Are HR leaders paying dearly for chasing the unicorns and purple squirrels of the talent world, or are the business leaders being unrealistic with their demands? Two examples over the last few weeks from large companies have left me with the feeling that there is still a huge problem with the perception of the value of HR and talent acquisition at the top table. More about that later in the post.
As I work with HR and recruitment teams I get to see these issues from different angles, and I do wish that they would sometimes lock themselves in a room with their business leaders and not come out until they settle their differences, or at least agree on something!
Alas that isn’t the case often too often. After my many conversations with both sides I have broken this down into a number of areas shown in the graphic above and these are my thoughts on the talent demands that are causing cracks in HR strategies.
- Skills shortages for new skills never needed before. This is frustrating for many people I speak to and creates challenges for HR teams. The fast changing world of technology, social media and candidate demand has bought about the need for employees with new skills to match. The problem is that the companies don’t have employees with these skills, the business demands them, but there is no increased headcount budget to bring them in. So training budgets have been increased, redundancies are more frequent (as skill transitions happen) and contractors/interims have come back into play again in larger numbers, just to meet the demand.
The best example is in the digital space with the huge demand for digital, developer, design and social media skills. There are just not enough to go around. It is no wonder I often get asked by HR teams to help build business cases for new recruiters to help them find these skills.
- Desire to use new technology but committed to legacy systems. This is an interesting argument, because it completely depends on who you speak to – the business, HR/recruitment and the vendors that build the systems. The best example is around career websites and all the issues around them such as the underlying technologies (ATS), the website design itself and the application process. The last few years have seen social media go mainstream, mobile phones outstripping desktops usage and candidates being presented with (seemingly) endless choice of new opportunities. The problem is that these two aspects are just not compatible!
Vendors of the technology have just not been able to keep up with the requests for new changes in candidate behaviours (e.g. social, mobile). The websites themselves no longer meet the needs of mobile responsiveness – especially with the news that Google changes their mobile search algorithm in April, to favour mobile optimised websites in their search results. Applicants on career sites are still put through awkward and non- mobile processes to apply for jobs – and it is causing large drop-offs in applications through the recruitment process.
So what do these companies do? They are stuck in long contracts with some vendors who are not as quick to change as they need, yet recruiters and candidates are getting increasingly frustrated with their systems. It’s called putting work arounds in place, and doing your best to provide the best candidate experience you can with it. (Drop me a line if this is something that you need to talk about).
- Businesses growing putting more pressure on HR teams. This probably encompasses all these eight issues, but is the one that can impact business profits in a big way. It is a simple equation – if you don’t have enough the requisite number of skills within your business, you will lose sales, business opportunities and restrict your profit potential. The new CEO report from PWC says that ‘93% (of CEO’s) say that they recognise the need to make a change, or are already changing, their strategy for attracting and retaining talent’. And
I am sureI know that many HR Directors have been on the receiving end of that conversation!
- Candidate expectations increasing causing issues with recruitment and retention. Candidates and your existing employees (with in-demand skills) have more job choice that ever before, as we are firmly entrenched in a candidates driven marketplace. It is causing retention issues like the one seen in JP Morgan recently, where they have a real fear of their employees being targeted on LinkedIn. They have tried to get their employees to reduce the content in their profiles to make it harder for recruiters to find them. DOH! That won’t stop them!
Employees are getting calls offering them big rises in money, status and benefits, and candidates are getting multiple offers to make decisions from. This is all falling back on the shoulders of HR – both to improve retention levels and candidate attraction strategies.
- Recruiters are not skilled in the new ways to find talent. This isn’t just about sourcing skills, although becoming a sourcing ninja would help. Recruiters need to be multi-skilled which I have previously written about , but some of these skills take time to learn and put into practice. Then there is the challenge of HR leaders not trusting their own teams to carry out some of the senior recruitment for them.
Let me take you back to the two examples I mentioned at the beginning. Before I start it must be noted that both companies were under budget pressures from their respective boards over recruitment costs. The scenario was the same for both big companies – the CEO wanted to bring in senior level talent to their business. The CEO’s instructed the Head of HR to use a search firm to find them – and even told them which to use. I have no issue with that, just that on both these occasions the company had senior recruiters with extensive search experience and track records in their teams (they weren’t confidential roles by the way). The two HR leaders ignored the request/demand of these individuals to conduct the search (or even negotiate the fee) and proceeded to engage the searches for between £60-100k each. Subsequent conversations since have revealed that short-lists delivered in the searches were nearly exactly the same as the prospective short-lists that the in house recruiters would have ended up with.
Now I am certainly not anti-search firms at all, but surely having more faith in your own recruiting team’s skills and having the balls to push back, would have been more beneficial for these two companies and their subsequent budget overspend – you can guess which departments the costs ended up in, can’t you?
- Global need for skills is causing issues with talent mobility. This is a different point, depending where you are in the world, as there are still stringent visa issues for many companies. As we in the UK are in the EU, then this becomes more of an issue. In theory, recruiting talent from different countries is easier – I mean thanks to LinkedIn, Facebook and other social sites, it is much easier now to identify and recruit talent to your company. And it can be a very cost effective way of bringing hard to find skills into an organisation. But who has to deal with the whole process, the on-boarding, embedding and management of this new foreign talent? Having seen companies going through these processes, it amazed me how much HR time and resources it took to make this happen, and they didn’t even involve visas. Talent mobility is one thing, making it happen is another.
- An employer brand is the current yardstick against competitors, but who owns it. This becoming a challenge for companies – primarily down to budget and resources. Where does employer branding sit in your company – HR, recruitment, marketing? Talent attraction and retention can be determined by the strength of your employer brand, so it is crucial, but how can you make the necessary changes/improvements if it doesn’t sit in the right place? An excellent article by China Gorman, CEO of Great Place To Work, covers this well and cites some interesting statistics: 60% of CEO’s feel they own employer branding; 58% of HR executives, 63% of talent acquisition executives, and 57% of recruiting executives say HR owns employer branding; and 39% of marketing executives point to HR owning the role and 40% to the CEO owning the role. And you thought it was going to be an easy answer!
- Social media has finally been accepted by HR but what about the transparency it comes with. The fact that many HR people have accepted that social media is mainstream doesn’t necessarily mean that they are comfortable with it. This was exactly the reason why I was asked by the business publisher KoganPage, to write a book for them (comes out on 3rd May) on Social Media Recruitment. The theory of social media is one thing but successfully integrating it into recruitment strategy is the challenge, and it is one that many HR people – especially in SME’s – are struggling to do.
The transparent and ubiquitous nature of social media is causing strains on already burdened HR and recruiting teams. As already mentioned above, candidate expectations towards companies being on social media is not helping! The always-on and responsive aspect of social media is really challenging HR and recruitment teams ways of working.
These are probably not unique to HR departments, but they are the ones that I see regularly. All of them can be resolved depending on priorities, collaboration and understanding. I am not an HR person, but to be fair there increasingly more examples of them being stuck between a rock and hard place. Whether they have the skills and aptitude to better position themselves in organisations, to gain a higher level of influence is a conversation I will leave to people better placed than me!
Are you seeing similar challenges within your business? Are you experiencing what I have covered in this post? It would be great to hear about your issues – especially other ones that are causing duress in HR and recruiting teams. Please share them in the comments below.
And remember, not long now until my new book gets published ( the one mentioned in no.8 above) You can still get a 25% discount off RRP for Social Media Recruitment – How To Successfully Integrate Social Media Into Your Recruitment Strategy by clicking here.