“Technology and Personalised Engagement Will Be the Key Enablers for Next Generation of Talent Acquisition”: Q&A with Caleb Baker

August 31, 20168:05 am1647 views

Understanding how use of predictive analytics has transformed the talent acquisition function in organisations across Asia Pacific, to exploring challenges to effective employer branding and how this is pivotal to defining an effective talent acquisition strategy, HR in ASIA seeks insights through a candid conversation with Caleb Baker, Managing Director – APAC & Emerging Markets, Alexander Mann Solutions.

Together, we delve into the sourcing strategies to attract passive talent, the need to outsource talent acquisition function to third-party suppliers and using right channels to communicate employer value proposition to different age demographics and seniority levels, while predicting futuristic trends in talent acquisition, retention and management – Vision 2020. Read on…

  • Take us through the market specific challenges to talent acquisition in developed markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia, in comparison with the developing ones in Asia Pacific?

According to the recent research report, ‘Transforming the Talent Acquisition Function’, by Alexander Mann Solutions, the three biggest challenges that developed markets in Asia Pacific face today are:

(1) Establishing and communicating corporate brand and enhancing candidate experience

(2) Finding the right sourcing channels, and

(3) Effective utilization of technology and automation.

When we observe emerging markets, we notice that they face significantly different challenges such as talent shortage and fierce competition for competent and trained employees. In addition, robust talent pipelines have yet to be developed in these markets. Hence, most companies are still focused on reactive recruiting, as opposed to proactive recruiting.

Emerging markets also have high employee turnover rate – attracting and retaining talent goes beyond salaries and bonuses. The average turnover rate in China in 2015 was 17.7 percent, an increase of 0.3 percentage points over 2014, according to a recent survey released by 51job.com, a major Chinese recruiting website.

Caleb Baker, Managing Director - APAC & Emerging Markets, Alexander Mann Solutions

Caleb Baker, Managing Director – APAC & Emerging Markets, Alexander Mann Solutions

  • What are the six key levers that influence the design of talent acquisition function? How can organisations leverage on them?

The six key levers that influence the design of talent acquisition function are:

  1. Structure & Capability

In Asia Pacific, the HR function is rapidly developing, moving away from being a department of tactical operations to a more brand-focused, candidate-focused and strategic unit of the organisation. Adopting a specialized structure within HR has become common, such as dedicating resources to talent acquisition and talent development.

As highlighted in the recent research report titled ‘Transforming the Talent Acquisition Function’, 44% of all the companies surveyed stated that part or all of the talent acquisition process within their organisations are outsourced to a third party supplier, in order to achieve the level of specialization required to deliver talent acquisition targets.

For companies to remain competitive in this market, an understanding of the latest acquisition trends and needs is imperative. Four out of five companies (82%) surveyed strongly agree that “having access to the right channels and audiences to attract new talent” is an integral part of the ideal talent acquisition process. This is followed by “making sure your organisation expresses and has a strong brand as an employer of choice in your sector” (78%).

  1. Brand and Experience

43% of HR executives listed ‘brand and experience’ as their number one challenge among all six levers. We believe that one of the most significant factors contributing to this challenge is the need to communicate an employer value proposition that differs across a large range of age demographics and seniority levels.

Half of the surveyed HR professionals are either unsure or believe that there is no difference in how they should communicate the employer value proposition based on seniority or generation.

However, we believe that these organisations are missing out on an opportunity to differentiate their company from the competitors.  Organisations should implement a proper structure to ensure consistent brand experience for employees across all demographics.

Marketing, Public Relations and HR department in organisations have a significant collaboration opportunity to communicate a powerful message to employees. Working more closely together can help organisations develop employer value propositions that are consistent with their consumer brand.

  1. Sourcing

After ‘brand and experience’, sourcing is considered to be the second biggest challenge that HR executives face. Coming back to the importance of understanding the latest trends, organisations that fail to do so will be less competitive when it comes to attracting and securing the right people and competencies they need.

Adopting new ways of acquiring talent and having access to the right channels are key challenges faced by the talent acquisition professionals in Asia Pacific today.

Among all sourcing channels, internal referrals are still utilized by most HR executives surveyed (80%), followed by social media (78%) and paid job boards (76%).

Using social media such as LinkedIn, Facebook and WeChat for talent acquisition is on the rise today, and organisations are seeing the business benefits that social media can offer, for more efficient sourcing results.

  1. Technology and Automation

Technology plays a critical role in ensuring the effectiveness of the talent acquisition process. Virtually all of our respondents utilise or have utilised online job listing boards (95%). However, more professional technological tools such as pre-hire assessment, talent management software and Candidate Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) are adopted at a relatively low rate today.

Mobile technologies – such as smartphone apps – are perceived to be the key emerging technology trends in talent acquisition. The potential to engage candidates via mobile is extensive, ranging from mobile-friendly company websites to interacting with candidates using messaging tools.

