Taking the ‘Un’ Out of ‘Uncertainty’: How Talent Acquisition Can Thrive in a World of Change

The Business Transformation Network recently hosted an event on ‘Taking the ‘Un’ Out of ‘Uncertainty’: How Talent Acquisition Can Thrive in a World of Change’ in partnership with Sevenstep. Sevenstep is a global leader in recruitment outsourcing annually ranked as a top enterprise RPO provider who persistently defy industry conventions to provide clients with talent acquisition wins and business performance gains.

The conversation was varied, touching on a wide variety of points around the following points:

  1. Anticipating change from both inside and outside of the organisation
  2. Being flexible in the face of uncertainty
  3. Transforming talent acquisition to become a strategic advisor to the business
  4. Partnering for success

Recruitment and talent acquisition (TA) have always been hard, but it has never been as hard as it is today, with the political and economic landscape we are operating in, the socio-economic strains we’re experiencing and the rapidly growing skills gap within our workforces.


Anticipating change from both inside and outside of the organisation

With the current business environment, outside anticipation is near on possible, as everything is constantly changing. So how can we anticipate as much a possible?

The general consensus around the room on this point, was exactly as the question stated – It is so hard to predict what could happen right now, given our economic, social and political positions, that planning for any potentials in such a quick moving market is near on impossible. Notwithstanding, many organisations are working on their passive talent pools, looking for groups of people, who’s skills may be needed in the future and keeping them engaged with the organisation, in the hope of ROI in the form future employees.

Despite the current instability, the majority of attendees agreed that there has not been a slow down within recruitment and TA, in fact, they have been experiencing an increase as a result of creating a more flexible, non-location-based workforce due to Brexit. Considering the importance of future planning (even during times of uncertainty), most organisations are re-focusing on workforce planning and forecast plans that work alongside the company strategy, with a headcount-based budget that is focused on the strategic expectations of the organisation over the next few years.

How will anticipatable changes, like legal requirements EG. IR35, affect the way companies plan their workforces?

There are many changes that organisations can anticipate and therefore gauge how they react and counter the threats, or make the most of the opportunities they provide. A perfect example of this that was given by the attendees was the introduction of IR35. As a brief explanation for if you don’t know IR35 is a tax legislation that is designed to combat tax avoidance by workers supplying their services to clients via an intermediary, such as a limited company, but who would be an employee if the intermediary was not used, you can read more about it here: https://www.contractorcalculator.co.uk/what_is_ir35.aspx.

In the case of IR35, there was almost unanimity amongst attendees that it would affect the way in which they hire, and was already affecting their workforce planning strategies. The main way in which it was affecting hiring was that there was a severe decrease in the number of contractors’ organisations were taking on and when they were used they had been tested and assessed accordingly, with internal and external testing. As a general rule, organisations are needing to look into the specific skills sets that they don’t have and need in the future, to help fill the gaps that are developing from the growing skills gap.

However, having taken this into account, although organisations can plan more accordingly for expected changes, like IR35, it is still a talent driven market out there and candidates are so highly informed of their position and what their expectations should be, that they can still have final say, if they have the skills required (contractor or not). Taking the above into account, the majority of attendees agreed that expected changes, especially that of IR35, are going to affect the way we’re hiring as organisations, with an increase in offshoring, as it’s cheaper and better quality. This means that all we are currently doing is decreasing our labour market by pushing it abroad, which could be a massive issue for future generations of employees and for their organisations.


Being Flexible in the face of uncertainty

Does viewing talent holistically change the way HR is working as a function?

Viewing talent and TA holistically can have a major impact on the way the HR function allocates budget and looks at hiring. The most major change it’ll make is that the focus will shift to hiring people for their skills, not for specific teams or roles, thus affecting the way the organisations of the future are structured. The drive for hiring could shift to requiring a full breadth of understanding on a number of topics, further blurring the structure of organisations.

What role is technology playing in affecting HR and the way we hire?

As technology is a major change factor in society as whole, it is also rapidly and drastically changing businesses. Most organisations are using technology like dashboards and predictive analytics tools to assess actions and outcomes and how they impact attrition, RoI and KPI’s. The general consensus within the room was that predictive analytics mean different things to different people and organisations, and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ tech to fulfil everyone’s needs and requirements, which means most organisations are not using their multiple different tech tools to their potential.

Following this, a number of attendees agreed that we’ve potentially come too far with the way we use technology and what we use it for, as everyone seems to be chasing ‘the new thing’ and not focusing on the quality of the data they are feeding the technology they have or the people that they work with. HR appears to have come so far with technology and automation, that the people aspect, that was its USP, has got lost, resulting in a decrease in the quality of the candidate and employee experience.


Transforming talent acquisition to become a strategic advisor to the business

How can we transform TA to become more strategic?

The preponderance of attendees acknowledges that TA as a function is currently too tactical and reactionary, mainly being based on the requirements that are passed down from Business Partners. To even consider becoming strategic, TA needs to get the basics right first and need to become more of a collaboration with Business Partners as opposed to being managed by them. The issue this faces is that to become more strategic, TA needs to build a trusting and transparent relationship with Business Partners, which doesn’t quite exist yet (in most cases).

What does it mean for TA to be strategic?

This section of the discussion met with this question quite a lot: “What does strategic actually mean though?”. In the case of this roundtable, the attendees compared a few ideas and experiences of what it meant for TA to be strategic from looking at the importance of adding value to the organisation to using market analysis alongside your people insights to provide strategic advice on what could be done next.


Partnering for success

To ensure success, HR Generalists need to work with HRBP’s, but is there necessarily a need for both of these roles as separates, or should they merge?

It is often argued (and the case was no different at the roundtable) that people and functions can’t dedicate their time to both operational and strategic aspects of their roles simultaneously, which makes the need for two separate roles apparent. However, having said this, this is also where the issue lies as the roles should become a hybrid, working together to provide both the strategic and operational aspects of HR and TA. The most important conclusion from this conversation was that both roles should remain, but should communicate transparently and honestly for the most success, as otherwise, you end up with a HRBP with outdated ideas and a team in HR or TA who are aware of how the market is functioning and the actual skills required within the organisation’s skills gap.


In short, the most important thing for taking the ‘un’ out of uncertainty and for HR and TA to help organisations survive and thrive in this drastic period of change is by focusing on workforce planning and understanding the skills gaps within the organisation and market and knowing how to fill them.

Keep your eye out for more events like this at www.thebtn.tv/events

This event write-up is exclusive to The Business Transformation Network.