Regional Talent Acquisition Leaders Meet to Discuss the Optimisation of the 'Modern-Day' In-House Recruitment Team

Hosted by: Shell

The Chapman Consulting Group and Shell today co-hosted a senior Recruitment Head roundtable discussion for 12 participants. Regional Staffing leaders from high-profile multinationals in the IT & Telecommunications, Oil & Gas, Financial Services, Pharmaceuticals and Industrial sectors met over lunch at the Shell Singapore headquarters to discuss the topic of “Optimising the Regional Talent Acquisition Team at a time of Heightened Market Positivity”.

The Issue of Scale

Participants started off the informal meeting by discussing how their recruitment teams had fared during the downturns and upswings of the previous two years. Some had survived better than others. The best news was shared by those companies who had a smaller footprint in the Asia region. For them, there wasn’t much to lose, and while recruitment numbers may have plateaued slightly, it didn’t require large-scale redeployment of existing large recruitment teams.

For the larger companies, the situation has been considerably tougher. In one company, the recruitment function had risen to very high levels of sophistication before the economic slowdown, to the extent that it had been sub-divided into three sub-teams, comprising of Sourcing, Marketing/Attraction, and Recruitment Operations. This structure worked well when recruitment numbers were high, but became hard to keep intact when recruitment numbers ‘fell off a cliff’. In another company, the problem lied not with the downturn, but with the upswing — this company relied heavily on contingent recruiters, so it could easily downscale during the economic slump by simply not renewing the contracts of temporary recruiters. But now that the market is turning, it is hard for this company to attract top quality recruiters back in-house, because their reputation was affected by the dramatic cut-backs.

The group concluded that in so far as it is possible, the recruitment team must continue to keep a focus on high performance even during a downturn, and try as hard as possible to avoid a situation where the recruitment function needs to be collapsed entirely into the HR generalist structure.

The More Important Issue of Scalability

The ‘Golden Egg’ of the recruitment profession is to have a high class recruitment platform that works at optimum service delivery standards in times of feast, famine and everything in-between. There are many factors that can affect the ability of the recruitment team to successfully reach that goal. In the case of one participant, the prime factor was in the company’s inability to accurately forecast hiring needs — despite its scale of operations, it seemingly didn’t have the right workforce planning metrics in place to allow the recruitment team to properly plan ahead. In another company, the inhibiting factor was in the sophistication of recruitment tools, and in the inability for the region as a whole to adopt standardised platforms and shared systems of operation. This has precluded the company from truly optimising the shared services model that they are hoping to adopt.

In short, there is no ‘quick fix’ to the debate about scalability, and all the participants agreed that it’s the nature of the beast that the same recruitment teams that are so invaluable during times of growth are the first to get winnowed down when their services are no longer in demand. The only thing that can be done is to try to find top recruiters other jobs elsewhere in the business during these times. In one example, the business realised that in-house recruiters can make excellent direct sales people, so they could be reapportioned to sales teams relatively easily. In another example, there were M&A projects that recruitment practitioners could be redeployed on. However in both of these examples, there still remains the problem of bringing them back into the recruitment
organisation once they’ve proven themselves invaluable in those other fields! So there were no magic solutions presented to this conundrum.

The Career Path of the Modern-Day Recruiter

This subject of redeployment of Recruitment talent led the conversation naturally into the theme of internal career paths for modern-day in-house recruiters. How to keep a successful recruitment team intact, motivated, and moving forward is just as thorny an issue as hiring the right people for your team in the first place.

In more than one organisation represented around the table, talented recruitment professionals could be retained within the organisation by creating exciting international career paths for them. Doing the same role but in a different country, with a different team and with entirely new market conditions, can be just as rewarding to a recruitment professional as in rotating them into another specialisation in HR or in the wider business.

In another organisation, the company was able to see four types of recruiters, and could deploy them into roles that played to their strengths and passions. So long as they were kept focussed on their key areas of interest, they could be retained for longer periods of time. These types were as follows :

  1. The technology-focused sourcing types, who can be given a job description and can data mine for the ideal candidate;
  2. The Account-Manager types, who like nothing more than to meet with internal clients and network with external potential hires to successfully fill open positions;
  3. The operational types, who enjoy more of the process management and systems
    optimisation work to help bring greater efficiencies into the recruitment team; and
  4. The employee branding types, who like to work on marketing and advertising initiatives to help build the overall corporate profile.

However, the most creative solution to the longer-term career path of the in-house recruiter was simply by devising a rich and lucrative variable bonus plan. In this example company, in-house recruiters were motivated to stay within the profession by offering them access to very similar bonus potential to that of external agency recruitment consultants. Using a smart system of matrices that takes into account the seniority and complexity of successful hires, the cost savings attributed to every hire, and the customer satisfaction of the internal hiring manager, each recruiter could be set a transparent target and could be kept motivated by offering high incentives to outperform it. While this was not proffered as a fail-safe model to motivate in-house recruiters indefinitely, it does allow them to envision a long-term lucrative specialist career that could, depending on the breadth of coverage, offer them both variety and increasing financial reward in the future.

Still a Rare Breed

In conclusion, it was still hard to come up with an archetypal structure that can be defined as ‘best in breed’ in the world of recruitment, and still harder to find recruitment practitioners who truly fit the mould of what companies need both in the present and the future. As recruitment technologies and online social networking sites continue to shape the future, the Talent Acquisition Leaders left the meeting by chatting about how to best utilise these tools without getting lost in the distractions of websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as other online job sites. Perhaps the true future of the recruitment function will be in the wholesale redeployment of physical recruitment teams into the remote world of online technology. We’ll have to make this the subject of another Recruitment lunch in the future.


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