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Learnings from the HCI Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference

Strategic Talent AcquisitionLast week, I had the pleasure of attending the HCI Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference in Boston (SmashFly was an underwriter).  It was a fantastic conference with lots of great learnings and an attendance of some of the most knowledgeable HR and talent acquisition professionals.  That it was in our own backyard put the icing on the cake.

Here’s my recap of the people, sessions and insights from the conference.  With some takeaways that I think were valuable:

The People

Great conferences are not seen just about the sessions but in the networking and conversations that happen at the conference.  And this never happens unless the right crowd in attendance that are looking to learn, share and engage with others.

It was great to meet and re-connect with a number of folks but here’s a great collection that were at the event: @ThisIsLars, @ACExplainsItAll @ewmonster @NickHerbold @GlenCathey @HireVueJosh @SusanLamotte @sullivanmarkd @mddelphis @TalentBrewer @CindyMcGregor2 @PaulBunda @annissad @DavidALee @MikeGaniere and many others.

Conference Insights

Telling a Better Talent Acquisition Story

A big theme of the conference for me was a focus on recruitment strategy not only in terms of filling job requisitions but in better identifying talent acquisition’s role within the business.  There were several sessions discussing how they were able to become valued business partners in their organization and how they could better communicate they value talent acquisition provides to senior level management.

In all these sessions, the importance of metrics and data takeaways in terms of communicating this story internally was immense.  Annissa Deshpande from AECOM (Keeping Pace with Radically Changing Global Talent Pool) brought up a great point on measuring the capital investment Talent Acquisition was responsible for by taking the number of hires/year multiplied by average salary.  Simple but very true in terms of resources and something that the business will have to listen to.  Using this and other key metrics from their recruitment marketing strategy they’ve helped to communicate with management as well as get employees better involved in recruiting.

In Michael Ganiere‘s session Identify, Prioritize, and Fill Mission-Critical Positions, he talked about the organizations dedication to understanding critical roles for their business partners internally.  By looking at data on job title, function, month hired, geography and diversity, they were able to determine which roles the recruiting team needed to proactively recruit for in order to meet business needs.  The key here was identifying the right data to determine these roles and ensuring the accuracy of the recruitment metrics used.  This has helped Johnson Controls better communicate and respond to hiring managers based on workforce needs.

Operational excellence and new strategy and processes in talent acquisition don’t provide any kudos from the organization without the data to support positive results.  In Tearing Up the Rulebook: How Honeywell Rebuilt Sourcing from the Ground Up, Adam Forbes talked about how they have overhauled their sourcing and recruiting process to improve the communication and engagement they have with candidates and the efficiency of their recruiting team.  And while the process was very interesting, it was Adam’s focus on capturing the right data to prove value in the process that really caught me.  Any project to improve talent acquisition processes needs a way to capture data to determine success.

Engaging Candidates and Employees with Social Media

If you haven’t watch Erik Qualman’s video series on Social Media, watch this.

Social recruiting sessions are always a packed house at HR conferences.  Some are helpful and others are not.  Lars Schmidt‘s presentation Rethinking Recruitment: NPR’s Brand Ambassadors was in the former category.

With limited budget and great brand name, Lars needed a way to spread the word on why candidates should want to work at NPR.  And Social was a great free way to do this while getting their employees to help spread the word (please note, social takes time and is only free in the sense of $).  You can see his presentation slides here for more details on his NPR Social Recruiting case study.

I won’t rehash everything but I want to ensure I hit on a few points.  First, NPR is a very unique situation.  They have a very socially inclined employee base that produce a lot of quality content (one of the hardest parts of a social strategy.)  And as Lars mentioned at the beginning of his presentation, this works at NPR but everything that works there won’t necessarily work at your organization.

Second, the real key with social is to figure out what works for your organization.  As Lars points out, it’s not about using all the platforms that are available from Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest to LinkedIn to Instagram to all the new ones opening up every day but it’s about figuring out the best platform(s) to attract the audience you are looking to recruit.  This will happen through research, trial and error and consistent measurement but the key here is to not try and be all things to all people.  Focus on the right social channels for your candidate audience.

A Move to Recruitment Marketing

This is a post for another day but I heard the term “recruitment marketing” used a lot during the conference but in a number of different ways and contexts.  For me, recruitment marketing is the totality of the pre-applicant attraction process.  It is the comprehensive term that has many sub-layers underneath it that we need to also focus on.  Similar to Talent Management, recruitment marketing is an over-arching category that includes employer branding, social recruiting, strategic sourcing, candidate experience, talent networks and everything else you do to attract (and source) candidates to your jobs.

Now that I’m off my soapbox, marketing strategy is becoming a much bigger part of the recruitment puzzle.  And that means better messaging, a more comprehensive and diverse strategy (with various channels) and most importantly actionable data to gain true insight into what works (and what doesn’t).

David Lee from Amazon (CLASSIFIED: US Army Strong Campaign Marketing Secrets) did a great job of sharing insights from developing the Army Strong campaign and trying to attract candidates to join an organization that was often mis-defined.  In the Army Strong campaign they needed to not only overcome myths about the military (such as “7 of 10 American youth don’t meet the minimum eligibility requirements to join the service”) but also figure out a way to share the unique benefits of joining the service so candidates could make an educated decision instead of dismissing the opportunity.

