HR leaders discuss their top priorities for 2018.

By Debbie Bolla

Faced with a pressing expectation to deliver strategic initiatives, HR business leaders have become more agile in their approach to human capital management. And it’s making an impact. Randstad Sourceright’s 2018 Talent Trends Report finds that 84 per cent of respondents say the work they do will prepare their organisation for the future. Here, four HR leaders share what is on their agenda for 2018; ways they are attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best talent; and how they are getting ready for the European Union’s impending General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


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HRO Today Global: What are your top initiatives for 2018?

Mojca Domiter, corporate HR executive director, Atlantic Grupa: I have three main initiatives for 2018. First, we are developing authentic leadership within which we are aligning all of our leadership programmes to match our vision and values, not only in content but also in a way of delivery.

We are also undergoing digital transformation and aiming to increase digital capability across the organisation. There is a lot of focus on building an organisation that is closer to all of our stakeholders and can respond to their needs much faster.

The third one is related to building a great employee experience. We are trying to see the world through the eyes of our employees by taking into account the physical environment our employees work in, the tools and technologies that enable their productivity, and, above all, the “vibe” they get when they walk in the door and inspiration they get from their colleagues and leaders.

Oscar Gonzalez, HR director, Azkoyen Group: We are focusing on how HR supports and drives strategy at Azkoyen Group. For talent acquisition, we are going to hire software engineers for our research and development departments in Spain and Italy, so that we can develop our business to be able to provide new technology in our devices. We are looking to create new partnerships with technological colleagues to source talent.

We want to proactively recruit by anticipating needs instead of reacting in time to respond to the needs. This will be done through agreements with recruiters and technology. For talent development, after we have analysed talent maps and appraisals, we will develop a training programme to fill gaps, add new knowledge to the organisation, and develop new projects to achieve strategy and goals.

Andrew Stephenson, group people director, Lookers: This year we are focusing on providing a meaningful and noticeable difference for our employees and our customers. Last year, we introduced market-leading benefits including 12 months of full maternity pay, critical illness payments for all, and increased holidays (up to seven weeks plus bank holidays). This year, we have a new system to measure and improve customer experience, a new learning platform that is far more engaging, and a new onboarding process that focuses on the positives of our business.

We are also making it simple to work for us. For example, our new starter process has been reduced from 22 pieces of paper to one web form -and it’s a pretty short one! We will continue to drive empowerment and transparency by asking every employee to post feedback on external websites so we can constantly improve.

Steph Ahrens, head of talent acquisition, EMEA, Morgan Stanley: My priority is to align our overall vision for the EMEA talent acquisition function at Morgan Stanley. This includes analysing current interview and assessment practices to ensure the various tools and processes we have in place are efficient in terms of time and money, effective and innovative; and enrich the candidate experience while maximising predictive validity.

Central to past achievements has been a shift toward a more globally connected talent acquisition function that is focused around greater connectivity and consistency between regions. This is supported by data-driven strategies that enable us to clearly define, drive, and deliver fact-based recommendations and performance improvements to our clients. This process ensures competitive advantage and 2018 continues on that basis.

We will also continue to build on our marketing and digital strategy to ensure the employer value proposition and brand equity that Morgan Stanley has earned over the years remains solidly intact for future generations and aligns to top talents’ aspirations in terms of what they look for in an employer. Last but not least, we want to continue to build on our diversity attraction and recruiting strategies to supplement current momentum and successes.

HROTG: Are you trying to deliver a customer-centric experience to employees?

Domiter: Success begins and ends with our employees. One of our top initiatives is building a great employee experience, which is actually delivering a customer-centric experience to employees. Employee experience is not a set of benefits, trainings, or compensation policies. Employee experience is also not employee lifecycle because such a definition would miss a key point. Employee experience is the responsibility of each leader within Atlantic, and not of HR only. Employee experience is much more than employee value proposition, employee life cycle, or casual Fridays. I am also talking about days when there are difficult performance reviews or how well a manager supported an employee the day she learned her child was seriously ill. Or whether a leader gave sense of purpose to their team or just gave them the task. Or whether we really did anything to address our employees’ concerns following last employee engagement survey.

