HR under pressure on recruitment

With more accountability of HR departments and growing skill shortages in a number of sectors, Melissa Yen examines how HR professionals are making the most of their recruitment budgets and taking a more strategic approach to recruitment and overall workforce planning

With more accountability of HR departments and growing skill shortages in a number of sectors, Melissa Yen examines how HR professionals are making the most of their recruitment budgets and taking a more strategic approach to recruitment and overall workforce planning

There have been a number of major developments in recruitment for HR professionals over the past few years, according to specialists in the market. The persistently low unemployment rate and the fast-approaching demographic squeeze are two of the most telling recruitment developments since 2001, according to David Owens, associate director of Staff & Exec/HR Partners. There is also growing sophistication and effectiveness in using technology as an enabler of talent attraction and management, Owens says, so technology is playing a more critical role.

On a global front, Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), where an external commercial entity manages talent acquisition from the external market as well as internal mobility, is becoming much more popular, Owens says. “In the past five years, there has been some uptake among Australian organisations of the RPO-type solution, but there remains a demonstrated support for the in-sourcing of recruitment activities, where specialist teams of internal recruiters act in the market to supply an ever-increasing percentage of recruitment needs to a business.” In Australia, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Commonwealth Bank, Coca-Cola and Optus, to name but a few, have all embraced technology enabled in-house recruitment strategies, focused upon external and increasingly internal recruitment and mobility, he says.

Chris Le Coic, director of HR Matters, also says the impact of technology has been a key development in recruitment over the past few years. “Externally, this has seen the introduction of job boards such as Seek, CareerOne and MyCareer. This has led to a reduction in the volume of recruitment advertisements appearing in the newspapers. Hence the two major newspaper groups established their own job boards to try and stem this loss of revenue,” he says.

According to Le Coic, technology has also had an impact internally, with recruitment companies and corporates utilising a variety of applicant tracking systems to manage applications. Many corporates have also developed their own websites in an attempt to attract applicants.

In the recruitment consulting industry, there has been a trend towards the larger, global businesses acquiring the smaller and medium-sized companies. There have also been a number of listings on the local stock exchange – none of which have had anywhere near the impact that the Morgan & Banks listing had in the 1980s.

The rapidly decreasing labour market has also had major ramifications for HR professionals, according to Julie Mills, CEO of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA). The shrinking candidate market provides opportunities for a much greater need of recruitment specialists, who have the skill and the resources to ensure that clients’ needs are being met from a broader search and assessment strategy – in order to capture the untapped workforce, both here and abroad. “Recruiters have taken these challenges as positives in their business opportunities, and are delivering a focused talent management service to clients and a career management service to candidates that provides sustainable outcomes for all parties,” she says.

As a result of this, Mills believes candidates are expecting more from their recruiters, and are becoming far more aware of their value so candidate care and communication is becoming a higher priority. With an increase in workforce diversity, she says there is a need for recruiters to be able to develop effective HR strategies for their candidates and to be even more skilled and professional in their approach. Recruiters are specialists in people management, she says, and these skills need to be continually reviewed and assessed as the needs of the market change – so training and skill development become an essential requirement for ongoing success.

Talent management, both of recruitment staff and candidates placed in client positions, will also be a key challenge over the coming year. Effective talent management, whether through training opportunities, return to work rehabilitation, preventative strategies, workforce health management or team-based work models, will be seen as key tactics in retention strategies. When there is a shortage of candidates, retention becomes crucial.

“The tightening of the labour market has led to HR professionals focusing more upon retention and talent management strategies, as it becomes tougher to find talent externally. Many companies have created new HR roles designed to put more emphasis upon these critical areas,” says Le Coic.

Owens claims that the shortage of talent in today’s labour market is underpinning the drive towards greater flexibility in working conditions as well as the hyper tolerance of part-time labour. “We also see that there is enormous support for workplace diversity and that this has moved from theory to reality. Diversity will mean more than just gender and race, but will absolutely mean age as well. In future ‘grey will be good’ and will get even better. Organisations will have to embrace all sections of the community as sources of talent as well as customers,” he says.

In terms of what the future holds for recruitment, Le Coic says the number of external job boards will increase, particularly the development of specialised sites. Decreased use of newspapers for recruitment advertising will also continue, he says.

“There will be fewer recruitment companies as consolidation continues and the smaller ones begin to find it difficult to survive. More companies will outsource recruitment as they seek to focus HR on more strategic issues,” he says. “The ageing workforce will also see more of a focus placed upon how to effectively utilise this talented pool of labour, most likely on a project basis.”

Dedication key to recruitment

Recruitment, particularly for medium to large organisations, requires a dedicated focus from its HR professionals, according to Angela Horkings, director of The Next Step. "Many HR functions now have specialist recruiters that manage the systems, brand and relationships. Line managers are being continually developed in recruitment practices as HR generalists adopt a coaching role," she believes. Will this continue moving forward? As is often the case with HR and recruitment, Horkings says the strength of the economy will determine many future trends. "For the time being, however, it looks likely like a blended approach (both internal and external recruitment) will continue, with technology being a platform to support rather than drive the process. Employer branding will need to be strong, and not just tell a 'good story' but substantiate its promises," she says.

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