  1. Data & Analytics

Data and analytics software tools are used for various purposes within organizations. While only 18% of HR executives surveyed are currently using data and analytics software tools during the talent acquisition process; 58% of the surveyed HR executives state that it is important to use data and analytics to identify high potential employees inside an organization.

Just under half of the respondents strongly agree to the importance of data and analytics to measure the performance of the talent acquisition function itself.  58% of our respondents stated that ‘systems, process and infrastructure to drive data and talent analytics’ is the biggest challenge facing organisations.

Again, this indicates that implementing the right structure and set-up is pivotal to any organisation.

  1. Assessment

60% of the HR executives surveyed currently use assessment tools in talent acquisition – of which, structure interviews, personality tests and tests of general cognitive ability are the top three pre-hire assessment tools utilised. On the other hand, use of more dynamic forms of assessment is not as common.

We believe that there is ample opportunity for improvement as HR professionals continue to explore and adopt mobile technologies.

  • How welcoming are organisations in Asia Pacific towards embracing change and outsourcing talent acquisition function to third-party service providers?

Findings from the ‘Transforming the Talent Acquisition Function’ APAC research report state, 44% of all the companies surveyed outsource either part or all of the talent acquisition process within their respective organisations to a third party supplier.

The outsourced talent acquisition function has also evolved – outsourced functions are not just restricted to the sourcing/hiring that organisations require, but it also covers the entire talent lifecycle from strategic workforce planning, employer branding, technology consulting, pre-employment assessment consulting and training programmes, to on-boarding and employee engagement.

In-house HR professionals are able to pick and choose specific RPO services they require – and this has certainly helped in embracing the outsourced function.

According to our perspective, organisations in Asia Pacific are more open to Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO). 44% of all the organisations surveyed have outsourced all or part of their talent acquisition function to a RPO service provider.

Outsourcing to third-party service provider has many benefits such as:

  1. Reducing time and staff workload: This enables HR department to be more strategic with their time and resources.
  2. Scalable option: The RPO service provider can leverage both near-shore and offshore resources, thus enabling them to provide scalable resources to meet demands of the HR department, while keeping costs low.
  3. Flexibility: As the RPO service provider can provide full permanent RPO services and also support contingent worker hiring. These solutions provided can be used as standalone offering or as a holistic blended solution.
  4. Innovation: Last but not least, RPO service provider understands innovations in the market place and is aware of new techniques, technologies and ways of working. This could help drive positive change in the HR department.

See: Using Predictive Insights for Data-Driven Talent Acquisition, Sourcing and Engagement

  • How important is the corporate brand and candidate experience to define an effective talent acquisition strategy?

From the research report, 43% of surveyed HR executives state that corporate brand and candidate experience is the number one challenge among firms. Employees today are looking for factors beyond salary and positions.

This requires the talent acquisition function of any organisation to adopt an increasingly wide range of skills while becoming more strategic in its approach. This goes beyond transactional areas.

  • What are the key challenges to effective corporate branding faced by organisations across the globe?

Brand and experience is the number one challenge cited by our respondents among all levers. We believe that one of the most significant factors contributing to this challenge is the need to communicate and employer value proposition that differs across a broad range of age demographics and seniority levels.

An age-diverse workforce with growing discrepancies even within the same generation is becoming common in today’s workplace. Generations X, Y and Z, exhibit very different characteristics and attitudes towards work in general, requiring different approaches when it comes to communicating the employer value proposition.

The same is true for employees at different levels of seniority, where the expectations and modes of message delivery must be carefully thought out in order to ensure positive employee engagement.

Another challenge with communicating employer value proposition and branding is that, there are many internal stakeholders for branding (example: marketing), as well as many different perspectives (example: employee vs. customer vs. candidates).

Hence, it can be difficult to effectively communicate an employer brand that is consistent—or at least complementary—to the company’s broader brand promise, and which resonates effectively with all candidates at all levels.

  • How can HR managers communicate the employer value proposition effectively to an age-diverse workforce with different sets of experience?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach in communicating the employer value proposition to a broad range of age demographics and experience levels. Instead, HR departments should thoroughly research and build candidate ‘personas’ according to the segments of their workforce.

For instance, to engage the millennial generation, it is imperative for HR professionals to go beyond the usual tried-and-tested methods of using platforms such as company career portals and LinkedIn, and look into using avenues like social media for optimal engagement.

Building candidate ‘personas’ also includes identifying individuals’ preferred channel of communication, location, personal and career motivation, as well as their preferred company culture. This collated information can be used to help HR departments attune their employer branding and messaging approaches, while aiding to develop customised messaging those appealing to potential new hires.

  • Besides sourcing talent from digital platforms, why should companies invest in insight-led sourcing channels customised for both active and passive talent pool of candidates?

