The future of HR – How the future of work is affecting recruiting? — Talent Design
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The future of HR – How the future of work is affecting recruiting?

Talent Design’s Co-Founder Kikka Hellsten was interviewed in a podcast series focusing on the future of HR. The podcast is published by Duunitori and Aki Ahlroth, Content Producer, Columnist, is interviewing different influencers in the HR field.

The drivers shaping the future of recruiting

After introductions, and Kikka stating about her passion about the theme of future of work, the discussion was turned to what the largest drivers that are changing the future of recruiting. Kikka identifies shortage of talent, which is seen most clearly in the IT sector; the expertise economy, including the concept of expertise on tap, which reflects to getting exactly the expertise you need, even without having that niche expertise internally; aging in general, which also means the aging of your expertise; technologies and tools, including robotics and AI; the rise of gig economy and a more diverse and multilateral workforce, which raises the question of how to ensure that the quality remains as good as in traditional employment.

Another large factor influencing the future of work are the changing expectations. Different generations have a completely different approach to work and different expectations. The purpose of work has gotten a new significance and that bring pressure on the employer image and even to the importance of corporate culture. Constant learning, which Kikka refers to as “learning as a lifestyle”, is also increasing in importance as the industries evolve and the employees have to develop their skills accordingly.

Are we prepared for the change?

After identifying the drivers, Aki directs the conversation to recruiters and how well are they actually prepared for these changes. According to Kikka it is not just about the competence of the recruiters, as there are extremely talented recruiters, but a more holistic point of view, which entails the company’s management view, the HR management’s view and the outlook from the recruiters. If all three of these could be aligned and get them working well together, the results would be accordingly great and result in a holistic recruiting strategy. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in a large number of companies. Too often these three points of views are seen as individual opinions. Recruiters should be more confident is becoming advisors and more strongly suggest different approaches compared to the traditional employment, such as the use of freelancers, platforms, etc. Also solutions could be M&A to acquire a specific competence, conducting the task at hand remote or oversees, the main point being a shift from an operative recruiter into a more advisory type of approach.

Recruiters have the will to change things, but companies and management are not ready to try a new approach and diverge from the traditional way. This results often in recruiters not bringing the new approaches ahead and shifting to the a more traditional way of thinking. In conclusion it is quite often the work environment that restricts the new way of thinking and approaching the issues.

The importance of a Talent Strategy

Aki brings in an example of a previous company, where the CEO of the company had thought of recruiting as an even more important task than sales. Kikka reflects this to industries where the human factor is the main asset of the company, and yet, the significance of recruiting is not always noticed. The conversation moves how to actually get the importance of recruiting to the agenda of the top management of the company and Kikka mentions that it always does come to the awareness, but the problem is that it usually comes too late, when there already is a shortage. At this stage it is often already hindering the company’s growth, in worst cases preventing it. This further emphasizes the importance of a talent strategy, which would reflect the company’s growth targets. Too often the growth strategy and the talent strategy are done completely separately (assuming they are both done), which then results in them not correlating with one another. This results in a reactive way of recruiting, which leads to chaos and undoubtedly to unwanted results.

Is the Talent Strategy another statement of a future vision?

Aki mentions of a study that 80% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key expertise in the organization. According to the studies the understanding of the need and importance of recruiting is realized, but it does not lead into action. Kikka reflects this into a quite common dilemma in companies, where too often the business and HR are considered as two entities with completely different targets, and she strongly disagrees with this type of thinking. The business’ goals and targets should be unified with HR and working together to accomplish them. This could be the turning point for the future of work.

A smart CEO will identify this a challenge and a company should ensure that the company narrative, reflecting to the employer image, can have a large impact on the “shortage of expertise”. If other companies in the industry are getting the talent they need, there is quite often something wrong with the message you are communicating. To ensure you are doing the right things, a good talent strategy is required as a guideline for your actions.

A good talent strategy also needs to be one, that can be changed as the environment, growth plans, and targets change. One cannot do a three-year set strategy, even though it is always good to have long term vision. Building a good strategy always starts with the analysis of the current state, identifying the gaps that the company has at the moment, from which it is then easier to build a functioning plan for the future.

