Keynote Sneak Peak: Interview with Matthew Jeffery Part One

Author: Amanda Lewis | Source: HCI | Published: April 9, 2012

At the 2012 Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference, Matthew Jeffery, Head of EMEA Talent Acquisition and Global Talent Brand, will be a keynote speaker and a Guest Conference Chair.  He is well recognized as one of the world’s leading thinkers and talent acquisition strategists, illustrated by his papers: Recruitment 3.0: A Vision of the Future of Recruiting and Recruitment 4.0: Recruitment as a Profit Centre, Crowdsourcing, Gamification..…and the Death of Recruitment Agencies. HCI caught up with Jeffery to talk about the latest recruitment issues leaders are facing and to get a sneak peak about what he’ll be sharing at the event.

There seems to be a lot happening in the world of recruitment right now.  What’s your view of the current status of recruitment as a profession?
I don’t think recruitment or “talent acquisition” gets the credit it deserves across the board as a profession.  What we do is incredibly important.  Our skills help define, attract and recruit people who can shape the future of the companies that we all work for.  If we hire in average talent….guess where that company is heading.  We can read corporate financial reports now outlining recruitment strategy, (which did not happen in the past), and can hear business leaders questioned on earning calls about how they intend to attract the ‘best talent’ in the market. Investors will make judgement calls on the ability of companies to attract those best hires and put in place credible recruitment strategies. What we do is massively important.

But we do have issues and challenges as a profession.

Yes, let’s be honest there has been traditionally a low bar set for people to become a recruiter.  A career in HR has tended to need a qualification to gain entrance eg in the UK CIPD qualification.  In recruitment, we have not set that bar.  Hence a lot of people have fallen into a career in recruitment.  Or been attracted, especially in the boom time, by working in an agency and makes a lot of commission and bonus.  A lot of money has been made by recruiters’ earned by sending a few resumes to clients desperate for talent.  That has not served our ‘brand’ as a profession well.
And yes, there are a lot of old school recruitment leaders in place, heading some big recruitment functions.  These leaders have not pushed the boundaries and quality thresholds for our profession.  I often jest, tongue in cheek, that these ‘old skool’ recruitment leaders and thinkers have a fondness for reminiscing about the ‘good old days’.  You can hear them at conferences or read them in print and on their ‘limited readership blogs’ trotting out tired old clichés like, ‘let’s get recruitment back to basics’, ‘recruitment hasn’t changed’, ‘it’s still about finding a great candidate’, ’we hire bums on seats’, uttered with all the coolness of a 1960’s Radio One DJ in a stripy polar neck sweater!

Of course the basic aim of recruitment remains hiring the highest quality candidate, as does a sales professional converting a lead, as does a Formula 1 driver winning a race.  But so much has changed.  Stick Ascari’s 1950’s Ferrari on the Formula 1 grid against the 2012 Red Bull, which will cross the finish line first?  The same is true of recruitment.  The landscape is so much different from when the dinosaurs ruled the world…
Recruiting is a far more skilled profession than it was a few years back.  Not just because of technological changes but scope changes to the recruiters role as a change agent, brand ambassador, sourcer, internal communications expert, external PR megaphoner, creative writer, community DJ, direct mail expert, list segregation and targeting guru and provider of the ultimate candidate experience. 
We should be remarkably proud of what we do and the skills we have.  Let’s shout about it more.  Let’s champion recruitment as a great profession. As we move forward, new highly skilled recruiters are coming in and helping to upgrade the brand of our profession.  Exciting times lay ahead.

You speak at a lot of conferences and write numerous articles.  Why is that?
Yes.  Key reason is that I like to share ideas and generate debate.  Some have accused me in the past of seeking attention or self-promotion.  They really don’t get the purpose of why I love talking and writing about our profession.  There is no better career to be in than a recruiter at the moment.  What we do is so important for our companies.  But we need to debate new ideas, new philosophies and drive change …together.  So much has changed.  I just love it.

I also like to share ideas because let’s be honest, there has been a huge increase in consultants seeking to exploit the market.  They are seeking to capitalize on a recruiter’s confusion on how to use social media, build communities, create mobile apps, and develop employment brands.  Some of these consultants (I would love to name them but can’t), and I can be cheeky and say this:  are not even competent themselves and they would never get jobs in corporate companies. 

Hence, anyway I like to be one of many who are happy to write papers for free and share with recruiters, speak at events and propose ideas, then if that helps the profession and may help prevent some recruitment leaders engage with consultants and try to implement new ideas themselves, I am happy.