An important thing to have in mind when talking about employee experience is that it is not about what actually happened; rather, it is about how the employee perceived what happened. So, it is not just a factor of what a company throws at its employees, it is how they perceive and interpret the company’s intentions.

Stephenson: The two are linked. Our focus on being meaningfully and noticeably different applies to both. We also continue to provide subsidised schemes so our employees can experience life for our customers by being one!

Ahrens: The candidate experience is at the forefront of everything we do in talent acquisition. Ensuring the journey for candidates is best-in-class is more than a trend; it’s a must. It does wonders for an employer brand. In terms of our internal stakeholders, engaging them in the process from start to finish is important and ensures a partnership that is based on a mutual vision and goals for everything we do. This in turn creates internal recruiting champions and brand ambassadors, who become an extension of our talent acquisition function and another source through which to communicate our unique selling points to top talent.

HROTG: How have your recruitment practices changed in order to attract the best talent?

HR LeadersDomiter: We monitor, mold, and modify our employer brand to represent what we have to offer and why candidates should join our team. A customer-centric approach to recruitment and onboarding has shaped the new digital landscape. This year, we have seen our LinkedIn presence grow significantly, reaching the key milestone of 13,000 followers, highlighting how LinkedIn users are engaging with our content. These followers are relevant because we’ve seen an exponential rise in career page visits and a significant increase in new hires from LinkedIn. Our CEO and his leadership team visit university campuses each year, not only for recruitment events, but also to put Atlantic Grupa on the academic map. We have participated in over 10 different types of conferences, panel discussions, and business events aimed at assembling all types and levels of professionals coming from a wide circle of industries.

Our goal is to further grow our employer brand through our employees as ambassadors, and to help strengthen our sourcing efforts through networking. Our culture encourages employees to be talent scouts. We reward employees for attracting talent, and this motivates others to do the same.

Gonzalez: We are working on developing new collaboration agreements with universities and technical schools in order to attract new and young talent in software programming and IT. We are also leveraging employer branding not just as marketing approach, but through our employees and stakeholders as ambassadors.

Stephenson: Our approach is having an in-house resourcing team managing the bulk of our vacancies and our relationships with third-party providers. We also provide a direct link from our careers site to Glassdoor so candidates can see what the company is really like. This, along with our accreditations from the Top Employers Institute, allows us to access the very best people.

Ahrens: Back in 2015, we launched a marketing campaign that runs across all of talent acquisition and embodies not only Morgan Stanley’s culture and values, but also offers talent multiple ways to connect to with us, our brand, and people. The campaign -What Will You Create? -runs across print, digital, and social channels, including Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. We have also introduced strength-based interviewing to replace traditional competency-based recruiting. This has positively impacted our candidate experience as the theory behind strength-based interviewing is based on positive psychology: Everyone has strengths they are born with and by identifying someone’s strengths and matching them to a role, they will enjoy it more and perform better. The process identifies successful candidates who are likely to be better performers as they are built for the role rather than adapting to fit the role. We also have a robust applicant tracking system that enables us to engage and communicate with applicants throughout the selection process, provide feedback throughout all stages, and make applying to Morgan Stanley quick and easy.

HROTG: How is your organisation preparing for the GDPR?

Domiter: Atlantic Grupa always had high standards when it comes to personal data protection. However, in order to implement a truly successful GDPR compliance strategy, we have established an internal multidisciplinary project team whose main aim is to ensure full harmonisation with new obligations covering all stakeholders as well as all business functions. Currently the team is completing a GAP analysis and is revising internal procedures and regulations. I believe that a fundamental success factor for achieving GDPR readiness goals is continuous engagement and education of key business stakeholders backed up with appropriate organisational measures and tools. This is what the project team will focus on in the upcoming months.

Gonzalez: We are working in compliance programmes and adapting GPDR with partners who are providing support in security, IT, and privacy. Through an audit, we are analysing processes, technology, procedures, and practices we need to adapt. We have developed a plan to adapt before May 2018 to meet the requirements of GPDR. Our board of directors, an audit commission, and a steering committee are actively involved and committed. In December 2018, we will do another audit.


Tags: CHRO-Focused Article, EMEA, Employee Engagement, Employee/Candidate Experience, Global Winter 2018, Leadership, Magazine Article, Risk & Compliance, Talent Acquisition

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