To accomplish this, they identified the 6 principles on why candidates joined the military and the value it provided.  It was then time to share these value propositions which were done through ad campaigns and enhanced through social media.  The key to their social recruiting strategy was setting the stage with the tagline “Army Strong” and then letting active and former military run with what that meant to them.  They trusted their employees to share and promote this message and were rewarded.

I’m a big proponent of thinking more comprehensively about recruiting and their were a few presentations that really embraced this approach.  In Boston Scientific Case Study: A Strategic Approach to Delivering Results, Reducing Cost and Increasing Efficiency and Optimize Recruiting & Sourcing Effectiveness, Boston Scientific’s Debra West and Thomson Reuters John Qudeen, respectively, shared their comprehensive recruitment strategy and how they have been able to leverage technology to execute and measure the results of everything (never use data based on candidate self-selection) they are doing from a recruitment marketing perspective.  It was interesting to hear their experiences on the sources that provide the most value to their organization and the different channels they are using to find qualified candidates.  This is definitely where recruitment strategies are headed.

In both cases, they leveraged and integrated multiple point solutions in order to ensure centralized execution and data capture throughout their process including SEO Career Site solutions to CRM to Job Distribution.  This obviously took a lot of work and effort to get set-up at their organizations.  But it doesn’t have to be that difficult.  Technologies such as Recruitment Marketing Platforms provide this comprehensive functionality providing out of the box integration between SEO, Mobile, CRM and Job Distribution within a centralized solution.  This ensures interoperability of solutions while being able to provide full visibility of all the channels you use in a single location.  If you are interested in this, check us out.

Video Interviewing is here to stay

Video / digital interviewing is one of the hottest and most talked about categories in the HCM space.  And for good reason as it clearly helps organizations save time and money helping organizations better screen and be more efficient in the interview process.

There were 3 video interviewing sessions at the conference however the one that I liked the most was Robert Mader’s How North America’s Second Oldest Retailer Uses Digital Interviewing for Sourcing, Screening and Ensuring Culture Fit.  Robert shared how he used HireVue to speed up hiring of management candidates to their stores (they have a really unique company strategy).

There were a few points during Robert’s presentation that I thought were important.  First, they use digital interviewing strategically in a process that is very well thought out.  And they use it in two very different ways.  They first use it to record candidate answers to a defined set of general questions (same questions for everyone to remove bias) and use this to make screening decisions.  Once they make decisions on who moves on they then use live interviews with managers to evaluate high potential candidates.  The key here is to really think out the process to really understand where to use it.

The second point is that the focus is usually from the company’s standpoint but these video interviewing tools can also help to improve the candidate experience and are a huge opportunity to enhance the employer brand in a candidate’s mind.  If done right, it’s not just time and money savings that you will receive but also candidate’s buy-in in wanting to work for your organization.

Moving past the Status Quo

It’s obvious that the world of recruiting is changing.  The next generation of talent is arriving and their needs, values and skill-sets have changed.  And organizations that are recruiting the way they have always done are falling behind.  Not only do we need a more strategic and comprehensive approach to recruiting with the metrics to steadily improve how we attract qualified talent but we also need to change the way we engage and promote our organization to candidates not only in our recruitment advertising but in the opportunities we provide to qualified talent.

In Attract, Engage and Retain the Best Gen Y Talent, Dan Schawbel took a look at the changing nature of candidate wants especially with Gen Y including the need for meaningful work, career development and recognition.  And he brought up some good points on the need for better internal development (internal hires typically more successful than external) and ways to potentially engage current employees such as through intrapreneurship.

The War for Talent is a bit overused but I like how Dr. John Sullivan put it in his presentation Bold, Aggressive, and Risky Recruiting: “You must accept that you compete against ALL top branded firms.  Firms like Google, Facebook and Apple.”  It’s a very true statement, it’s not just your immediate competitors that you compete with in recruiting but every potential organization.  Hiring great people is every organizations goal and as he mentions, great employees earn you multiples more than just average ones.  Dr. John Sullivan then shared a lot of cool perks and stories of organizations and what they provide to employees (GooglePlex, Whiskey Friday’s at Dropbox, etc.).  The message here is not that you need to provide these perks but moreso understand what your employees and desired candidates value and finding interesting ways to provide them value outside a good salary.

I’ve been a fan of Seth Godin for a long time and I will often read his book “The Dip” whenever I need to be inspired.  I was incredibly excited to see him speak in person and his session Invisible or Remarkable? Tips From Seth Godin’s Best-Selling Books didn’t disappoint.  In traditional Godin fashion, he spoke about pushing the boundaries and going against convention in how we attract talent.  The talent needed to push future business forward you need employees that are willing to take risks, want to solve interesting problems and can lead others.  In order to find and attract these candidates, we need to better engage and communicate the value our organizations provide and give these employees with the resources and opportunity to do great things.  Overall, it was great food for thought as we recruit.

That’s it for the learnings I had from the conference.  If there are any I missed please feel free to connect with me on Twitter @smashfly

About Christopher Brablc

I'm the Recruiting & Marketing Geek at SmashFly Technologies and help recruiting organizations improve their recruiting process and results. Follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/smashfly or connect with me on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/chrisbrablc

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