Melanie Forbes: Recruitment trends among some of the UK’s leading brands

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HR is getting involved in outsourcing relationships earlier

Making a decision about outsourcing contingent recruitment has traditionally been the responsibility of procurement, but at this year’s CWS Summit, around 20% of the attendees were HR professionals. Just five or six years ago, there would have been far fewer of the HR team in attendance. This seems to demonstrate that HR is becoming more involved in the selection of an outsourcing provider from the outset, resulting in a real opportunity to ensure that the process ties into their wider recruitment strategy as opposed to just focusing on cost.

While this is undoubtedly progress, more companies need to follow this example. The sooner the HR department get involved, the more collaborative the relationship, the more contingent workers will be realised as a strategic source of talent and the smaller the risk of selecting the wrong provider. By giving possible partners an insight into recruitment challenges from the start, rather than just focussing on cost reduction, the partnership can be a more valuable resource for the HR department and truly address the key business drivers of the company.

HR is more likely to have responsibility for international hiring 

One of the biggest recruitment trends emerging from this year’s Summit was the fact that UK HR & Procurement professionals are increasingly responsible for international hiring, particularly within Europe. Many are finding that they have multiple countries to roll their recruitment programme out to, and these countries do not always have their own HR and procurement functions, with expertise at a regional level. HR professionals responsible for hiring overseas need to familiarise themselves with the differing demands of each country. For example, the job market in Europe hasn’t picked up as quickly as it has in the UK, and it still lags about 18 months behind what is happening here, because labour agility is still stilted. It’s important to consider information like this when creating a hiring strategy that can work across borders.

Meanwhile, the UK job market is improving, benefitting from its wide demographics. Caused in part by immigration and the wide range of age groups in work in the UK, these are having an effect on business models, and in turn affecting recruitment and increasing the likelihood of finding the right talent. Customer feedback from both the UK and the US suggests that businesses are also open to expanding their talent pool internationally, which is helping to revive the jobs market in these countries.

Contingent workforces are growing in popularity

After any recession, the number of employees working on a flexible basis increases, but at the moment contingent workforces are at an unprecedented level, with approximately 25% of the average workforce within large UK companies made up of contingent workers.

This is both a challenge and an opportunity for HR professionals. Delegates at the CWS Summit shared candid accounts about the increased challenge a contingent workforce presents in terms of control, cost, visibility, consistency of process and the need to navigate resourcing programmes across multiple countries. But they were unanimous that in order to attract the kind of talent that will drive business strategy, failure to embrace the increasingly popular contingent work style was not an option.

Conversations at the Summit proved that slowly but surely, HR professionals are waking up to the fact that the skilled and growing contingent workforce is an opportunity to realise their business strategies, as opposed to solely a means to fire-fight a short-term resource challenge.

Candidates are increasingly looking to be part of a contingent workforce

Additionally, we are seeing an upsurge in the number of candidates who are actively looking to be part of a contingent workforce. Delegates at the Summit claimed to be more focused than ever on bringing the best talent into their organisations, and part of this is about them accommodating people’s preferences. We’ve experienced a huge demise in the clock-on, clock-off culture that once dominated workplaces across Britain. Instead, people want to feel passionate about what they do and feel that the role they perform is meaningful, and the flexibility and choice that temporary work can offer are key to enabling this.

Social media is changing recruitment – for better and worse

Even though the jobs market is picking up, the average vacancy in the UK still receives over 200 applications, and social media plays a major part in this. The simplicity of applying for a role in just one click leads to an increase in the number of unsuitable candidates applying for a role. According to the Candidate Experience Awards, 90% of applicants don’t even read the job description, and 85% don’t have the right skills. Obviously this can make life difficult for the HR department, but it does demonstrate the reach that social media can have, and the potential for reaching out to candidates. To increase the likelihood of attracting the right talent via social media, make sure that you know where your ideal applicants are engaging online – Twitter might be the perfect place to find candidates for a media role, but it’s not necessarily the place to find engineers, for example. Researching and knowing your audience is key here.

The debates, expert panels and roundtable discussions held among HR and procurement professionals from leading international brands at the CWS Summit demonstrated that both departments need to work together to align themselves to the business strategy, and that recruitment – and indeed procuring recruitment services – is essential to the ever growing tug of war of talent. A key part of attracting and retaining key talent is looking at all the different sources available to them and using contingent workers as a strategic differentiator.

Melanie Forbes is Managing Director UK & EMEA, Guidant Group 

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