Talent Acquisition Timebound

4 Things I Learned About Recruitment in 2016

I’m not great with predicting the future. I was pleased to be involved in a webcast with Firefish Software just before Christmas to gaze into an imaginary recruitment-focused crystal ball – but I was a little rebellious. I predicted 2017 would be largely the same as 2016, with some minor changes. Go me. My crystal ball was on the blink.

What I do believe in, is rolling with the punches on being light on my feet. I value what I learn along the way, and ensuring that I am agile enough to evolve easily. So I’d rather look back at what I learned in 2016 and hope it gives some guidance to others, or ignites discussion as to the real life changes in our industry, rather than the mystical ones.

And another thing. I find that innovation comes less from technology, and more from behavioural change; in my opinion. Our challenge is to adopt technology that supports the evolution in human behaviour on a grander scale.

So I’m looking back at 2016. I had a great year. Starting with taking in the Cape Town England v South Africa test in January, and ending in keynoting at HRTechFest in Melbourne, Australia. In the interim, I got to speak and work in Oslo, Amsterdam, Zurich, Edinburgh and Prague – and I might add – had a lot of fun doing it. The best year of my working life. The plight of Europe, the US Presidential race, Bowie and Prince merely were background noise in me getting on with my own stuff.

It was the first full year since stepping away from my agency, CloudNine. My work moved predominantly in-house, and went very much down the avenues of focus and expertise I strived. Talent Attraction, Digital Talent Engagement, Exec Personal & Recruitment Branding, and Content Marketing for recruitment. Bingo. There were other great things that never materialised as I’d like, but then there’s always next year, and the next…

1. My 1st learning of 2016 is around PURPOSE

As I wrote earlier this year; so much of *my* purpose came to life, when I started to understand how the primary energy of talent attraction is aligning purpose, commonality and natural magnetic effect. I’d done it for years, but had never had it articulated effectively as watching Simon Sinek’s terrific TED talk. It also, as my article presents, posed the question of purpose in recruitment. Why the hell does anyone care about we do? Or do they just need us, when they need us – and then “see ya!”?

2. Recruit fans, not just candidates

This was a genuine eureka moment for me. Of course, in portions we’ve been doing it for years. Alongside the ‘purpose’ and ‘culture’ matches, there are other areas of commonality we need to consider. The first, I believe, is ‘does the candidate care one jot about what you (or your client) do as an organisation’. I mean *genuinely* care. Recruitment is hamstrung by the need to fill jobs. When companies are in the trap of chasing candidates to fill jobs, then the board agenda is broken. Progress needs people, but not just any people. Commonly, recruitment teams are responsive to hiring any people to fulfil the pursuit of business progress. Fire-fighting a hay barn. Rarely focused on planning talent attraction of the *right* people, that care about the business.

People are more judgmental and cynical than ever about authority, business, profitability and expressive in their dissatisfaction, thanks to social media and society change. If we target people who already care greatly about what we do, then we collectively build companies of like-minded people, who believe the same things – thus increasing satisfaction on some level.

Where do you find these people…? Well, they are on your digital doorstep. In fact, what if they are actually on your CRM…? Food for thought. (Talk to me!) Moreover, it’s focused, and it’s fun. And for B2B I am asked? – well that’s where I did it first.

3. This one is the most stark… Nobody gives a damn about recruiters!

Oh really? I only learned this in 2016, I hear you say? Yes – I did.

Of course, there is plenty of noise about candidates and HR people hating recruitment people in agencies; and even in-house, the recruiters can be a pain in the arse. But this facade of disgruntlement is merely a drop in the ocean of the real challenge.

What if the C-suite of your company (in-house) doesn’t care who you are and what you think? What if recruitment is merely a support function that can be outsourced, cost-reduced, or even more pertinently – replaced by robots? Is that ok? If you think it is, then you horribly miss the point, and in doing do, seal the fate of recruitment as a viable profession. In September I was at the LikeMinds innovation conference with CEOs, C-Suite people, innovative thinkers and change agents. Each CEO or Founder named the biggest challenge to growth, as the retention and recruitment of the best people. Of 150 people in the conference, only one person representing the Recruiting, Talent Acquisition or HR fraternity. Me. Really?! How can we be significant, when we’re not even at the same table as the CEOs who say that the biggest achilles heel in their organisation, is the very function we provide?

4. Finishing back to a more positive note, my 4th learning is the word ‘GOOSEBUMPS’

Seems strange, but it matters. For this I must give credit to Dave Hazelhurst from Ph.Creative. I read his book ‘Getting Goosebumps’ on my flights to and from Australia and found that he articulated what we used to call ‘The CloudNine Effect’ when I ran my agency. Everything he and Bryan Adams write, I nodded my head at. (That’s Ph.Creative’s Bryan Adams…. not the other one!)

Dave talks about how marketers consider how they can be ‘delighting’ customers; creating experiences that are memorable, and in turn enhancing the brand. Those moments when you create great memories, significant events, and sometimes even fragments of notable insight – depends what turns you on!

Forever more, branding is essential in recruitment marketing and talent attraction. If people care more, if people are more cynical, and seeking more purpose – then we need to speak to them with the values and identity that warms their hearts, makes them *want* to work for us, and with us. I found that this doesn’t primarily come from fussball tables, fresh fruit delivery or creating a ‘fampany’ (vomit) – but from the key people, the quality of your work, or your product. People join companies because you excite them, and they can see themselves working there. So when you seek to attract talent – what are you focusing on? – are you focusing on tasks, or on the people and the purpose of the work? Don’t worry if 80% of people don’t care – you’re only going to choose 5% of the people anyway. The right ones.

So in essence, these were my key learnings of 2016, and the basis of how I communicate with businesses, conferences and conversation on where evolved recruiting is going. They are re-affirmation points, rather than new discoveries, or anything formed by new tech. Tech too often merely makes bad recruitment into more automated bad recruitment. For example, Indeed Prime tells us it will allow a developer to apply for 100 companies in one click. WTF? Where’s the added value in that? The soul behind why we do what we do, and how – matters more in the first instance. Find your optimum operating method, and choose the tech that supports that. There’s great tech that makes the identification and engagement of prospective fans/candidates more natural. Clue: it doesn’t involve job boards.

I hope this has been useful, and for companies looking to grow in 2017, get in touch with me and discuss how I could help. (whoa, there was the soft sales bit…)

Have a great year people. I had an awesome 2016, when I forget what the greater world struggled with. Make your own paths, with the people that can make it matter. Good luck.

By Steve Ward

Steve Ward has been recruiting for over 20 years, and following running his innovative agency CloudNine for 10 years, Steve returned to consulting and now works as a Talent Attraction Strategist for growing companies, helping build effective employer branding and social communications strategies.