Why (and how) your company has to become a talent magnet

Published on the 23/11/2015 | Written by Donovan Jackson

talent acquisition
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In advice which Lotharios everywhere have made a part of their DNA, Greg Savage says talent acquisition is the art of seduction…

Even as automation continues to change the nature of work today, it is human talent which makes the difference and drives high-growth organisations to reach the next milestone. Attracting and retaining the right people, said Greg Savage, isn’t a once off or even occasional activity which happens when a position becomes available, but instead a continuous process throughout which your organisation should be courting the best – and, whether they are looking or not, those individuals are always potentially ready to come on board.

Savage, something of a guru in human resources circles, was presenting at an Oracle-hosted breakfast in Auckland.

The first bit of advice was to ditch the oft-used phrase ‘the war for talent’. “Despite candidate behaviour and skills shortages, forget about any ‘war’. Are you going to battle for ‘talent’ that sits there like some sort of amorphous blob? No you aren’t. You don’t choose them, they choose you.”

It is precisely because of this that finding great people is the art of seduction, explained Savage. “Businesses today win or lose on the calibre of people and you have to be an organisation which is appealing. You have to change your view of who is in control [hint: it’s the candidate]. Skills shortages are around for the foreseeable future; marketability and desirability is realised by candidates, which means you have to make yourself a target.”

User experience?
User experience and customer experience are topics which come up routinely in the age of digital business, so it came as little surprise that Savage moved on to this aspect of talent acquisition. As most of us will appreciate, the experience when applying for a position, even when using modern tools like LinkedIn, is deeply unpleasant. It is time consuming, error prone and such an ordeal that getting an application in in the first instance is a hurdle so high it feels like an achievement just to submit your CV.

“Talent acquisition tends to be a blunt weapon with ‘you’re lucky to have made it to us’ apparently the idea behind it,” said Savage, pointing out that seduction, this is not.

“And, for 50 percent of the Fortune 500, you cannot apply for a job using a mobile phone. That is ludicrous. You’re making people jump through hoops when you can’t find the people you want.”

When skills shortages are ‘cataclysmic, sustained and structural’ (something on which Orion Health CEO Ian McCrae has commented) thanks to the ‘massive explosion’ of new job types being created, being a magnet for talent is essential, said Savage, adding that education has not caught up with providing the skills for these new job types. It is also for this reason, he remarked, that unemployment can be high while skills shortages persist “because available jobs and available skills don’t match.”

Pointing out that 22 000 young Australians are working in Silicon Valley, Savage noted that talent is global; some in Australia are warning of the challenges which lie ahead. “The companies there are getting the best talent no matter where it comes from. It is critical to understand that [in this global environment] it is increasingly difficult to find and attract candidates.”

The consumer job seeker
Today, people looking for jobs behave like consumers, said Savage. They have 14 or 15 channels through which they access information and anyone, whether gainfully and happily employed or not, is a potential candidate who can be seduced by your company (if it is doing the right things to attract those candidates). “Think about the social media thing. People talk about companies online – what are people saying about your company? Everyone is available to change jobs if seduced; people are browsing, thinking, they are open to new jobs even if happy with their current one.”

Savage said the evidence is that 74 percent of people are available to change work if the right job is put in front of them. “Yet most talent acquisition strategies aim at people actively looking for jobs; this is a small category of the people who are available for hire.”

Being out there and attractive to all candidates means making your company visible on the channels which people use today, said Savage. Search engine optimisation, social media, predictive analyticcs and content marketing (it wasn’t for nothing that Rod Drury, in a recent iStart feature, said “Start a blog and social media presence.”) In other words, it requires the same set of techniques used by consumer marketers.

But, said Savage, accept that this approach involves ‘long, hard work with planning and consistency.’  “Finding talent today is easier, thanks to technology, but recruiting is harder. Digital skills [in the hands of the recruiter] are a big deal, as are influencing skills; recruiting today depends on a combination of these skills, which is hard to find.” This, added Savage, is also why ‘recruitment will not be Uberised’ – because the techniques of seduction, attracting talent to you, is unlikely to be automated any time soon.

CRM for recruiters
There’s a new CRM on the block and it is Candidate Relationship Management. Savage said this is the process of interacting with people before they are looking for a job, using those consumer marketing techniques already mentioned. “Predictive analytics happens to us every day [on Google, etc.], so why not in recruitment? You have to understand when people going to move before they have done anything about it. You also need to drive efficiency and automation [in the application process] to deliver a great candidate experience.”

Recruitment is merging with marketing, and Savage said those looking at attracting the best talent have to think like a digital marketing agency. “And for startups looking to grow, a digital marketing person should be your 5th or 6th hire. You will need patience, determination and consistency to go from getting the attention of a candidate, to getting an idea of their intentions, to getting them on board. You will need automated marketing, a presence in the online talent community and the ability to connect with candidates like other businesses connect with their consumers, on the social media platforms used by those candidates.”


‘Real talent has options’

Oracle ANZ human capital management director Andrew Lafontaine pointed out that getting the people who make a difference is not the same as hiring staff. “When looking for the right people to move your organisation forward, you’re in the realm of talent acquisition – and real talent has options,” he said.

Treating prospective candidates as customers, he said, depends on taking the lead from the consumer world. “You need to build relationships, understand habits, deliver delight like consumer-facing companies do. You need social strategies and tools which enable you to keep a group of people interested and engaged so that when the right role comes up, any one of those individuals will be the first to show interest.”

Lafontaine said having a strong brand and reputation is an essential component of this process. “It’s a marketing strategy far more than it is a recruitment strategy – and you have to integrate that and think about recruitment as an end to end process where making the hire is just the start.”

He pointed out that for many companies, once someone has signed on the dotted line, that’s the end of it. “Most people who leave within 6 months attribute their departure to poor onboarding processes. Talent doesn’t come on board to waste time; these people need to be enabled with the tools, services and associations they need to get to work right away.”

Social sourcing and the enabling tools are available today, but Lafontaine said the concept in the Asia Pacific region is in its infancy. “People know this is important, but they don’t know where to start and what tools to use.”

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