Stories & insights
The war on talent: Founder's fireside with HR expert Rachel Paterson
The Stryve Fireside series continued last week with founder Ed Chamberlain and guest speaker Rachel Paterson discussing the increasingly competitive nature of the hiring space and how companies can leverage key tools to gain an edge. Rachel Paterson is a human resources expert who’s worked in both domestic and overseas recruitment and has extensive experience in people management including team build-outs, policy writing, and start-ups.
What do we mean when we say The War on Talent?
The War on Talent is all about the increased demand for top talent and the diminished supply of that demand, an even bigger challenge for SMEs and start-ups that may not have the same resources to bring to bear as their larger, more established competitors.
The phrase was coined by Stephen Hankin who worked with McKinsey in the late 90s, and also refers to the difficulty of retaining great talent in any industry.
• LinkedIn has reported that 33% of respondents thought that the demand for top talent will remain unchanged
• According to the CIPD 69% of employers say that they are planning recruitment in the next 3 months
To address this, Ed and Rachel answered key questions about the hiring process.
How can businesses ensure that they are hiring the talent that they want to?
Stryve seeks to support SMEs and start-ups wherever possible and due to a lack of exposure or resources, these businesses are often last to the bowl when it comes to sourcing the best talent.
Branding is everything in opening shots of candidate interaction, since this is the first impression they’ll get of your organisation.
Consistent visual appeal should be a given in any branding and will work to project trustworthiness, efficiency, and a positive company culture.
Your choice of language is also a crucial layer of good branding, clear communication is obviously essential, but you can also infer the guiding principles of your company and distinguish it from the competition by ensuring that language is as inclusive as possible.
Mirror the language of the organisations you want to emulate and whose principles are aligned with your own, as Oscar Wilde said: Smart people borrow, geniuses steal. (Or words to that effect!)
Additionally, if you’re using a recruitment agency make your expectations clear with regards to language to make sure that candidates are getting a consistent message and experience.
The key thing to remember is that you’re not just selling a job role but the identity and experience of working at your company.
Engage candidates by offering them a place in your organisation’s growth and story, beyond the job role itself communicate your goals and how they would be contributing to achieving them. Rachel gave a strong example of how to communicate a candidate’s value beyond the day-to-day:
“[For example] we want to become a more D&I focused firm, and we want them to come in and be part of that process… ways that sell it not just as the job alone but what the business is doing, what the focus and mission of the business is.”
What unlocks a successful recruitment campaign?
The first step is developing strong job descriptions and a well-structured interview process. In order to hire the best candidates, a fair amount of filtration will be needed, and skills testing is a great way to separate top-percentile candidates.
Dialling in on the measurable skills of candidates will also mitigate choices based in unconscious biases, since people are often judged on who they are rather than what they can do.
Of course positive personalities are important to create a productive and harmonious work environment but as Rachel stated, “The behavioural piece [of the puzzle] is crucial but really, a lot of us overweigh that… that doesn’t mean they’re going to be good at the job.”
Rachel remarked that a common characteristic of high performing teams and companies is that they prioritise role-specific skills and also invest heavily and consistently in monitoring the skills of their employees and reskilling or upskilling where needed.
Moderation is also a key element in the hunt for top talent, when hiring is done by committee it allows for a multifaceted approach and again mitigates the risk of unconscious bias guiding the process.
The value of ‘learning potential’ following Lazlo Bock’s approach, former Senior VP of People Operations at Google Inc, is fundamental as well.
Since the hiring market is now so competitive, simply wanting to buy-in the talent you need that fulfils every skill bracket of a role is no longer a reliable model because everyone is trying to do the same thing.
Instead, take a close look at the questions you’re asking in interviews and whether they can reveal the learning of a candidate. Experiential questions are very popular here and Rachel recommended using PBI (Performance-Based Interview) questions which can be found online as a starting point and then adapted to your needs.
Another strategy is to just be first, meaning getting to talent early by bringing in candidates that are recent graduates or graduating soon.
Finally, in a market so competitive it really serves organisations to adopt a long-term holistic approach to talent by committing to cultivating their own in-house and then focusing heavily on retention.
How can we raise our hiring bar quickly?
In brief, by establishing an efficient, consistent process, making use of agencies, and directly looking at talent pools and networks like LinkedIn, as well as shopping at top universities and investing heavily into internship programs.
Developing a strong hiring process
It’s essential that you are able to clearly communicate your process both to candidates and to any agency you may be using in order to set expectations and once your process is established, avoid deviation wherever possible.
Often, companies will delegate the hiring process to the department with roles to fill however, any candidates that apply for multiple roles from varying areas of your business will likely notice the discrepancy in your process which can suggest disorganisation or a lack of harmony across your organisation as a whole.
Better to create a standard hiring framework to be used across all departments and ideally one that can be at least partially automated, leading us neatly to our next point…
Turning to Technology
Given the amount of work it takes to administer the hiring process, an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) is fast becoming the standard for streamlining the time and human labour needed to sustain it. Moreover, an ATS can support the kind of consistency we’ve already spoken about as well as ensure regular and ongoing communication is maintained with candidates – particularly important for external applicant experiences.
• 78% of hiring managers give feedback to internal applicants but only 11% give feedback to external or referral candidates.
“The automated process does help you out hugely, it’s all in one place [and] with increasing things like GDPR, you’ve got everything in one place as well, its secured and data isn’t just loose on meeting invites and emails and folders which can make it very hard to purge the data after a certain time… I do think where businesses are getting [automation] right, it is a mandatory process.”
That being said, it is crucial that this process is integrated with leadership and HR and to do so a prospective ATS must be agile and user friendly otherwise it is unlikely to be adopted effectively.
Stryve’s applicant tracking system both frees the time of your team for more valuable tasks and systemically improves your existing processes in pursuit of better candidate experience and more efficient hiring.
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