortlist and interview talent in one place. Most corporate organisations have multiple processes to ultimately achieve the same goal of finding and hiring the best candidates. For example, large businesses are likely to have one approach to sourcing talent, then a separate process for communicating with potential candidates, then a separate method for assessing and interviewing them, and the list goes on.
Traditional approaches to hiring people have, so far, been accepted, because they have never been disrupted.
Elbo is unique in that it offers hiring managers one place for end-to-end recruitment, as well as having been optimised for remote assessment and interviews, which is a new feature responding to the Covid-19 environment. Essentially it addresses a lot of the challenge’s employers are facing if they want to find and secure the best talent out there.
Q: Why do you think HR technology investment seems to focus on existing employees and workforce management, but rarely on improving recruitment processes?
JH: Recruitment technology has always played around the edges. Application Tracking Software (ATS) emerging from the 2008 financial crisis, which searches for keywords from CVs, has been around for a while. It was useful in that it provided automation of a kind, but we need to remember the final shortlists where still based purely on CVs which are essentially marketing documents where candidates can either exaggerate particular skills or on the other hand, forget to include something which could mean the perfect candidate is completely overlooked!
Using CV data to assess an individual and whether they are right for a role is fundamentally flawed. For example, a candidate may have the right skills and qualifications for a role, but has worked for an organisation which uses unusual job titles and will therefore be overlooked by ATS. Equally, you can craft CVs so that current ATS technology picks up candidates which probably aren’t right for roles or organisations.
CVs have to go if we want to start using better data for finding and shortlisting candidates. In a digital world we need technology which collates many different data points so we can get to the bottom of a tech professional’s true skill set.
Q: The commercial value of a strong purpose and culture have really come to the fore during Covid-19. But do businesses focus enough on aligning candidates with their culture when recruiting?
JH: Culture and purpose have become important as we have all had to adapt to home working. From a recruitment point of view, we should start seeing hiring managers prioritising certain characteristics within candidates such as self-motivation, as a self-starter works more productively unsupervised. In addition, someone who is very organised and has an ability to think more for themselves and does not rely heavily on others is clearly a benefit when working remotely. You may also target individuals who are able make decisions on their own.
The key question is how we assess these characteristics. Currently you can pay a recruitment agency a lot of money to do an individual assessment of key personality traits but the cost prohibits doing this for every candidate and every role. Again, the Elbo platform has thought about this and woven into the platform an automatic ability to snapshot key characteristics and personality traits. If that is not valuable, I don’t know what is. This functionality will aid deselection as much as the selection process.
Q: The structure of the workforce is likely to be irreversibly changed by Covid-19, will HR and recruitment teams change the way they hire as a result?
JH: They will be remiss if they choose to pass up the opportunity to innovate more within the recruitment process. I think there is a huge opportunity for HR teams to partner more closely with commercial and operational teams across the business, if they have the right tools to add value. There is the chance to provide a tailored service for the new environment. I believe that recruitment teams who embrace this will see a step change in terms of their role within their businesses, not to mention saving a lot of time and money as well.
Speaking as a recruitment professional with 15 years of experience, Elbo can do in a few seconds what would previously have taken about a day to do.