In a world of increasing automation, the role of an HR leader is more important than ever, writes Kylie Wright-Ford, who says HR leaders need to take a number of steps to adapt their talent acquisition strategies to the new world of work
As the options for talented candidates increase, due to the gig economy and the ability to use technology to seamlessly access new job opportunities, the stakes have been raised for companies competing for highly skilled employees.
Yet many good companies and their leadership teams are deploying talent acquisition strategies that have been static for decades. We are in a new world of work but are we making urgent enough changes to the way we identify, source and retain talent and “future-proof” companies?
In the new world of work, tech advances and demographic influences are bringing a tsunami of change. Not only will 50 per cent of the workforce soon be millennials, bringing a cocktail of welcome and unwelcome cultural influence, the automation of repetitive tasks means companies are rethinking the roles they need now and in future with greater focus than ever.
Consider for a moment a report released in 2015 by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) on the future of work. They concluded that computerisation and automation would replace 40 per cent of roles in the Australia work force in the next 15 years – surveys in Asia, Europe, the US, and the UK predict a similar narrative. And the roles that are left will look vastly different.
Great companies will endure and succeed because by adapting to the environment and “future-proofing” themselves. They will be adept at envisioning scenarios that will affect their ability to survive and even thrive then taking urgent action.
HR leaders are uniquely placed to be the change agents that leadership teams need in this pursuit. They can positively influence the way that talent is selected, retained and rewarded – a hotly contested domain – which will be even more so in the future.
“HR leaders are uniquely placed to be the change agents that leadership teams need in this pursuit”
Hiring in the new world of work – the game has changed but we haven’t
For any leader, hiring employees is arguably one of the hardest things you have to do. The process of talent acquisition and hiring for key positions can be gruelling and mistakes are possible: working with imperfect information and taking risks on culture integration. And the game of talent acquisition has changed with rapid tech advances and demographic disruption making
As an HR leader, you have a significant influence on; the process, the vision for the talent needed for the future and the culture of the company. Yet I have met hundreds of leaders and talked to them about their talent acquisition practices and very little has changed in the last 20 years.
We are using the same interviewing methods and techniques. Candidates are being treated as if little has changed, and the reality of a multigenerational workforce is not being tackled urgently enough.
Candidates have more options that ever in the new world of work
Today, it is easier than ever for candidates to identify new job opportunities. As an HR leader, you need to concentrate on hiring new talent, while still keeping your current employees engaged – some of who may spend their lunch breaks looking for new jobs on their smartphones. According to a 2015 jobvite survey, job seeking is now a 24/7 activity: job seekers search for new positions on mobile devices during their commute (38 per cent), on the job (30 per cent) and even in the bathroom (18 per cent).
Not only is it easier than ever to look for a job, but also the trend towards a “gig economy” is accelerating. The term ”gig” originated in the music industry but has now taken on a wider meaning, as people are breaking away from steady employment in search of freedom and flexibility by becoming freelancers.
According to the freelancers union, there are currently 54 million people in the US working freelance in some capacity and there are now sophisticated platforms to match talent with opportunities in real time.
As an HR leader you will need to embrace these trends, understanding not only how to work with members of the gig economy, but also to adjust your talent acquisition strategies and attract steady talent to your cause or company knowing that the best candidates have more options than ever.
“Candidates are being treated as if little has changed, and the reality of a multigenerational workforce is not being tackled urgently enough”
Evolving your talent acquisition methods for the new world of work
In today’s multi-generational business landscape, managers are hiring from a wide-ranging candidate list comprised of people with many different skills and backgrounds. Yet many companies still rely on relatively ad-hoc hiring methods that are slow, prone to biases and not candidate friendly. To succeed in the new world of work, HR leaders can be the change agents to lead talent processes that are:
1. Enlightened in the interview process. Hiring managers should carefully include others in the interview process to help mitigate against their own biases and build a team that brings unique assets to the table (instead of hiring “mini-me’s”). Ideally, the people they include are widely read and informed, see context as important to any situation, and draw on more than their own experiences to make decisions.
2. Dynamic in the hiring process. As an HR leader, you must be ready to enable efficient decisions on potential hires and help your leadership teams understand that the game has changed. Hire early, fast and deliberately. In a world where the best candidates are more coveted than ever, discipline is needed in the process to avoid a feast and famine cycle of having to desperately ignite a candidate pipeline when you are starving for talent or being complacent in good times.
3. Uber-communicative throughout the talent process. Leaders must use all communication channels available to identify, select and communicate with candidates and employees. We live in a social world and the way leaders conduct themselves will signal their culture, the calibre of your leadership and your future-readiness. Proactive communication on the progress of an interview process cannot be stressed enough, it is both good etiquette but also a signal that you are serious about your talent strategy.
Your next hire could raise the performance and output of the whole team – or contribute to its demise. Even if you aren’t in an industry where artificial intelligence or robots are likely to replace large swaths of employees any time soon, the pressure to have the best possible team at all times is at historic highs and HR leaders have a unique opportunity to help future-proof their companies through forward-thinking talent acquisition strategies and practices.
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