Organisations are expanding their talent pools and to acquire new candidates, they’re thinking of fresh ways to meet them where they are.
By Simon Kent
The need for great new talent is a continuous one for every organisation. Expecting the same kind of people, skills, and approach to drive a business forward is unrealistic at best, and at worse, counterproductive. The past few months have made this talent search all the more pressing and challenging. The Great Resignation has created an increased demand for talent whilst also ensuring that organisations cannot simply replace people through their usual channels. Today’s talent search has to be innovative. Organisations need to expand where and how they search for employees and be certain that once they’re acquired, they help them reach their potential.
Annee Bayeux, chief learning strategist at skills platform Degreed, explains that their online assessments allow recruiters to assess skills and detect potential rather than looking only at a candidate’s previous experience. “We are seeing models shifting from ‘hiring based on experience’ to ‘hiring based on potential’,” she notes.
Bayeux flags virtual networking groups as a great place from which to source talent. Recruitment has always visited these places online (LinkedIn Groups, for example) and, pre-Covid, trawled networking events in person. Now, says Bayeux, organisations are leveraging managers and other business leaders/experts to vet these communities for their knowledge base. In this way, they can identify influencers and group leaders and direct their sourcing strategy accordingly.
She also refers to gig work sites as an “instant network,” enabling employers to immediately find talent or at least someone who knows someone who might fit a vacancy. The surrounding culture of these sites also means companies may be able to source someone who can start immediately, effectively “trying out” for the business before moving towards a more permanent arrangement.
Flexibility in the workplace continues to play a large part in being an employer of choice, and this consideration must be brought to the talent pool as well. According to Lindsay Jones, chief people officer at Delta Capita, employers who are unable to empathise and flex for certain talent pools are seeing their ability to hire and retain from those demographics impacted. “Some are calling The Great Resignation ‘The Reimagination’,” she says. “What people expect from their work and their employer has evolved significantly.”
In terms of new talent pools within this context, Jones says working parents are nearly twice as likely to look at moving roles than non-parents, with flexibility coming at a premium for these candidates. This issue of work-life balance has certainly been highlighted by the impact of the pandemic among this group. “Businesses must focus on more family-friendly policies, values and working practices,” Jones advises.
However, Jeanette Wheeler, acting chief HR officer for MHR International, wonders whether an effective search for talent shouldn’t start closer to home: “Offering £150,000 starting salaries may be an option for city law firms, but is not sustainable for most organisations,” she says. “Instead, they should look to HR technology to develop the talents they already have. This should start with mapping employees’ full range of talents, using an updated set of competency frameworks to provide a clear profile of performance, technical abilities, behaviours, traits, and skills.”
Wheeler highlights skills and talents employees may be using outside the workplace, ones when given the right set of circumstances and encouragement, can be used for the good of the organization. “Businesses should use their HR technology to understand and map what these are through regular, informal dialogues between employees and their managers,” she says. “This should also provide an up-to-date picture of experience, ambitions, and expectations.”
As with all good HR practices, recording proof of success should be part of any initiative to expand the talent pool. This gives the company the opportunity to scope who is being employed, where they are coming from, and how long they stick around. This information can then be used to inform subsequent hiring practices. “The easiest way is tracking and analysing your retention data,” says Delta Captia’s Jones. “Businesses spend too much time counting when we need to dive deeper into the data and understand what is happening. We need to look at the turnover rate of particular talent pools. Why are they staying or leaving?”
Mona Akiki, chief people officer at global benefits and rewards platform Perkbox, agrees the need to increase talent diversity is nothing new. “Successful organisations have realised for quite some time now that expanding where you look for talent drives innovation,” she says. “Adding individuals from different networks and educational backgrounds and with varied experience is a great way to challenge the status quo and push individuals and organisations forward. In fact, in today’s competitive jobs market, it’s a must.”
Akiki argues that giving greater weight to transferrable skills can have a positive impact on organisational culture, thereby driving the business forward. “Providing an ‘in’ for someone with less traditional skills often results in stronger engagement,” she explains, “as they can be more motivated by the opportunity to take their career in a different direction.” Getting this attraction right, however, also depends on ensuring the purpose of the organisation resonates with the talent they’re targeting, so communications and the initial outreach to a candidate needs to foreground what the company stands for, how it reflects in the world, and the change it is seeking to make.
“Whilst diversity of talent is a great indicator, increasing the talent pool should not be your end goal alone,” concludes Akiki. “You must increase your talent pool and ensure that once people are with you, you allow them to add to your culture, and not simply assimilate to how you do things. There is no point in bringing in new perspectives if your organisation is not willing to listen and try new things.”
The true marker of success in expanding the talent pool rests less in the make-up of a workforce and more in the innovation and new ideas that the company leverages.