Were you surprised by the reaction to Recruitment 3.0 and 4.0?
Yes.  It was far bigger than we estimated (Recruitment 3.0 was co-written with Amy McKee, Senior Director, Global Recruiting Autodesk).
Of course it was great feeling the momentum of the numbers of people wanting to comment/debate and seeing for example, Recruitment 3.0 attracting 6,500 Tweets, 1656 In-shares, was pretty awesome.  It shows that the subject created passion and debate and that was its purpose.  And these were only the stats measured by ERE.  That number is far bigger in reality.  What interested me more was the amount of direct contact we received for the article.  When Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn contacts you and loves the paper and shared it with colleagues, there is no more proud moment than that.  Also interesting was the reaction of some of the ‘vested interests’.  Heads of agencies and job boards, contacting me and forthrightly telling me I was speaking rubbish.  Agencies will never die they chorused.  Let’s see.  Will those ‘vested interests’ plan ahead wisely or continue to be attracted by the immediate smell of the dollar?  The ball is in their court.

Is there Recruitment 5.0?
There is a final paper called Recruitment 5.0.  It ends the trilogy of papers put forward.  Trilogies are the fashion.  But in all seriousness, I will look to publish Recruitment 5.0 later in the year.  Its goal will be to stimulate debate.  Obviously you won’t expect me to divulge much information on it now but happy to hint that it encompasses ‘the power of the cloud’ and its underlying theme is ‘disruption’.  ‘Disruptive marketing’.   ‘Disruptive sourcing’.  Concepts that are really exciting.

The Need for New Recruiting : ‘Forces of Turbulence’.

So why is there a need for the New Recruiting?
There are several reasons.  Traditional recruitment strategies are facing a lot of turbulence and disruption at the moment. Some would argue that there has always been this tension.  Maybe so, but not to the degree that it is felt today. There are several factors in play.  First off, the so called ‘Global War for Talent’.  Some recruiters hate this term but the essence is there.  As we are seeing again in Silicon Valley, IT Recruitment is suffering a real shortage of ‘talent’; ironically this is happening whilst companies are expanding, even in this ‘recession’, hence creating this battle to attract the best. This is not a phenomenon limited to Silicon Valley but across most sectors / geographies.   Whatever, term you want to use, there is a need to attract the ‘best’ people, there are not enough to go round and that is something all companies are fighting over.

The ‘experienced’ talent pool is shrinking.  By ‘experienced’ I mean those individuals who have the necessary skills, experience, (and training and development), to make an immediate difference to a company.  Given the ‘shortage’ of this talent, we return to point one and the ‘War for Talent’.
We are also seeing ’forces of convergence’ affecting recruiting.  Previously, some sectors were very niche and talent stayed rooted in that sector, now, because of the shortage of ‘experienced’ talent, those barriers are broken down and individuals are transferable between different sectors such as, mobile, IT, public sector, consumer goods, retail, banking, film, media, and universities.

Adding to the ‘forces of turbulence’ is the lack of loyalty amongst the workforce.  The average time spent in a job now is less than two years.  A few years back, people were staying in roles for five to seven years.  Today, some companies are screening out people who have been with a company for too long, as they have been ‘institutionalized’ into a company and too firmly set in their ways.

People are also more than happy to move for the best job.  Global mobility is the key trend.  Go to any conference and ask the audience to raise their hand if they would be happy to move to anywhere in the world for a better job and higher quality of life and you will see 98% of the audience happy to make that move.

As we are conducting this interview and as people read its contents, what is scary is that there can be no doubt that members of their company are being headhunted right now.  Rest assured competitors are mapping out their company this second. They are working to attract / seduce their best talent away from them. Consider this…If you have not mapped out your competitors reflect on this question.  Who has the competitive advantage?  You or your competitors?

And dare I say this as a final point…External providers are losing ground, be it agencies or job boards.  Too firmly rooted in the active pool and losing competitive advantage.

Consider this.  If a company can put in place effective ‘internal referral’ schemes and harness their employee networks, utilise a strong recruitment database that is a searchable ATS but has strong CRM features, has put in place social networks that allows for communities that yield candidates… and lastly those companies that have put in place a targeted graduate scheme which is yielding the best of the future talent, then is there really any need or desire for an external provider? Clearly NO!

These are the factors affecting recruitment functions today as we seek to strive towards the utopian goal of a ‘predictable talent pipeline’, whereby we can map markets and competitors and have ready to turn on pipeline ahead of business demand. 

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