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Regional Resourcing Heads Discuss: Justifying the Long-Term Value of the Resourcing Team

The Chapman Consulting Group today hosted an HR roundtable discussion for Regional Resourcing Directors from 11 high profile multinationals from the Banking, Hospitality, Professional Services, Technology, and Industrial sectors. Participants met over lunch at the Singapore Cricket Club to discuss current strategies around Talent Acquisition.

Current Market Forces

Participants agreed that it has been a tumultuous two years in the field of recruitment. Many Resourcing Heads had gone from breakneck recruitment in 2008 to hiring freezes in 2009. However this was by no means everyone’s experience. In one particular example, the biggest challenge of the current market was in convincing global stakeholders of the relative buoyancy of markets in Asia as compared to the stagnation of economies in other geographies. Despite the availability of facts and figures that back up this assertion, the Resourcing Head still needed to use all their influencing skills, as well as the strengths or their relationships at a global level, to ensure that a hiring freeze in one market didn’t affect the ability to attract and retain talent in another.

India and China were the two markets that most often fell into this latter category. For example, in one company the ‘downturn’ has meant that hiring in India has dropped from 3,000 per month in 2008 to 2,000 per month in 2009, hardly what one might define as a ‘slowdown’. Unlike other organisations, this company had the foresight to allow the India organisation to work out a resourcing budget that was kept completely separate from the purse string-tightening taking place concurrently in Europe and North America.

Leveraging the Value of the Recruitment Function

With the global downturn still affecting a company’s bottom line, strategic restructuring of the resourcing function has still been a necessity in most organisations. One company in particular was able to redeploy recruitment staff into more internally-focused roles, shifting gears from external market mapping to aggressively increasing internal talent programmes. At the same time, some processes that had previously been outsourced to specialised agencies (such as selection diagnostics) were brought in-house. This had the added affect of offering valuable development to recruitment team members.

In another example, the Resourcing Leader had used the economic downturn to their advantage, in that they managed to keep their team at the same size and demonstrated to the business that more can be achieved in filling the skills gaps of existing recruiters than can be achieved in downsizing the team’s size and keeping them all working at full capacity. This strategy will ensure that when the market fully rebounds, the recruiters will have better skills to engage the best talent, most notably in selling ideas to prospective candidates, consulting to business stakeholders, relationship managing external talent pipelines, and ultimately closing requisitions in a timelier fashion.

It was agreed by all participants at the lunch that the ability to improve recruitment ‘at the coal face’ was more important even than influencing Business Leaders in the C-suite, because meeting with candidates in person is the best chance for a company to ‘get it right’ with the communication of their employer brand.

Educating the Business on the Strategic Value of the Function

In using this time to increase the recruitment team’s skills, the Resourcing Head in the previous example was in a position to continue educating the business of the value of the recruitment function as a high-level function that needs to be practiced by high-level people. This has been another opportunity to show how improving the quality of recruitment can shape the way a company is perceived on the market today, and in being able to attract better people into the organisation it will shape the way it will look from the inside in the future too.

Business Leaders also needed to be educated on the continued challenges of hiring high-quality candidates during a perceived economic downturn. Rather than aiming efforts at companies that are shedding their bottom 10%, a potential hirer can only target high-quality candidates in companies going through a period of uncertainty (for example in an M&A situation). In this way, Business Leaders and recruiters alike do not get distracted by the volume of lower-quality candidates that are more available in the market. Competition for the best talent remains strong in a downturn, so it’s in the best interest of an organisation’s long-term values to resist the temptation to hire talent just because it is knocking on the door.

External Employee Branding Strategies During a Market Downturn

Despite the necessity of being internally focussed during this period of restructuring of resourcing teams and functions, Resourcing Heads have also needed to keep a keen focus on the external market. With greater volumes applying for fewer roles, care must be taken to ensure that all applicants are properly tracked and treated well, so that a company’s brand remains strong even if no hires are made.

One Resourcing Head applied this not just to new recruits, but also to people leaving the organisation, putting just as much effort into employee outplacement as they would otherwise put into employee on-boarding. This ensures that the risk of an ex-employee bad-mouthing the company was minimised and its employee brand remained strong in the market. Another Resourcing Head applied the same logic to the relationships that they have with universities across the region, warning against breaking ties in the short term that can ultimately lead to a company being barred from campus hiring in future years.

The current downturn had been the biggest source of frustration in circumstances where some very specialised talent had indeed come into the market just at a time when companies are in no position to hire them. In these situations, while no hires can be made in the short term (due to salary or headcount freezes for example) the Resourcing Head can still ensure that high-level company representatives continue to engage with these rare candidates in an open and frank manner in order to build longer-term relationships. This keeps the candidate ‘in view’ as well as offers them a strong impression of the company’s brand, while finally allowing the hiring manager to act quickly as soon as a hiring restriction is lifted.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the participants agreed that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to the way a resourcing function can position itself at this time to add the most value in Asia Pacific Japan. In particular, the debate on outsourcing recruitment teams was brought up, in which the opinion of some participants focused on the unpredictability of this dynamic region, and the ease in which issues can quickly arise that are ‘out of scope’ of an agreement that may have been made just a few months earlier. Unless an outsourced team can be branded and treated exactly the same as if they were an internal recruitment team, most Resourcing Heads continue to use hybrid models of internal and external recruitment strategies that blend regional centralisation with the flexibility to chooseappropriate alternatives at a country level.

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