Digital Transformation, Empty Pockets, and the Future of Talent

September 22, 2020 Mark Condon By Mark Condon

After months of economic uncertainty, budget cuts, layoffs, and hiring freezes, many organizations began to question the relevance of talent acquisition. Companies reduced their internal recruitment teams, and the demand for external talent acquisition solutions dropped as well.

In short, the influence of cost-control and survival took over, and organizations were understandably willing to put their future workforce strategies on hold. Despite the rollback on talent acquisition, companies are turning a corner and realizing that to survive and succeed, they still have to … you guessed it, acquire talent.

And to get ahead in securing the right skills, they need to make sure they change in ways that future-proof their recruiting functions. To weather whatever an unpredictable tomorrow brings, they must be able to do more with less, do it better, and deliver outcomes that count. Technology will have to be part of the equation.

Suppose your organization is looking at how your future talent operations will develop. In that case, you likely feel the pressure to balance the realities of today’s cost-driven environment with the need to invest in maturing your talent technology footprint. How do you make a case for the digital transformation you need?

There are many questions. Where do you start? What can you achieve? How do you get sponsors and stakeholders on board? Here are four points that can help you address these questions and position your digital transformation strategy, and your talent function, for a successful future.

Futureproof Your Talent Strategy

1. Let Go of Old Talent Acquisition and Embrace What’s New

Many people are not hiring back their talent acquisition functions yet, and they think, “Now we have a blank slate. Do we want to rebuild the same thing again?” Progressive companies, including workforce solutions innovators, began rethinking the traditional talent acquisition model long before the pandemic struck. Now is a good time to put that innovation to work.

Rethink the Work and the Resources to Do It

First, think about the roles being recruited and how work gets done. Are they truly what you need? Reconsider the relationship between the resources you need and the work to be done, including the potential for flexible workers, outsourced services, and permanent hires as options.

Second, look beyond the recruiter-as-superhero model. Don’t look at general recruiters as the center of talent acquisition. Today, the recruiter role is a salesperson, marketing person, data person, and candidate experience person wrapped up in one. We expect them to be superstars every day. But this can be broken up. Create roles that are feasible, even if they are more specialized.

Look at Technology as an Enabler of People

Get serious and systematic in your approach to data and technology strategies. After all, technology will provide the needed visibility to see all resources to get work done. And technology will give people in the recruiting process the power to do their jobs well.

Through automation and data-driven intelligence, the potential is available to power a talent function to thrive in a world of mass data and high expectations. These needs for visibility and automation, and the associated digital transformation to bring them into reality, are already in play.

2. Apply Design Thinking to Bring Digital Transformation to Life

Buy-in for digital transformation leads directly to the most difficult question: Where do we begin? Many organizations stumble out of the gates when launching a talent technology initiative for one simple reason: they start with technology.

Now, more than ever, organizations can change the technology conversation in a positive direction. Look forward 12 months. What is the right mix of technology and people that will position your organization to secure the right workers and resources, and the right time and cost? Do you need to own the technology or leverage it through partners? How do you build an optimized function?

telemeetingThe answers to these questions begin with design thinking. Diagnose the current state of your processes, and the technology and people involved, and measure the gaps. Create journey maps to understand the experience that current stakeholders encounter. Develop blueprints of the experience you want to create. Design the model and gain user feedback.

Above all, use a systematic approach to determine the current state, the gaps, and the priorities for addressing your needs. A structured roadmap provides the foundation to accommodate adjustments on demand while keeping the entire effort on course.

3. Put the Right People First in Your Talent Technology Strategy

One of the most common stumbling blocks for any technology strategy is the lack of a clear user-first mindset. Digitizing talent acquisition is no different. The features of the technology will not define the success of a digital transformation, but the experience of the people involved will. In the talent acquisition world, that strategy begins with three users: the candidate, the hiring manager, and the recruiter as a talent advisor.

The Candidate

By now, many organizations have made some progress in improving the candidate experience. And yet, challenges remain that were confronting applicants for decades: complicated application forms, no communication from the employer, and simple mistrust that the opportunity is real and current.

The people and the technology have to be in place to give candidates an easy, fast, and responsive experience. Above all, candidates need a realistic preview of the job. They can learn by video. Candidates can assess their own skills and truly determine whether the job is right for them. Creating a compelling virtual environment is paramount, and current conditions are making that possible.

