Authored by Karl Simpson
When visiting one of Liftstream‘s clients recently, we were able to have a lengthy discussion about their aims to create the right infrastructure around their business to successfully meet their talent demands. In exploring this discussion further, it struck me how businesses are not fully aware of just how challenging the talent environment has become. Just how dynamic it truly is in the present climate despite all the perception of candidate availability.
When you look at how the process of recruiting staff has changed just in the past 10-15 years, we have gone from a largely offline world to an Internet based global-marketplace where you compete for talent across markets and borders. This technological innovation was an enabler for the restructure of the recruiting environment capable of bringing incredibly more responsiveness and supposed efficiency. In some ways it achieved these things, at least it certainly opened the door to a far more international recruiting reach.
This Internet revolution quickly became mired in an over populated job board market and so new ways to organise and divide talent had to follow. There were also now significant inefficiencies in job advertising in a market which had become so geographically expansive.
Quickly on the heels of this internet proliferation we have had the explosion of social media. There are multiple platforms and various ways in which these have been employed to stage recruiting efforts. The predominant players today are Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, although the latter often directs people to other content and is less of an engagement strategy from a recruitment perspective and more of a traffic driver, at least for now.
However, the growth of these social media platforms hasn’t necessarily answered all the recruiting questions. Opinion seems to be strong that LinkedIn is very much strategizing towards a global recruiting community. The very fact people are able and encouraged to post their CVs online for all their connections to see and for others to search, makes it an incredibly potent source of information for anyone associated with recruiting. For the first time ever, it has allowed companies to engage with a more passive job seeker. The professionally curios perhaps best describes them.
But does it truly bring the best people? There have always been techniques and market intelligence that could lead you to a very complete understanding of target candidates, even teams. Qualified recruiters are very adept at profiling individuals and their experience, for people are the currency with which they trade. Today, many of these recruiters ply their trade inside employer companies rather than recruiting service firms. Attaining the right talent though, very much demands a comprehensive understanding of the talent that is in the market from which you’re able to recruit. The Internet and social media combine to paint part of this picture, but it does not paint the whole picture. If you consider the ever growing fragmentation which is occurring in social media, being across all of these platforms in a very meaningful and carefully tailored way demands not only considerable resources but tremendous effort and skill. So while these technical platforms have unquestionably brought greater reach and better access, they haven’t necessarily delivered better results.
If we return to this idea of the dynamic nature of the industry, the very rapidly changing landscape that companies are trying to respond to, means the talent outlook is very circumstantial. You view talent through a lens which is shaped and coloured by the pressures, challenges and opportunities your company faces at that moment in time. Your selections are made by the skills and experience you feel best address these and which also will help lead your company towards a strategic horizon. All of which needs a very carefully crafted talent programme that delves the depths of the entire talent pool.
For a comparison we look to the process of business planning. When you’re in business, you try to assess the potential of the whole market and work out how big of a share you might take of that market. From a recruiting perspective, depending on the country, skills, level and other variable factors, the degree to which people are absent from the internet in any identifiable way is considerable. So when you recruit via these methods exclusively, relying heavily on visible people and active candidates, you will find that your total available market is representative of somewhere between 25% and 45%, leading to the conclusion that potentially you are failing to engage over 50% of the entire talent market available to you.
So while the new technologies have brought about new tools and techniques to attract and engage talent pools, they still fail to serve the need to target the entire talent base your business could have access to. The question then has to be asked whether you are genuinely attracting the best people your market has to offer despite the fact you might be achieving the hiring objectives. Again, a mantra we return to – are you recruiting talent or are you recruiting the right talent?
Plus with greater volumes, comes greater need to manage your relationship with the market’s candidates and although data can be managed efficiently, there remains a high human element to this relationship building. Without it, continually enhancing your employer brand is incredibly difficult to achieve. While candidates might not be right today, they certainly could be in future and so the way in which you foster a connection with your community is highly important. Plus recruiting is not simply a process of attracting people, it is knowing how to engage those people. It is to work out those people who will bring the rich mixture of skill, experience and cultural suitability to enable them to work effectively and in harmony with the organisation.
Greater fragmentation of the medium brings new challenges which will be partly addressed by advanced technologies and a capacity of managing higher volumes of data faster and more intuitively. The fundamental issue that existed when the internet became more prevalent and remains a focal point today in social media, is that people like to connect with people. However much we get used to technology and automation, sometimes we just need someone to speak with who can persuade us, encourage us, praise us or make us feel wanted. People we trust, people we know who have the knowledge and the expertise to help guide us. So far, technology has not managed to perform this intermediary or advisory role.
So while the internet and social media are important tools in the myriad of channels for recruiting, the reality today is that they only allow you to define part of your market. They are potent methods for reaching globally and ensuring you proactively cultivate interest in your company for the future. But if your company trumpets sayings like – ‘we recruit the very best people with world class expertise’ – yet you are not recruiting from the entire market, then by definition you are not. If your company places talent high on the agenda, if it demands the transformational hires your company needs to stay ahead, then it must focus on trying to access all quarters of the talent market and using people is still the best way to do that!