Innovation in Recruitment Summit 2013 – Review

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Last week I was  acting as Roving Reporter for UKRecruiter, at the Innovation in Recruitment Summit 2013 at Canary Wharf, London.  Here is his my event review..

Thirteen years ago I wrote a business plan, which included my predictions of how the recruitment industry would evolve, accompanied with the appropriate graphics to make it clear. However I got my projections entirely wrong. What I had predicted to become commonplace by the year 2003, is only just happening now, and certainly not industry-wide. It turns out that the wheels of progress turn much more slowly than I could have imagined. Mind you, in the 70’s they predicted we’d all have hovercars by now.

I recently attended the Innovation in Recruitment Summit in CanaryWharf (subtitled: Examining the latest strategies in RPO and digital recruiting), and saw that much of my old predictions had come of age at last.  In contrast to a CIPD event I attended in July, the guests and speakers were predominantly in-house resourcing and recruiting managers rather than HR Generalists.  This, of course, meant that they were almost entirely focused on recruitment for their organisations, and that many had themselves worked as commercial agency recruiters at some point in their careers. I may be biased (as an old-school recruiter myself) but I think this was evident by the purposeful, agile and innovative ways each were applying themselves to meeting the challenges of identifying and acquiring top talent in very competitive markets.

The first three speakers of the day, Jacques Bossoney of assessment and retention specialists, Kenexa,Greg Allen of Lloyd’s Register, and Tony Mancino of Autodesk, all explained how the imaginative and inventive use of technology was key to the strategies they use and recommend. What was also clear, was that their use of technology meant that there was far less reliance on the interview as the primary consideration in hiring someone. If you think of the recruitment process as an iceberg, the interview would be the tip, the only visible part to the candidate. However the attraction, assessment and selection processes have meant that in large part the interview is less important than it was. Whilst not quite a formality, the decision to hire could be made just as accurately without it.  This was further reinforced byNigel Toon and Gareth Evans of Allied Bakeries, who have the enormous responsibility of continually recruiting very large numbers of staff in the £12k to £35k salary band throughout the whole of the UK. In order to drive wholesale, and quite dramatic change in their processes, they deliberately cut in half their recruitment budget. This brought innovation to the fore, and the processes are now robust enough to give local line-managers what they call “Licence to Hire”.

Andrew Wilson, Head of Resourcing and Workforce Planning for Visa Europe (and Ken Bruce sound-a-like), favoured a less dramatic path, explaining how aggregating a large number of marginal gains in his recruitment processes has led to big changes overall. Or, as they say in Scotland, “Mony a meikle, maks a muckle”.  Processes favoured by all employers present included Candidate Self-Selection, where greater knowledge of the employer, the culture and the job goes a long way to dissuading inappropriate candidates, and leads to a consequently higher application to hire ratio.  Additionally, the provision of a recruitment process guide for candidates really helps to manage expectations, and maintain quality standards.

One very interesting presentation by Chris Taylor of SABMiller, the world’s largest brewer, veered into the subject of in-house recruiters themselves of coming, as they tend to, from commercial recruitment agencies. Given that the recruitment function falls under more formal Human Resources departments, there appears to be a glass ceiling on career development for such recruiters, who are less likely to have HR generalist training or CIPD membership.

Thankfully, the technology and maturity of the marketplace has made this much more viable than ever before. The Innovation in Recruitment Summit demonstrated that many leading, heavyweight employers are making their way down this path, and reaping the rewards as a result.  Overall, this was an excellent; very much an eye-opener for me, and very revealing about current and live case-studies of successful recruitment innovation.

Getting back to that old business plan. I predicted that employers would wake up and start to take more control of ongoing recruitment back from the agencies they had been paying large fees to. Fearful of losing that expertise and intimate market knowledge, they would instead contract with a selected agency to be a formal recruitment partner, and work exclusively under the employer’s brand. The agency’s brand would be irrelevant, and all applicants would be collected and managed in a “talent pool” purely for the use of the employer, and not added to the agencies database. As the employer’s partner, the agency would then be free to advertise “as” the employer brand, and have responsibility for managing all applications from all sources, and be integrated with future resourcing plans. .