With a recession looming, RPO partners explain how to get ahead of competitors through these talent trends.
By Zee Johnson
Hiring quality talent has become complex for many sectors. That’s partly because candidates are turning away offers that don’t include most or all of what they’re requiring.
A ManpowerGroup survey found that three out of four companies have reported talent shortages and difficulty hiring – a 16-year high. So, for companies to land candidates who may have other employment opportunities at their fingertips, they’ll have to remain abreast of the trends that are shaping candidate and employee behaviors.
Other research from MetLife’s The Rise of the Whole Employee: 20 Years of Change in Employer-Employee Dynamics report, found that 80% of organizations say meeting the needs of employees is important. And this is even more critical when trying to attract talent during these challenging times. Here, experts at the frontlines of talent acquisition (TA) in the recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) market share the following talent trends—and solutions—that can help position organizations as employers of choice and push them to strategically stay ahead.
Trend 1: Hiring approaches should pivot—but not slowdown—during an economic slowdown.
With talks of a possible recession coming, contrary to what some think, an economic slowdown is one of the most ideal times for leaders to recruit the talent they need.
“Even if you have a hiring slowdown in some areas, you still need to secure the high-value workers essential to your survival and growth, and their roles are harder than ever to fill,” says Amy Bush, president at Sevenstep. She says it’s true: Companies may instinctively hit the brakes on TA investments during downtimes but actually advises them to go full throttle.
And instead of going about it impulsively, the next steps should be taken with great diligence and intent. “You don’t react. You build strength and agility into your talent function so that it can recruit smarter for the high-value talent it needs,” Bush says. “You work more efficiently in a resource-constrained environment, and you develop the ability to ramp up or change direction quickly in the face of new demands.”
The ability to pivot when it comes to hiring is often made easier through an RPO partnership with easily scalable strategies. “The essence of any well-executed RPO solution should enable the client to flex their demand plan and benefit from any resulting cost savings,” says Rajan Mirpuri, solutions director, EMEA, for Hudson RPO. This added flexibility gives TA leaders the opportunity to focus primarily on business operations during difficult times, allowing their partners to attract talent, enhance stakeholder engagement, and reduce recruitment process time altogether.
Jason Krumweide, executive vice president at Broadleaf adds that an RPO partnership can help organizations formulate effective processes to help meet business goals during downtimes, which will support future resilience. “Having an integrated RPO partner empowers talent acquisition leaders to scale their function to better support the fluctuating hiring demands of the business while the partner acts as a trusted extension of their team,” he says.
When facing tough economic times, employees want to be certain that a potential employer is supporting them all the way around. “During periods of uncertainty, candidates want security, and they want to work for companies that treat their people well,” says Craig Sweeney, executive vice president of global strategic talent solutions for WilsonHCG. “Many candidates will be looking at how companies reacted to the pandemic to pre-empt what might happen if a downturn occurs.”
Greg Summers, Cielo’s chief customer officer, agrees that employees are looking for companies who can get through adversity unscathed while looking fixedly toward the future.
With this in mind, what are some approaches that can help address current market challenges and place companies on the winning end of talent acquisition? Summers and Sweeney suggest:
- Strengthening total rewards packages and offerings, including unlimited PTO, enhanced pension and benefits, etc.
- Highlighting flexibility (including hybrid and/or remote work) as part of the employee value proposition (EVP).
- Managing costs and improving business efficiency by redefining roles to combine work or expand duties of existing team members.
- Expanding search parameters to widen the talent pool.
- Upskilling current talent to address talent pool gaps and fill high-demand roles.
Trend 2: Employer branding and EVPs remain critical.
Companies have been pondering how to accurately convey who they are and what they represent to a sea of candidates. And they should start with the places candidates will look at first—an employer’s EVP and branding. A Glassdoor survey found that 75% of job seekers are more likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand, and organizations that actively invest in their employer brand can reduce turnover by as much as 28%.