The Hiring Manager

The success of the recruiting process is owned, to a large degree, by the hiring manager. An engaged manager is someone who trusts that the talent function and technology will deliver a candidate who matches the work at hand, and do so with predictable timelines and reliable quality. Toward that end, collaboration between the hiring manager and the recruiter or talent advisor is everything.

Does the system in place have the visibility to introduce hard data about talent availability and timing? Can the talent advisor have an informed interaction with the hiring manager, along with the data to push back if needed to adjust expectations, job requirements, or other factors? Where are the issues and unknowns, and how can they be bridged? The answers to many of these questions fall into the hands of the recruiter or talent advisor who represents the talent function to the hiring manager.

The Recruiter as Talent Advisor

In a noisy digital world, perceptions of recruiters range from negative to superhuman, depending on whether you’ve had a bad experience with one (the former) or actually are one (the latter). The reality is that the demands on the recruiter do lean toward superhuman. As mentioned above, a general recruiter needs to be a marketer, salesperson, career confidante, data and technology wizard, expert in the field being hired, and corporate consultant.

No one is good at all of these things. Fast forward to a redesigned, digitized talent function, and the same role can be executed by technology experts, marketers, and sourcing experts, to name a few. The rest of the work — of being a guide to both the candidate and the hiring manager — can fall to the new recruiter, known as the talent advisor. It’s a role that is realistic, and human, and doesn’t require superpowers to succeed every day.

4. Don’t Leave Near-Term Wins Out of the Business Case

Wait-and-see should not be an option when it comes to launching a digital transformation. But no case can be made without promising some level of positive cost impact — not for year two or year three, but something that is a win in year one.

Blame it on the times we’re in, but no digital strategy will survive without the promise of near-term value. Unfortunately, the year-one opportunity is not always obvious, and there is no single formula for identifying where that immediate value lies.

AGS_CM2020_Q3_NA_US_AB5Consider all the metrics. Look at your business strategy and see if there is an opportunity to anchor the case to one of the goals. Suppose agility is a pillar of your organization’s strategy. In that case, how do you demonstrate, right now, that certain changes will position the organization to shift to new skills, new engagement models, or even locations and departmental structures, quickly and seamlessly?

If you can link a business problem to a data point, the case will be compelling. For example, we found that a company could achieve real savings in an area not traditionally seen in the scope of talent management: the contingent workforce. By managing that workforce supply at an enterprise level through a managed service provider (MSP) solution, they could achieve savings to help fund investments to get their digital transformation effort off the ground.

Looking Ahead: Bringing Digital Transformation Opportunities to Light

The companies that aren’t on board with digital transformation today will eventually need to bring their workforce engagement processes up to speed. They just don’t know it yet. Others understand the need to move forward but don’t know where to start. That’s where I hear a lot of questions from companies. And, of course, I love to hear them because solving these problems is what we do.

Consider the questions at hand. Can you look beyond time-to-fill and cost-per-hire to include post-hire metrics on retention and performance? With the right structure and technology, that is possible, and now is the time to set that up. Can you reach all available talent, including current employees and the flexible workforce, to meet changing needs with more speed and agility? By aligning talent mobility and visibility across the traditional and flexible workforce, you can.

These questions represent just a few of the value opportunities companies have before them as they face a relatively low immediate demand for talent, a reduced talent function ripe for a fresh rebuild, and a wealth of technology options to bring digital transformation to life.

The time is ripe for change. Don’t wait for all the answers. Just start asking questions. Get your digital transformation conversation off the ground. When business moves into a next-normal world of growth and competition for skills, you’ll be glad you did.

are your talent and workforce strategies ready for the new future

Mark Condon
Written by Mark Condon
Mark Condon is a pioneer in the evolution of Talent Services including HRO, RPO and MSP. As our Managing Director of Global Client Solutions, Mark leads a dynamic team responsible for consulting, solutions design and strategy for new client contracts globally ensuring solutions meet client needs and are differentiated and compelling. With 20 years of experience in the recruitment industry and 15 years of that time dedicated to the design, sale and execution of Managed Services in the US and APAC. Mark’s experience covers all aspects of RPO from consulting to solution design, sales, commercial management, implementation and operations. Mark earned an MBA at the Melbourne Business School in 2010 receiving the Dean’s commendation for Execution of Strategy. Mark’s other qualifications include a Bachelor of Arts (Literature and Psychology) and Bachelor of Business (HR).