Trends Shaping the Future of HR
As businesses across the globe evaluate and continue to assess their recruitment needs, HR departments are being confronted by a daunting array of challenges. On the one hand, there is supposed to be an abundance of talent; yet attracting the best people is more difficult than ever. While this is true, an equally significant problem will be the resurgence of presently employed workers who have been unhappy with their employers’ engagement throughout the economic downturn and are therefore looking to jump ship as soon as opportunity arises.
A proliferation of new social networking and database technologies is transforming the way people “look” for work. More so, technology has changed the way companies and recruiters must now engage in looking and finding passive candidates. And a new generation of independent, transient and “globalized” workers in the burgeoning knowledge economy is creating new rules around hiring and engagement.
At the same time, HR is feeling unprecedented pressure “lift its game ” and become more aligned with the key strategic drivers of business performance. Measurement of HR performance is shifting and becoming more demanding, requiring practitioners to demonstrate their contribution to high-level corporate goals, not just operational outputs. These forces are converging at a stage when many corporate executives who look at HR think its job should be relatively straightforward. From a talent acquisition standpoint, they ask, “With so much talent on the market, why is it so hard to attract and retain the right people?”
These are the imperatives facing the HR profession worldwide. This is not simply a short-term cycle but part of a longer term trend that is shaping the fundamental way that people think about work and interact with employers, families and communities. Events leading into 2010 have seen national economies shudder to a halt, and with that has come a sudden shift in the critical labor shortages that had plagued developed economies for more than a decade. Now that millions of workers across the globe have been laid off, you might think labor will be plentiful as we approach 2011’s increased opportunities. However, is it the right or best qualified people that are actively available, and, if not, how do you attract the qualified, passive candidate?
Hiring managers in some large organizations are seeing the re-emergence of labor shortages even in the early phase of economic recovery. As economic growth gathers pace, shortages in certain industries are appearing almost as acute as before the economic collapse. In some areas of healthcare, science, and IT, the talent shortage never actually disappeared and remains a highly challenging environment for recruiting. The trend is marked and becoming more severe. There is a limited global pool of skilled labor, which is becoming scarcer each year.
This is not a shortage of people but a shortage of qualified people; at a time when workplaces are demanding higher levels of skills and knowledge. Even at times of relatively high unemployment, employers face difficulty in obtaining the best talent. So, while conditions might have eased the headline skills shortage, they really only provided a reprieve from the long-run trend of tighter labor.
This is the new reality that HR will need to address. HR people will need to keep recruiting irrespective of short-term cycles. The best-educated and skilled, technical, and professional employees will be in greater demand, harder to find, and command a premium to switch or re-locate jobs. Companies seeking highly skilled talent will need to consider strategies that will enable them to circumvent this demand-supply impasse. Of all the forces that are converging on HR managers, few will be as daunting as this demographic shift, simply because it is virtually locked in for at least the next 30 years.
The days of “help wanted” signs and newspaper job ads have passed, and a vast array of platforms and technologies are transforming the recruitment landscape. People are on the move and the use of electronic and social networking tools is affording recruiters and candidates innovative ways of reaching their targets. Ultimately, people’s lifestyles have changed, and recruiters need to evolve to keep up. The ready availability of these applications has led to a leveling of the playing field; organizations with media power and large advertising budgets are competing with no-cost or low-cost blogs or webcams to post information. In this environment, the challenge is not solely about the technology but also the appeal of sophisticated and savvy strategies that penetrate the electronic “noise” and are able to reach potential candidates, both active and passive. Technology provides recruiters “speed to market,” but recruiting and sourcing skills are still ultimately the driving factor in success. Having the right tools in your toolbox, can get you there faster.
This raises the issue of what the contemporary HR practitioner needs to do to adapt to this new digital environment. What follows are just some of the techniques that are, currently and increasingly likely to be deployed in the recruitment space and that must be mastered in order to tap into the increasingly sophisticated labor pool:
- Use of niche websites, rather than general job boards that have become flooded with resumes and frequently do not focus on any one-industry or the passive candidate. Niche sites also provide better targeting of candidates with industry expertise.
- Making social media a part of the recruiter’s toolbox. Sites such as Facebook, XING, and LinkedIn, among others, are becoming a focal point and must be updated with information and communications on at least a daily basis.
- Use of company or recruiter-specific LinkedIn profiles that are regularly updated with information on the company, including upcoming job expos and industry events.