Aki challenges strategies, which these days are quite abstract and hopes that Talent Design will get more concrete actions into talent strategies in the future. Kikka concurs with the suggestion and explains how a strategy is based on concrete actions and the importance of the fact that it is actually functioning. If something is not working, the company has to also have the ability to stop and change the course of action. A strategy cannot be something sacred that cannot be changed, vice versa, it has to evolve once other thing advance.

Should Talent Acquisition even be part of HR?

Kikka had mentioned earlier to Aki that Talent Acquisition could be completely separated from HR. The discussion turns towards what did she mean by this, as it is quite a strong argument from someone who has been working and leading the HR function most of her career. Kikka further clarifies, that what she meant was the talent acquisition should be led properly. Too often when it is under HR, there is a link missing for example towards marketing, even employer branding can be separate function, and most importantly the link to the businesses is too weak. As a concrete example of the missing link she mentions cooperation with educational institutions, and how this is often managed by someone from HR and is more forced to the business, rather than someone from the business side to take the lead and see as something that they want to drive and build further.

This idea does not diminish the importance of HR or the link to talent acquisition. HR plays an important role in onboarding, development, etc. and is crucial for the employment lifecycle to work. So, the emphasis is on the three working together, business strategy, talent strategy and HR strategy. Kikka gives an example of a model more commonly used in the US, where talent acquisition is quite often directly under the CEO as an own entity. Of course, the employment lifecycle and environment are drastically different in the US than compared to e.g. Finland, so they are not directly comparable. The point of the discussion was to get companies thinking out of the box and how things could be organized differently, not in the traditional way of having recruiting under HR. Talent Acquisition could be for example placed under the strategy function, as it plays a crucial role in the strategy, or it could be its own entity.

Companies do differ a lot, so there definitely does not exist one model that would fit all. For example, a rapidly growing startup/growth company, most probably does not have HR. This is not a priority of a CEO building a new growth company, rather the focus is on the business strategy and too often someone who does not have the needed experience, is also taking care of recruiting. In this case the focus is, or should be, turned towards how to get a well-functioning talent acquisition to support the growth plans, rather than building a HR function, where one of the teams would be focusing on recruiting. In some cases, companies believe it is the same thing and one person can handle it all, but this rarely is the case. Often HR experts are not recruiting experts and vice versa.

The changes will reshape the traditional model of work drastically, and this will have an enormous impact for business, HR and talent acquisition. Kikka sees HR also going through a massive organizational change as well. Some elements will remain, such as the HR director, leads for certain crucial functions, but more and more services will be bought from the outside and get towards the expertise on tap model.

The role of the management in Talent Acquisition

Aki begins the conversation with asking how talent acquisition should be organized, if it would be for example under the strategy director. What Kikka emphasizes is that it should be on the agenda of the management team on a regular basis. Too often in organizations, for example the CEO, does not have the visibility to recruitments, what is going on, how many recruitments do we have active, are we getting the right expertise, etc. This leads to the importance of a constant dialogue between the management team and talent acquisition. This would enable a more proactive way of working and not reactive, as mentioned before resulting in chaos. So do bring the talent discussion to your management team early enough!

How could this then be brought to the attention of the management? One aspect Kikka mentions is the use of data and making recruiting more transparent. This enables better planning as well and gives the management the tools to use in designing the talent strategy. Too often companies go behind the tools and systems, blaming that things are not possible because we do not have the right tools and data. Of course, the will to change and make things work is essential and helps in overcoming these obstacles.

Advice to future recruiters

Last, but not the least, Aki asks Kikka about what advice would she give to future recruiters? Kikka has four points:

  1. Stay relevant! Keep your expertise relevant and up to date, get involved and learn about what is going on in the field. Keep up with all the newest trends, technologies, and new tools.
  2. Have a constant conversation with your counterpart in the recruitments, be it HR, hiring manager, management, and bring forward new solutions and approaches and try to think outside the box.
  3. Be brave! Life is changing, work is changing, so we need to change as well. You need to earn the advisory type of role and respect.
  4. Do your research well! It is the basis of a good recruitment, and by research, it does not mean purely finding the right people, but also expanding it to find new approaches and solutions.
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