Thursday, 24 July 2014

Digital in the talent acquisition process

I’ve been doing a really interesting case with a client recently, helping them to use digital to reduce their expenditure on third party recruiters and simultaneously increase the variety and quality of new recruits that they obtain. Here’s a few high level thoughts from the work…

The first - and perhaps most obvious – principle is that it’s time to treat employees and potential recruits like customers. Understand their archetypes and needs and engage them on their terms. Using classifieds or Linkedin only gets you to about half of the direct recruiting community and if you’re after graduates or under–35’s, you will need to think about how you use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in combination. If you want scarce talent, you’ll need to seek them out on their own terms and be proactive in targeting them. 

Information in recruitment is now symmetrical and good people – hell, all people – are being constantly bombarded with interview offers thanks to a horde of recruitment consultants (sensibly) seeking to profit from the situation. Talent is scarce as the focus on creativity and outcomes in the digital economy means that people, rather than process are ever-more vital to the success of organisation. HR departments need new skills, such as content creation, digital marketing, data science and user-centric design in order to understand the capabilities of more diverse talent.

In light of these factors, the old model of HR, where talent acquisition is rolled into the general HR functions is perhaps nearing obsolescence. Instead it could be time to split the operating parts of the department, for example. reward and benefits from the strategic parts in the same way as digital teams are splitting the fast-moving innovation and product design components of IT from core infrastructure to make the former more business-centric and the latter more focused on efficiency.

The strategic talent function would  align the organisation, talent and culture of the business to the corporate strategy and then work with other parts of the business to trial novel ways of identifying, measuring, selecting and deploying people in the organisation. Philosophies like test-and-learn, agile and lean start up can be applied by this team to enable growth. Targets and governance should be set more like those of a Product Commercialisation Business than of a traditional HR function. Doing it this way also enables the operating functions of HR to be more effective as they can focus on enhanced efficiency of known processes and bedding any new ones that come out of the more strategic team into common practice.

This splitting of functions is a consequence of moving to a more measurable, outcome-based way of working. With less emphasis on hierarchy, completely transparent objectives and easier inter-operability of teams it’s fine to have small pockets of real specialism. 

There is an immediate question for me about how those teams are assembled though. Traditionally you’d have reporting lines and human hierarchies to organise the business. The most logical way for the digital business to be structured is as a collection of spans of control, arranged in a hierarchy of outcomes.

If this sounds like management gobbledegook, that’s because I haven’t really got my head around how to create it in practice! What I’m trying to remove is the large group of people that are employed to manage the hierarchy of a business rather than the outcomes the business needs in order to win. Clearly I haven’t come up with the answer yet… and this head cold isn’t helping!

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