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The End of the War for Talent?

The End of the War for Talent?

27 Apr 10:00 by Phillip Hodson

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There is no doubt we are about to enter into a phase where there exists the largest pool of candidates on the market since 2008 and possibly even the 1930’s. Surely this means the balance of power in the engineering and technical markets will now shift from the candidate to the client at long last. It’s easy to assume this, as you’d expect candidate’s to be less choosey as they’re in a situation where personal finances become crippling and candidates will be adopting a less selective attitude.


However, the very best candidates will adopt exactly the opposite approach. High calibre people are going to be much more careful about the industry they enter into, sector selection, company culture assessment as well as the stability of the company they consider as their next employer will increasingly feature in their minds. Lots of companies across the globe have been making cuts and layoffs and more importantly, doing so in the wrong way. A lack of communication, deeper cuts than necessary and engagement levels at their lowest with the furloughed, all result in lasting scars which are difficult to heal.


We haven’t seen this same-year shift in unemployment in Europe or in the US since the great depression of the 1930’s. No doubt, we will see a shift of companies looking to bring internal recruitment teams into their business to provide solutions in order to cut costs. The reality is that recruiters will be impacted and therefore, businesses will choose the do-it-yourself (DIY) style of recruitment.


Yesterday, I had a conference call with our US Tax Attorney and they were discussing the fact that their business were looking to hire auditors and tax specialists, but the general consensus was that the best way forward was to recruit the vacancies themselves as their was so many more candidates now on the market. More candidates to choose from, means finding candidates is easier? Not necessarily. More choice means a bigger haystack to find the needle. A harder, longer, more challenging job. Recruitment is still too often seen as a commodity and a task which is undervalued. Global companies that recruit en masse often get this strategy wrong. But, why?


Well, because they apply the same methods whether recruiting a non-business critical role or a niche specialist position to a role which you can fill via the active pool of candidates. Hiring managers spend less time with the internal recruiters as there is an expectation that the internal recruiter knows what the hiring manager wants. They work within the business, so why wouldn’t they?


If I was given a dollar for every time I spoke to a hiring manager and they told me that they recruit using the DIY method, yet the position is still open long after 3 months, I could actually pay them the amount of money they have lost by not having the right person in that role for that amount of time. The short of it, is that recruitment costs but so does not having the job filled. Also, do you know what costs more than recruiting the right person? The implications and extra-resource the business uses when that position is empty all the while it’s being recruited. And even more than that, employing the wrong person for the job because it’s now so business critical that you need someone, anyone, and the company settles for less than what is expected.


So what’s the solution?

Of course, you would expect me to say “Recruiters!” And in some cases, yes. In others, they are not the answer.


There are, undoubtedly, situations where using recruiters is the right answer. However, you first need to be clear on the hiring strategy and looking at multiple methods that aren’t just available to the business, but methods that will find you the very best candidate in the market for your vacancy and also working out what’s the cost to the business not having the job filled. For example, if you are looking for a business-critical position where knowledge of the marketplace and customer base is key, then by only relying on advertising and sifting through hundreds of applications, or just searching an active pool of candidates is not ideal. It’s pretty much the same as flicking through channels on the television hoping to find something good to watch. It takes time and eventually you might find something okay but ultimately, it’s not what you wanted to see and you spent a lot of time finding it. Using a recruiter which is not fit for purpose is the same as selecting a supplier to supply material that has no experience of doing so. Benchmarking suppliers should be a regular activity but assessing quality and process reliability against total acquisition cost, and not just fee %, payment terms and guarantees.


Furthermore, recruitment and on-boarding processes need to improve internally.


In most cases internal recruiters tell me they haven’t got the time to headhunt properly. Especially if they are responding professionally to every direct and internal application with a bespoke response, applicant tracking, dealing with on-boarding, writing adverts, searching databases, searching online job boards etc.


Bad hires will happen as the haystack gets bigger and hiring manager demands will increase as businesses look to reclaim the company’s annual objectives with less staff. More applications per vacancy equals less time on evaluating behaviours and more reliance on automated or manual time spent on CV/resume skill word-matching. This will result in bad hires, poor retention, loss of employee brand reputation, low morale and ultimately loss of your good people to your competition, as the under-achievement of your top performing hiring managers will breed dissatisfaction and more willingness to consider opportunities outside of your organisation.


Hiring managers will also need to manage and lead differently in the new normal. Working from home on the whole has been seen as a success from a lot of the people we have spoken to on both sides of the fence. When the going is good, its fine but what about when results don’t materialise? Managing under performance in this situation presents challenges. It all starts with more consideration of hiring the right people with this in mind. This relies on the right behaviours and a build up of trust, something which still features little in the recruitment process and is rarely objectively challenged when hiring decisions are made. Why do they just “fit” the company? How often is this challenged? Is it not that they just fit the values of the decision maker rather than the company values?


The long and short of it is, don’t settle for the seemingly cheapest and easiest option for recruitment. This does not always provide the results you need and can be costly in the long-run, especially for niche or business critical roles. Ensure that you have considered every available option and choose the one that will see your business hiring the very best person for your job as soon as is possible. Spoiler alert; if the role you’re hiring is business critical, you will not obtain the result you are longing for if your method is to use multiple agencies to search the market all at once. All you have done is started an automated race to find the candidate with the highest skill word-matches on their CV/resume to your job description. This seldom results in finding the best candidate on the market because the best candidates haven’t created and sent their CV/Resume yet. This way you will hire on skill and fire on behaviour, nothing more, nothing less but just more of it.


If you want to learn more about Kensington Additive’s process and service offerings then get in touch with myself at Phillip.Hodson@kensingtonconsulting.co.uk or call on +44(0) 1257 268273.


And finally, I recommend that you take a look at our 2-way video interview platform (KC VIP) that provides a solution to interviewing in the current climate from hiring behaviours vs skills decision making perspective. To find out how it will benefit you, click here.