Targeted sourcing is key to Ericsson’s tech-driven talent acquisition strategy.
By Debbie Bolla
Ericsson is no stranger to changing with the times. The communications tech company has gone through several iterations during its 140-year history—from producing mechanical to electrical switchboards to electronic solutions and today’s mobile systems. The organisation is always trying to get ahead of the latest technology, and having the best talent at its fingertips is critical to achieving this goal.
Ericsson is one of the largest software companies in the world, with more than 100,000 employees in more than 180 countries. With its recent expansion into the services and customised software market, the organisation needed to rethink its talent acquisition strategy in order to get ahead of competitors.
“We were already going through a transformation as a company, moving into software and services,” recalls Gunjan Aggarwal, former global head of talent acquisition, M&A, and HR for Ericsson. “We wanted to have a dedicated recruiting organisation to work on our employer brand, our outreach, and social media channels to target our audience in the software and services space.”
It was the perfect time for a change. Aggarwal says Ericsson was lacking transparency around hiring practices. The organisation was leveraging various approaches—internal recruiters, HR generalists acting as recruiters, contract recruiters, agencies, and the list goes on. This made it impossible to have clarity on metrics—even basic ones like time to fill and cost of hiring. Looking for a partner that could provide this as well as bring global scalability and experience in the tech industry, Ericsson found a solid cultural fit with Pontoon Solutions.
Streamlining the talent acquisition process was a top priority, but Aggarwal says Ericsson’s presence in more than 180 countries across the globe made that goal a little lofty. “We would like to have one process, but it is different in different countries because of legal requirements and social norms. But there have been quite a few things that have been systematically done that have improved operations.”
Sourcing is one such area that has improved greatly through the partnership, shifting the talent acquisition strategy from reactive to proactive.
“Pontoon has put in some efforts to improve sourcing capability to really build a strong talent pipeline and to do better market mapping,” explains Aggarwal.
Having a solid sourcing plan is key because many of the tech giant’s roles call for candidates with specialised skills that are highly sought after in the industry.
“We have expanded sourcing capabilities to act as a global sourcing pool that is competency based,” says Jim Sharp, vice president of account delivery for Pontoon Solutions. “It allows the teams that are on-site to be much more consultative and provide solutions versus receiving a rec and filling it. It allows us to be much more strategic.”
Global talent pools increase the chance of having access to a suitable candidate who is already interested in Ericsson instead of starting from scratch. “It’s high demand for talent everywhere for us and the challenge becomes even more so because the industry is so fast moving,” says Aggarwal. “There is not a lot of time when we have a need.”
Ericsson’s sourcing strategy is driven by three main components:
1. Offshoring sourcing centres. “They have built offshore sourcing centres with a focus on centre domain hiring with particular software or services skills,” says Aggarwal. This has helped enhance the organisation’s competency-based hiring approach.
2. Social media. “We are trying to reach job seekers, and the path is social media,” says Sharp. “It’s vital to the building of talent pools.” In fact, research from Jobvite finds that 59 per cent of job seekers used social media to research a company’s culture before applying. Ericsson runs targeted campaigns across various sites, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Glassdoor to establish a presence within candidate pools.
“Ericsson is a great place to work, and social media is a great channel to showcase that,” says Mike Drolet, chief operating officer for Pontoon Solutions. And this is mission-critical for Ericsson, which is often competing for talent against the likes of Google and Cisco.
3. Campus recruiting and hackathons. Another successful way Ericsson has created buzz around its employer brand and employee value proposition is through campus recruiting. Pontoon has helped the organisation refine its approach over the years by introducing technology, such as iPads, to track potential candidates that come through. This builds their network and also assists with outreach after the event.
This trifecta has been a game changer. “This way, we have the talent pools, and we can reach out when job opportunities are available,” says Aggarwal. “We reach out with links to our career page and a list of jobs that may be of interest to them.” And it’s working. In fact, sourcing strategies have helped the organisation achieve a 63 per cent offer success rate.
As a tech company, Ericsson has a greater understanding of the improvements, efficiency, and effectiveness that technology solutions can bring to processes. So it’s only natural for their talent acquisition strategy to be built on the latest tech tools. Aggarwal says recent improvements include a candidate relationship management tool that offers business intelligence through its reporting and a video interviewing tool that helps makes the selection process more efficient.
And because Ericsson’s talent acquisition and HR teams are tech-minded, they are also more open to running pilots and expanding them into new geographies once they find success, says Pontoon’s Sharp. For example, they may start with artificial intelligence (AI) tools in China, then test them out in Mexico and Sweden if they are seeing improvements, he notes.
What’s on the docket now? “We are looking at piloting better utilisation of candidate resumes in our ATS to see if using AI could be a way (to match) candidates’ profiles when a new position opens,” says Aggarwal. They are also looking for a more automated and faster reference checking process.
Whilst being tech-minded works to Ericsson’s advantage, the organisation still relies heavily on Pontoon for guidance to sift through the literally thousands of options in the market. “Even the largest, most well-run global organisation doesn’t have the time, investment, or resources to really navigate the increasingly complex technology landscape in HR,” explains Drolet. “The key point is finding a provider that understands the business, the culture, and what they are trying to achieve.”
Focusing on Quality
Ericsson’s investments in recruiting, sourcing, and technology have the same end goal: better candidates and employees. Quality of hire remains a top recruiting measurement for them and across the industry as well. In fact, according to LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Recruiting Trends report, 39 per cent of respondents find that quality of hire is the most valuable metric for performance.
Aggarwal says they currently assess quality of hire by having a three-month, manager-driven performance review. HR integrates that feedback with the one-year performance review. Aggarwal says talent acquisition leaders are open to improving the process by including more frequent feedback from both managers and employees, as well as peer input. Aggarwal wants to eventually leverage those top-quality hires to improve the organisation’s employee referral programme—a fruitful source of talent. Employee referral programmes remain in the top three for best sources of talent finds LinkedIn’s trends report, and Zao reports that employee referrals have an average retention rate of 46 per cent.
“As our quality of hire goes up, we’ll be able to tap into their networks faster to bring in better candidates,” she explains.
SIDEBAR: By The Numbers
Here’s a quick snapshot of Ericsson’s talent acquisition partnership with Pontoon.
• Live in 97 countries
• Between 12,000 and 15,000 hires annually
• Reduced time to fill by 22 per cent in 2016
• Reduced agency usage to 12 per cent in 2016
• 69 per cent of all candidates interviewed are made offers