Some people use terms like talent acquisition and talent attraction, but Savage, who is asked to speak about this topic at conferences all around the world, prefers to think of the process as ‘reactive’ and ‘proactive’ recruitment.
The problem with reactive recruitment – that is, advertising for vacancies as they appear – is that you’re starting out on the back foot.
But before explaining what a proactive approach might look like, Savage wants to put things into perspective by recapping the three sociological factors that have had a dramatic influence on the recruitment landscape in recent years:
Changes to candidate behaviourAccording to Savage, job seekers are acting more like consumers these days. “The research tells us that the average time that a person who starts a new job takes before they start looking at other opportunities is nine weeks, so people are constantly perusing jobs just as consumers are constantly perusing cars or washing machines,” he says. “Even though they’re not intending to buy tomorrow, they are researching it, and they are open to it.”
An increasing global skills gapGood candidates know they are in demand, which means the tactics for attracting them must be different. “Are these people going to recruitment companies or reading the paper? No. They are being seduced, they are being approached, they are having a thousand cups of coffee offered to them because they are in such short supply.”
The ‘employer brand’Thanks to social media, your company culture can have a huge influence on the calibre of candidate you attract. Websites like Glassdoor mean that current and past employees are reviewing your brand as an employer.
A place people want to work
The key to proactive recruitment, or talent attraction, is being somewhere people want to work, which means being somewhere people love to work.
“An endorsement from somebody who works at an organisation is one of the most powerful ways to attract talent,” Savage says. “If you’ve got 2000 employees and they all love working there, that will attract other people because they’ll say positive things online and to their friends, even when they leave.”
However, any commitment to revitalising company culture has to run deeper than putting a ping-pong table in the staffroom. As Savage points out, no one stays for the perks – they stay in jobs where they’re treated fairly, communicated with and where they can grow and learn.
Moreover, the advent of social media means a false employer brand is unsustainable in the long-term. “You’re going to have to change your culture, improve your conditions, improve your diversity, improve your flexibility, improve your management and leadership, improve your conditions and pay,” Savage says. “All those things have to be working in some sort of synchronicity to attract people.”
What are the benefits?
In a nutshell, companies that switch to a proactive recruitment approach, over the common reactive hiring approach will reap the rewards of being able to attract the best people and, more importantly, hang on to them for longer.
“The fact is that competitive advantage is talent in the modern era,” Savage says. “So, if you can’t attract the best people, you will become a B-grade company. It’s as simple as that.”
How to be proactive
Successful proactive recruitment requires a cocktail of strategies, and while approaches such as networking events, referral programs, social media and job boards can all be effective, they are merely cogs in the much larger wheel that is your ‘employer brand’.
First, Savage says, it’s vital to identify who you’re talking to and where they ‘live’ online.
“Take McDonald’s,” he says. “They recruited 250,000 people aged 15 to 20 (during 2017). Do you know what they used to recruit them? Snapchat. Because millennials love it. So, if you’re a kid of 16 and you want a job at McDonald’s, you build a little filter with yourself in McDonald’s clothes, and then McDonald’s automates some questions for you, which you answer via little Snap videos.
“Or take for example a recruitment client of mine who places people in interior design roles. Where does she get her best candidates? Pinterest. Because Pinterest is a very visual medium.”
Once you’ve identified the ‘who’ and ‘where’ of your proactive recruitment strategy, the next steps are building and maintaining an ongoing relationship. For example, Telstra has an online talent community and KPMG is investing in the development, attraction and retention of talent through its own in-house university.
The key, Savage says, is talking with potential candidates, not at them.
“It’s not about pumping out masses of stuff,” he says. “It’s engagement. By that I mean, if someone comments on your blog, the smart thing is that you respond, you build up a conversation.
“It’s very, very hard work to build up a very strong online community, but it’s highly, highly empowering, and it can hugely influence the view that a potential employee has of your company.”
Checkpoint: The keys to proactive recruitment
- Improving company culture and building a strong employer brand.
- Identifying your ideal candidates and how to reach them.
- Engaging with your target market and building up a good relationship.