Tuesday 11th November 2014

Recruitment Disrupted

In the first in a series of articles by HR tech leader Nick Holmes, we look at radical changes to sourcing


Recruitment as you know it is over. It’s done.

Technology and disruptive business models mean the accepted ways of recruiting are gone forever – you just might not have noticed yet.

And if you think you don’t care, think again, because with the average person spending less time in each job, being good at getting the talent you need is going to become ever more critical to the success of all organisations.

McKinsey forecasts a 13% shortfall in skilled workers globally, so outsourcing won’t help either.

A brief history of sourcing

Finding talent has gone through many evolutions.

In recent times, the first shift happened in the 80s with the growth in service businesses and increasing mobility of specialist workers leading to the growth of the recruitment agency market. Recruitment changed rapidly with a growing army of professionals helping businesses to find talent.

Jump forward fifteen years, and the approach to sourcing talent underwent further dramatic evolution as online advertising portals and web-based technology such as Applicant Tracking Systems changed the game dramatically.

Business leaders used the technology to take back ownership of recruitment from agencies and, by doing so, were able to drive savings and implement process improvements.

What now?

We’re currently in the third wave of dramatic change. This wave is driven by the introduction of new technologies that are already profoundly changing the way we find talent. Understanding what the major changes are is vital to working out what to do and how to take advantage of them.

Change #1 – It’s not who you know, it’s who you trust

For years, recruitment has been about who you know.

Think back to the old days of all-powerful headhunters – hiring people was about paying people money because they knew other people that you didn’t know and couldn’t find.

That time is now gone. Pretty much everyone you might want to find can be found by anyone with a working knowledge of internet search.

Don’t believe me? Over 50% of the UK working population is now on LinkedIn. For industries like tech or financial services, this percentage is likely to be much higher.

With this level of publicly available talent data, the game has changed. It’s no longer who you know, it’s who you trust. Or more specifically, who the talented candidates trust.

So if you want people to build a relationship with you, you’d better make sure you have a clear, understandable employment proposition backed by content that builds knowledge and confidence.

Change #2 – a community and social recruitment strategy will differentiate

And the answer for what to do isn’t to advertise on LinkedIn and Facebook.

That’s just fishing in the same sea as every other employer, and offers no differentiation in engagement and builds no trust with candidates.

The tech to build compelling online communities is still at an early stage of adoption among UK employers, so can really differentiate early adopters. Most organisations already have an extended network of trusted people like alumni or partners, but currently aren’t using any technology to make this work for them.

One of the leading UK start-ups helping employers develop a community approach to recruiting is Hollaroo. The CEO of Hollaroo, Peter Ward, argues that ‘the next wave of recruiting change is about going beyond LinkedIn. It’s about companies taking back their social graph from public networks, and building real engaging relationships with talent.

‘The move from focusing on managing a process to managing relationships with people is going to be a big but necessary shift for corporate hiring teams,’ says Ward.

Change #3 – your employees should be your best recruiters

There has been an explosion in technology start-ups focused around how you can leverage your employees to source the best talent – aka your old employee referral programme on social steroids.

Technology businesses such as Rolepoint, QueSocial and the aforementioned Hollaroo are all enabling this journey.

Vice-President of the award winning QueSocial platform, Josh Schwede, highlights the impact this can make to your hiring. ‘Employees are your most credible advocates, and activating them to tell the company story, and why they love to work there, is hugely powerful,’ he says.

Josh Schwede: employees are crucial
Josh Schwede: employees are crucial

‘At the same time, employee advocates carry the employer brand message to a previously untapped talent pool who are probably very similar to the employee themselves, since ‘birds of a feather flock together’.’

It’s a compelling message, and one that requires minimal change management or training to implement.

Change #4 – the open market comes to recruitment agencies

In our everyday lives, Hailo and Uber are bringing the open market to taxis.  They have used tech to get you right to the interesting part, avoiding standing in the rain at the end of the evening.

The recruitment equivalent of standing in the rain is briefing lots of suppliers who don’t really have the capability to supply what you need. It’s a hugely inefficient model, and it’s what most companies do when they work with agencies.

What do you really want when you work with an agency? You want the best specialist with the most trusted relationships with candidates.  And with the advent of cloud tech to help agencies, many of these are now small businesses operating out of home or local offices. It ain’t the big guys anymore.

Think about it – there’s a whole set of new recruiters out there specialising in key niches and building trusted relationships with talent. The preferred supplier list most procurement teams make you use is actually harming your chances of finding the best talent, and they are wasting your time.

Enter stage left a business leading the introduction of open market concepts to recruiting. ‘Our open market approach matches jobs from our customers to a vast number of specialist agencies,’ explains TheJobPost’s CEO, John Paul Caffery. ‘We help match the best suppliers with the best talent to the right jobs that employers need to fill, removing all the inefficiencies in the current approach.’

Yep that’s right – no more standing in the rain. Go to an online market where all the specialists are. You find them and they find you, and send you the best talent. Seems kind of obvious now, doesn’t it?

Change #5 – HR becomes marketing

If a key value of a business is in the talent that works there, then the future of HR is all about how to make sure you have the best people.

And attracting the best people isn’t a process or compliance problem, it’s a marketing problem.

It’s about creating a compelling proposition, getting it to the right people, and getting them engaged. This transformation of recruiting and HR to being a marketing approach was one of the key pillars of the Deloitte 2014 HR Trends report.

What does it all mean?

With change happening to multiple areas of talent sourcing, the model of how to manage it all isn’t clear.

When we look back to the first two big waves of change in the 1980s and in the early noughties with recruitment agencies and ATS platforms, new ways of working were developed pretty quickly and adopted pretty widely within a relatively short amount of time.

The breadth of change in talent sourcing right now means that the approach that is now required is agility and a willingness to experiment. And this may require new skills in the HR team.

Peter Ward of Hollaroo explains it well: ‘A lot of what start-ups are trying to do now is quite revolutionary and we are trying to persuade clients to change how to work, and that’s not easy.’

Yes, the future of recruitment may not be easy. But when was it ever?

You may need a new type of HR person, with skills in technology and marketing. Add in data science knowledge to interpret all the data to make the right decisions, and we are looking at a very different future for recruiters and HR ­– but that’s a story for another day.


Coming up next: Recruitment Disrupted, Part 2: This ain’t how my dad did recruitment!

If sourcing is undergoing drastic change, how you select the right talent is another conversation that will send your head spinning. Big data, video, predictive analytics and more, as we explore the future of selection…

About the author

Nick Holmes

From Monday to Friday, HR technology is my world. I help a diverse set of customers get the most they can from HR & elearning technology. It’s a complex world for HR leaders – there are no easy solutions, and no two leaders are the same. Business is changing fast, and HR is changing fastest of all, which keeps life supremely interesting. I’m a zealot about technology, collaboration, authentic leadership and how these are all combining to change the way we will work in the future.