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How you can win the war for talent

There is a battle for talent that is raging in the UK recruitment market right now. With the correct strategy and tactics it is one that you can win, but in the words of Dave Hazlehurst of PH-Creative: “You won’t win the war for talent if you just do the normal stuff. You need to be brave.” 

This rallying cry was given at the ‘Are you winning the war on talent?’ seminar, hosted by the recruitment and human capital management solutions company, Serocor, the accounting and business advisory firm BDO, and legal professionals, Paris Smith. The event took place at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Tuesday 3rd November. 

According to the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC), placements have increased for 36 consecutive months and with 94% of employers saying they have little or no capacity to meet a rise in demand for their products/services, it is no surprise that 80% are planning to increase staff in the next three months. However, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right talent and making your organisation an enticing proposition. 

Get creative and be brave 

Judy Holliday is the Head of Development at the communications infrastructure and media services company, Arqiva, and she advises that recruiters need to think more laterally and creatively. She explains that there can be a tendency to look for a replica of what went before, when trying to fill a vacancy. “Trying to find someone who has spent five years doing a particular job in a particular place, is so constraining.” 

This focus on skills above all else is something that Paul Mallinson, the Managing Director of Optamor, a company specialising in talent management, thinks needs to be addressed. “What a lot of organisations fail to do is assess whether an individual will fit culturally within the organisation.” He explains that just because someone has delivered using a specific skillset at one organisation, it doesn’t mean they will be able to achieve the same level of performance for your business. 

Mallinson’s advice is to try and attract the right talent then take time to assess if they are the right fit. “Don’t just base the decision on the job description. Accept that you may not be able to make the perfect hire, consider recruiting people that may have say three out of the five key skills attributes you require, but demonstrate all of the right behavioural characteristics, values, beliefs and willingness to learn.” He adds: “If you do this and then link recruitment with learning and development, you will arm them with the exact skills they need to perform for you.” 

CEO of Serocor, Mike Gawthorne suggests taking a bold step and removing the CV from the process can have a positive impact on recruiting the right talent: “Line Managers can make too many assumptions based on the CV, so by the time a candidate arrives for interview they already have preconceptions about that individual. We have taken this step ourselves and some of our future top achievers have come through this process.” 

Attracting the right talent today and tomorrow 

“You need to have a strategic long-term approach in terms of marketing, but there are clever tactical things you can do, if you are prepared to try new things,” explains Dave Hazlehurst (otherwise known as ‘Google Dave’). 

He gives a recent example of an organisation that had an immediate requirement for 120 developers and used Facebook Dark Posts (for every £1.50 spent they received a CV, the same process using Google would cost £37 per application). “You need to understand where your prospective talent hangs out online, what makes them tick and what you are going to say to them.” 

Hazlehurst stresses that the recruitment industry is not about placing people in jobs, but about creating life changing moments for the individual and their family, and this needs to be acknowledged and reflected in how organisations market to, engage with and inspire their prospective talent pool. He strongly urges recruiters to seek out ways to engage emotionally with their talent pool, quoting Simon Sinek, who in his now famous TED Talk says: “People buy why you do it, not what you do.” Hazlehurst compares Apple and Dell, both successful companies but one leads with why the other with what. Today, Apple’s market cap is approaching $700 million and legions of brand evangelists around the world. “Think about why you do what you do and lead with it.” 

This is supported by an REC survey which asked people to list their most important life decisions. 77% of respondents put finding the right job at the top, ahead of getting married, deciding where to live and starting a family.  “We need to put people at the very heart of the process,” adds Mallinson. 

Look at the talent you already have and what you can do with it 

“As well as attracting new talent take a close look at what you already have,” suggests Holliday.  She makes the point that there is often an assumption that people will want to join and stay with an organisation. Hadley warns employers to be aware of the changing attitudes to work: “There is still a perception that everyone wants a permanent full-time job.” 

Having a clear understanding about what current and prospective employees want, their motivators and attitudes can have a big impact on where an organisation chooses to invest in its development. “Do you invest significantly in your millennials when actually you may only have them for two or three years? What about the ‘older’ talent that wants to stay? What opportunity and career paths do you provide for them?” asks Holliday. 

It is important to find the right balance. The Director of Policy and Professional Services at REC, Tom Hadley points out that organisations need to be mindful of the demographic of their organisation, citing the experience of a large utility company that was shocked to discover as much as 20% of their workforce would be retiring within the next few years. “You need to think about the pipeline in order to compensate for people leaving the workforce.” 

Hazlehurst agrees: “If you are only thinking tactically it is too late! As this war gets harder you have got to start thinking smarter and more long-term.” He adds: “You need to be ‘owning’ your community and engaging with it, becoming their best friends. Helping them for today, tomorrow and the future.” 

Work with specialists in recruitment 

Spending more time, effort and resource to attract and retain talent is clearly a message that is being understood.  “The recruitment industry is growing because there is a realisation that it isn’t all about cutting the costs of recruitment,” states Hadley. He points to the specific need to educate medium-sized businesses who are fighting the larger companies with deeper pockets for marketing to new talent. However, he is positive about the future, explaining that the Federation of Small Businesses has signed up to REC’s Good Recruitment Campaign. “I think there is going to be a big debate in the next few years around how we help smaller businesses grow by recruiting the right staff.” 

The growth in the number of people choosing not to take a full-time permanent position (one in three people having worked as a contactor at some point during their career, and 41% currently considering it) could work in the favour of smaller organisations. It would enable them to bring in the skillsets they need as and when they need them. 

Crucially organisations need to form alliances with those who have the armoury to help them to build their brands, attract and retain the right people, implement learning and development programmes, ultimately winning the war for talent and in doing so, gaining the competitive edge. 

Click here to watch Google Dave share his top three takeaways from the event! 

Click here to watch Paul Mallinson share his top three takeaways from the event!

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