A successful brand and EVP will showcase a company’s core values and organizational pillars, making it the perfect vehicle to connect with candidates. Summers adds, “Many organizations are using their employer brand to speak to their focus on diversity, equity and inclusion; flexibility, well-being, and ESG – areas candidates routinely rank important. A strong employer brand makes an organization stand out from the competition, attracts top candidates, and better leverages resources leading to a better business overall.”
Sevenstep’s Bush thinks a company’s brand should display why they are the right match for the job seekers who move with prudency. “When it comes to employer brand, organizations are looking to ensure that it best aligns with the values of the talent they seek and that it is genuine,” she says. “The talent audience today is highly skeptical and cynical about corporate messaging. If you tell them that you are committed to diversity and sustainability, for example, you better be able to demonstrate it.”
Factors like flexibility, sustainability, diversity, and work-life balance make a big difference to candidates. The MetLife report found that in 2022, 55% of employees said that flexibility is a must-have when considering new jobs, up 18% from 2020. Further, 34% said diversity and inclusion programs are important, a 10% increase from two years ago. Therefore, organizations must take heed of what employees are and aren’t willing to negotiate when communicating their employer brand, and Jeanne MacDonald, president, global talent solutions at Korn Ferry, says most companies are indeed getting the picture.
“We are seeing organizations building up a stronger DE&I infrastructure, beyond sourcing diverse candidates,” she says. “This includes education, internal mobility programs that help diverse employees get new opportunities and mentorship. As we’ve learned during the past two and a half years, a flexible work environment works, and increasingly, when employers force employees to return to the office, they will leave and look for a place that offers flexibility.”
75% of job seekers are more likely to apply to a job if the employer actively manages its employer brand and organizations that actively invest in their employer brand can reduce turnover by as much as 28%.
WilsonHCG’s Sweeney agrees that the most attractive employers are those that adapt with the times and with the talent pool’s ever-changing requirements.
“Employee expectations have changed so much over the past couple of years, so organizations must modernize their brands if they haven’t already to ensure they align with their employee value propositions,” he says. “Today’s candidates demand flexibility; they want to work at companies that put their people first, have opportunities for career progression, the chance to make a real difference and they want well-being and work-life balance to be taken seriously.”
Trend 3: The global talent pool opens up through technology.
The days of picking potential hires only from a local talent pool are over. Now, many companies are attracting candidates not just from different states, but from different countries, too. But engaging international talent certainly takes nuance and strategy.
“Engaging talent globally begins with internal processes accommodating workers outside familiar geographies,” says Bush. Organizations will need to ensure they have the means and technology to communicate with global talent and engage with them in a way that works for their preferences (language and time zones matter). Maintaining compliance among different regulations is also important.
Taking a step back, before this can happen, organizations must understand who and where they are looking to recruit. “To better reach talent globally, the talent acquisition function must have the knowledge and channels to work across locations, including the localized understanding of markets, costs and regulations,” she says.
To help lessen the distance between hiring managers at headquarters (or home) and candidates across the globe, Sweeney recommends consistent and intentional communication. “Regular engagement is key to talent attraction as well. Talent teams must maintain a continuous dialogue with candidates to keep them updated throughout the process,” he says. “They must provide feedback to all candidates, not just those who were successful.” Through this feedback, future improvements to the candidate experience can be made.
Korn Ferry’s MacDonald says a different way to build up global talent pools is through internal mobility programs. “One key way to [engage talent] is to create and sustain internal mobility programs where talented people across regions can work on new projects with different teams to enhance their skillset, bring fresh points of view, and learn from one another.”
No matter the trend, Maria Boyse, vice president of North America business development for Allegis Global Solutions, says that for organizations to attract talent, thrive, and be impactful year after year, they must remain agile in preparation of what’s to come—whatever that may be.
“Every aspect of the business is subject to a complete rethink and redesign in order for companies to adapt and thrive in today’s economy,” she says. “As an outcome-first approach to aligning workforce and resources needs to the work that must be done, this evolution to a more enterprising way to work can unlock better outcomes and transform the impact of the human enterprise.”