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Talent acquisition strategies need to adapt to a new world, panel tells APSCo conference

Talent acquisition strategies need to adapt to a new world, panel tells APSCo conference

Conference in association with Henley Business School

Over 190 delegates attended

Talent acquisition strategies need to adapt to the post-credit crunch reality, a group of distinguished panellists told delegates at the annual APSCo conference on October 7th 2011.

Over 190 delegates attended the day-long event, which was hosted at the Raddison Blu Hotel in central London. The event was hosted in association with the prestigious Henley Business School and sponsored by Income Made Smart. Exec-appointments.com, part of Financial Times Recruitment Solutions, was media partner.

The panel consisted of Peter Whitehead (Editor, FT Executive Appointments), Marc van den Berg (Head of Delivery, OgilvyOne), Piers Robinson (Global HR Director, Fitness First Group) and Tom Marsden (Director of Professional Services, Alexander Mann Group).

The panel was asked about whether recruitment practices had become more or less process-driven during the downturn as the supply of candidates had increased.

Marc van den Berg of OgilvyOne said that in a creative industry, such as advertising, bureaucratic recruitment processes could hamper finding the right talent, so there had been a continuous battle to simplify procedures despite the greater volume of candidates in the marketplace.

Peter Whitehead agreed, adding that process-driven recruitment could be too blunt a tool to spot the right candidate. It’s the difference, he said, between & lsquo;mowing’ and & lsquo;cherry picking’. Outside very specialist areas, such as science, skills shortages were largely a product of flawed recruitment processes, he argued.

Fitness First Group had taken a different approach. As a high volume recruitment business it had found it necessary to introduce more procedures to streamline the recruitment process. Over half of job applicants used to receive no response from the company – an issue which the company has now addressed by introducing new software.

The panel was asked whether the recruitment process had become more technology-dependent during the recession. The idea of & lsquo;disintermediation’ – using technology to remove the recruitment intermediary - was first mooted during the dot com boom, but delegates wanted to know whether the recession had accelerated that process.

Surprisingly, the panel was unanimous in saying no. Tom Marsden, Director of Professional Services at Alexander Mann Solutions, said that while technology can be a useful tool for sifting large quantities of CVs, it is fundamentally a blunt instrument that cannot replace human judgement.

Peter Whitehead agreed, but warned that finding candidates through referrals, such as the & lsquo;old boys’ network’, could be an equally flawed way to recruit.

Marc van den Berg said that OgilvyOne used very little technology in the recruitment process. Advertising, he said, was about creativity, which is a quality that technology simply cannot measure. For senior-level appointments, recruiters were engaged about 50 per cent of the time.

Fitness First Group still used print advertising, and also made extensive use of head-hunters to attract senior-level people, according to Piers Robinson.

A good way to reduce the need for technology to sift through large volumes of candidates is to reduce the number of applicants, Peter Whitehead pointed out. Employers and recruiters, he said, should simply make job applications more time-consuming. By putting more hurdles in the way, only serious applicants would apply.

Despite the global financial crisis, businesses are still adapting to the challenge of recruiting and retaining Generation Y candidates, the delegates were told. Talent shortages remained an issue - even with the number of candidates available.

According to Marc van den Berg, employers need to challenge Generation Y candidates, allow them to engage with the business, and even let them participate in defining their own goals, such as creating their own key performance indicators. Recognising that they will want to make use of technology, such as social media, through their work is also critical to recruiting and retaining generation Y candidates.

Peter Whitehead agreed, saying that businesses are likely to have to adapt to the expectations of Generation Y, rather than the other way around. Young people, he said, work in more collaborative and less hierarchical ways than many senior-level people, and organisations will need to change working practices as a result.

Piers Robinson concurred. He pointed out that the average age of staff at Fitness First is 25, so the company is grappling with the issue of how to recruit and retain Generation Y candidates on a daily basis. The company, he said, had moved away from a & lsquo;command and control’ culture to one which is more collaborative in order to reduce the high churn rate and boost retention.

Delegates took home a complete workbook of the day with a disk containing all of the presentations.

Ann Swain said “We aimed to create a top end, content rich event, and the completed feedback forms, suggest that we succeeded.”

Other speakers at the conference included:

Russell Clements (Chief Executive Officer of SThree): Globalising SThree – what we would have done differently
Edward Obeng (Professor of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Henley Business School): From possibilities to opportunities
Dr Elena Beleska-Spasova (Lecturer in International Business, Henley Business School): International business strategy: regional or global?
John Nurthen (General Manager Europe, Staffing Industry Analysts): If the world is our oyster, where are the pearls?

Delegates then attended one of the following international focus sessions:

&middot         Germany

&middot         China

&middot         Netherlands

&middot         USA

Delegates then attended one of the following specialist sessions:

How do you fund your business internationally?

Andrew Watson, Partner, Squire Sanders Hammonds

Immigration considerations when setting up a business abroad

Rose Carey, Associate, Squire Sanders Hammonds

Using franchising as a model for international expansion

Paul Monaghan QFP, Director, The Franchise Training Centre

Setting up overseas offices – a legal perspective

Rosemary Nicholls, Recruitment Compliance Specialist

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