- Authoring or sponsoring industry-specific white papers, posted to company or industry websites, linked to advertising, blogs, and social media.
- Developing and presenting webcasts that showcase company attributes, industry trends, products, issues, or best practices.
- Blogging in places that potential candidates and industry experts are likely to visit, and use of micro blogs, such as Twitter, to reach target groups.
- Automating sourcing efforts with web tools and products that allow recruiters more time to communicate directly with candidates and their hiring managers. A great example of this is the TalentSeekr tool introduced into the industry by Enticelabs.
- Use of internal applicant tracking systems (ATS). Many companies have access to an ideal database yet often neglect this as a sourcing tool. Previously considered candidates not qualified for one position might be qualified for a current opening.
- Building a passive candidate database through online searches and use of sites such as resumeblaster.com or resumezapper.com, to name a few.
- Last, the age-old practice of “smiling and dialing,” or cold calling and maintaining a personal rapport with experts in the industry who can be added to your database or provide referrals.
A key element of the emerging HR paradigm and its convergence with social media entails a more focused, strategic, and non-traditional approach to reaching key audiences. This might be a difficult task, given the increasing demands on the HR professional to focus on strategic versus tactical imperatives. Often, HR generalists and even recruitment professionals simply don’t have the time to stay abreast of all of the tools, learn technologies, and the use of different systems and tools. When the effort on this education is made, beware that if your in-house expert leaves your company, this knowledge leaves with him or her.
By using industry expertise and thought leadership as a tool, able recruiters cut through the clutter that permeates much of the traditional media and engage in interactions that can uncover exceptional talent. This can be time consuming, but for those proficient in such techniques, it brings results and can be successful in reaching into talent pools that typically resist traditional approaches.
HR is all about people, but it’s easy to become swamped by processes and technologies. In media reporting of corporate issues, we frequently hear of financial problems or operational problems, but not often HR problems. Increasingly, HR organizations of all sizes have been shifting their focus to outsourcing the recruiting and screening function.
Recognizing the need to take a more strategic approach to their role within the organization, HR leaders realize they can’t (and shouldn’t) be all things to all people. This doesn’t mean throwing in the towel. Outsourcing allows you to manage and participate where needed, and better manage your flexibility to all of the organization’s needs. They will also need to consider how they can best add value.
The complexity of the HR landscape means that many HR professionals are becoming bogged down in transactional tasks, at the expense of more strategic priorities. Much of the work around hiring is tactical, but it is also increasingly complex and moving beyond the capacity of some HR managers. These are the types of jobs that are ripe for outsourcing. As well, the talent acquisition process cannot be defined and engaged only when hiring is prevalent. Maintaining pipelines and candidate rapport, as well as conducting discovery interviews, are just a few examples of ongoing activities that should be included in your strategy.
Outsourcing some of the functionality can free time and resources for HR people to start to looking at how they are meeting more important corporate goals. They can then be in a position to play a more strategic and valued role, availing themselves of data and metrics that provide new levels of insight into HR performance and its contribution to organizational results. Once removed from the straight jacket of “process HR,” they are able to step into the field of “clever HR,” through which they can use their knowledge in ways that are directly relevant to decision-makers. Armed with a range of key performance measures, HR becomes the repository of critical human capital intelligence. It is relevant and valued.
Ironically, many HR departments devote a relatively small amount of time to the recruitment function. Even during periods of labor shortage, they are so burdened with transactional work that recruitment—arguably the most pressing task—is given too little attention. It will be a matter for individual organizations to determine the scope of any outsourcing decision, but it seems clear this is increasingly the path being taken to liberate HR as it grapples with a multitude of issues. Outsourcing frees HR professionals to address the increasingly complex and fast-altering meta trends affecting their industry and to have a laser like focus on higher-level imperatives. This trend is being replicated across the globe, as witnessed by the growing number and prevalence of providers focusing on the recruitment process.
The landscape for the HR profession is rapidly changing and throwing up questions about the way the industry adapts to meet a series of landmark events. There is nothing new in the need to change; professionals across scores of industries have had to rethink the way they work in order to meet business trends and new technologies. Yet new ways of thinking about recruiting and sourcing labor seem to have ushered in a sequence of reforms that have fundamentally re-ordered the way that HR has functioned for decades. Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) has provided HR the best of both worlds: a means to ensure that their organizations find and place top talent, while at the same time freeing them to focus on strategic initiatives. This means that incremental change will likely not suffice to meet the challenges ahead.