Insight-led sourcing provides organisations with greater opportunities to access qualified, interested and available talent for roles.

Understanding the dynamics of the market, the supply and demand factors, and the demographic considerations will aid in gaining insights into the expectations of the candidates, thus enabling organisations to define the approach, which will best attract the talent needed to fill vacancies.

Segregation of sourcing activities for both active and passive candidate markets is crucial, as these markets require different approaches.

When sourcing from the passive market, organisations need to identify, nurture, activate and engage talent through the process. Traditional research and headhunting techniques are now being supported by a range of social sourcing tools such as Entelo, HiringSolved, Swoop and Avey.

Active candidate market sourcing requires organisations to create compelling and attractive sourcing strategies across all hiring types, with both social/digital and offline execution.

  • How can organisations measure the effectiveness of sourcing channels to ensure ROI on sourcing activities and avoid unnecessary costs being incurred?

Before new strategies are put in place, organisations must clearly articulate the ROI they expect to see from these changes. They must also take a granular approach, by analysing cost-benefit in order to assess whether new strategies are effective or if it should be changed.

  • How can predictive analytics and psychometric assessments help churn out the right talent mix to best fit your organisational culture and business demands?

Predictive analytics and psychometric assessments enable improved quality of hires by screening candidates with a high probability of successfully performing what is required from them(example: achieve  their sales revenue in their role for at least 12 months), at the same time, it also screens candidates with a low probability of performing what is needed.

Once candidates with high probability of success are identified, the recruiter can begin their regular interview process.

This helps the recruiting department to focus their limited time and efforts to interact with higher potential candidates and also improve the quality of hire, through greater precision and relevance.

  • Tell us more in detail about the transformation in hiring witnessed by organisations harnessing predictive analytics capabilities?

Predictive analytics helps businesses reap many benefits – an example of these benefits would be when Alexander Mann Solutions was engaged in September 2014, to manage Rolls-Royce’s Early Careers Recruitment attraction and recruitment campaign across China, India and Singapore.

Using predictive analytics, we conducted online test administration, screening and Assessment Centre scheduling delivered by an offshore team.

Towards the end of the campaign, almost 2,500 applications were screened in less than six weeks. Of these applications, over 2,000 candidates administered online or classroom tests. Predictive analytics thus facilitated efficient screening of larger volumes of applications and eventually resulted in 95% of interns and 84% of graduates offer accept rate.

  • What are the emerging trends in talent acquisition in the Asia Pacific region and prediction for the future – Vision 2020?

According to insights revealed at Alexander Mann Solutions’ Catalyst summit in 2015, technology and personalised engagement will be the key enablers for the next generation of talent acquisition and management strategies.

Technology will yield a range of innovative possibilities, from creative video job postings and search engine spiders to new mobile and social media tools for personalised engagements. With these emerging tools, we need to look at adopting tools like mobile and real-time data to empower insights and strategies with the end-user in mind.

Findings from our recent APAC research report sheds light on three important requirements for talent acquisition in the coming years. These include:

  • Having the Right Talent Sourcing Channels

82% of respondents think it is very important to have the right sourcing channels to reach the right audiences, in order to attract new talent.

Insight-led sourcing provides organisations with greater opportunities to access qualified, interested and available talent for roles. Understanding the dynamics of the market, supply and demand factors and demographic considerations to gain insights about the expectations of the candidates, will enable organisations to define the approach, which will best attract the talent needed to fill vacancies.

  • Have Clear Corporate Branding

78% of respondents regard strong brand as the second key requirement for the talent acquisition department. Being perceived as an employer of choice in the industry will help attract quality candidates.

  • Having the Right Organisation Set-Up

77% of respondents think it is necessary to have the right organisational structure and resources in place to bring in more talent.

The future is focused on talent pipeline management. Talent acquisition leaders must proactively engage across all business functions to understand and assess their talent needs for the next 1-3 years. Based on this assessment, they must then design and build a talent pipeline that engages potential talent before business needs actually arise, and remain constantly engaged with the talent pool.

The technical skillsets required for an organisation’s future development are always evolving, especially in the IT sector. Talent acquisition specialists need to ensure they stay attuned to where specific skills sets are available, both in-region and globally, in order to engage them in the local markets where they don’t currently exist.

Consider enlisting professional support for the more strategic and long-term talent acquisition functions, such as employer branding, as it is one of the key components to developing a successful corporate talent acquisition and retention strategy.

Also read: Unleashing RPO Potential in Asia: Q&A with Mehul Rajparia on Talent Acquisition Strategies

Image credit: wespire.com

Disclaimer: This exclusive interview coverage and content is produced by HR in ASIA. Any redistribution or reproduction of part or all of the contents in this interview is prohibited. You may not, except with our express written permission, distribute or commercially exploit the content.

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