Posted by: Simon Hunt

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Talent Talks – Digitalisation

In a new series of Oakleaf Talent Talks, Managing Director Simon Hunt examines key changes in talent acquisition, their potential impact and economic consequence in the current and post COVID-19 landscape. Simon is joined by industry leaders from the talent acquisition world, Paul Powell, Tom Baker and Mani Kumar.

Three key areas of discussion revolved around digitalisation and the use of technologies in talent acquisition, quality of hiring and the impact of COVID-19 on recruitment, and the employee value proposition (EVP).

We start with the first of this three-part series, Digitalisation.


Even before COVID-19 the future of talent acquisition has been focussed on the advancement of technologies to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Back in 2019 LinkedIn carried out a study highlighting 7 key areas of development and change in the TA landscape. Four of those areas (Calculating business impact of hiring, Improved tech improves performance, Analysing talent data and Team structure (more talent analytics specialists) are all intrinsically linked to the technology used and the data that it provides.

I do not think it is any surprise to hear that TA functions struggle at times with the challenge that broad brush HR systems don’t excel in recruitment. The scale of the sign off for these products, that are multiyear investments, mean that functions need to sweat their assets as much as they can. It would seem that whereas there is much talk of new and innovative technologies in the TA space, the focus in the current climate is to look inwardly at the current “tech stack” and ensure that firms are utilising what they have better. There is no doubt that the Covid world has accelerated thinking as well as adoption of technologies – everyone’s use of Teams or Zoom clearly highlights that – we now cannot work without it. With the inability to have in person face to face interviews or run large assessment centres firms have had to roll out organisational wide capability for virtual interviewing.

Video interviewing technologies are now more commercially viable to use in volume so where historically the solution might have been cost prohibitive there has definitely been a shift allowing firms to adopt them more easily.

It is also worth noting that in this sort of climate access to budgets for new products is likely to be a challenge, even non-existent – a luxury many of us simply will not have. Equally the onboarding process has gone through accelerated adoption too – the virtual process is now a must and people have adapted their thinking. This may be no bad thing - Paul Powell mentioned that people were actually getting more from their virtual inductions than they were before – better quality 121 time, teams, and departments more open to inviting people to meetings and town halls. It raises the question: are people in general (internally) more accessible / available to meet virtually?

 Tom Baker discussed how Lloyds Banking Group have embraced technology to support their approach to graduate hiring. Of course, going on campus to do the milk round is not an option so Lloyds came up with the idea of “Explore LBG” – creating a virtual world or rather organisation, that graduates can experience and see LBG’s HQ, visualising life at Lloyds first-hand. This is potentially more than any graduate would get in a process where graduate recruiters go on campus and therefore raises the possibility of milk rounds becoming a digital process and experience in the future?

Organisations have felt the pressure from increased volumes of candidate applications – especially in the retail sector and one action is the evaluate the outcomes firms are looking for. Where assessments like situational judgement tests are part of the application process these have needed validation to ensure they are fit for purpose. With increasing volumes of candidates cut off, scores potentially need to be raised (without discriminating) to reduce the volumes of successful candidates progressing. Virtual assessment can help ensure some degree of consistency across an organisation if it is adopted correctly.

Another important aspect of the direct hiring methodology that has come to the fore is the candidate experience. The technologies surrounding careers pages and applicant tracking systems have and still do need to improve to ensure that candidates get a clean and efficient (time sensitive) experience when applying to organisations directly. Historically the speed (and sometimes process methodology) behind these systems has been too clunky which deters or loses good talent after the initial attraction has been achieved and before you or the organisation can really impress. Some firms are recording and tracking “time to apply” rates.

The “adoption of technologies” in a Talent Acquisition function has been mentioned a few times already and Mani Kumar mentioned a valid point – new technologies can be exciting and have fantastic capabilities to improve the existing offering – be warned though that the outcomes will differ widely depending on the size, scale, and complexity for the organisations as well as where the company is from a TA evolution perspective. That dreaded word “implementation” remains a massive challenge. Effective implementation takes time, and no business will stand still for a recruitment system so making your system fit for purpose and keeping pace with business change can be very difficult. Is the secret keeping it simple? If you can invest in a product outside the box and influence from a TA point of view rather than broader HR, then build a business case for a product that focuses on functionality and user experience.

There is also the need for recruitment functions to understand what they can do better with the data their system provides irrelevant of what actual system they have. Often the data is there, it is whether it is understood?

Tom Baker added “the world of recruitment needs to be more analytical and precise about what we do”.

Lloyds Banking Group have had a big drive on the use of AI and data analytics in resourcing. They actually have a team of data scientists in the TA function to analyse their data better. This is particularly important when you set public targets as they have with their “Race for Action”, with the need to understand attraction capability, talent pipelines and fall out rates. Are we capturing the right data in the application process (supporting the ATS point mentioned earlier)? The diversity challenge is that some key information is not captured because it remains optional for candidates to offer it to prevent bias – where is the solution here?

How easy is it to analyse resourcing data? There are clearly some metrics that are easy to convert but talent attraction is not a straightforward transaction. There are many intangibles that need to be considered. Diversity, engagement, selection and experiential values do not give you a simple ROI and these softer, less tangible requirements have not yet been commercialised well through tech to prove their worth.

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