CEO Voice: Talent Rivers And Employment Bridges: Rethinking The Acquisition And Flow Of Talent

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With the rapidly changing world of work, how can companies change their recruitment philosophy to access the best talent?
October 29, 2020
For the past year, I’ve been observing a fascinating disruption in recruitment and talent acquisition at one of our Adecco Group companies: Pontoon. Here is what I have learned and how this information can help you and your CHROs take a step forward in today’s rapidly changing and unpredictable world of work.

The world is changing. Make sure to get ahead of the curve

These past few months, we have witnessed an unprecedented pace of change in terms of how, where, and when people are able to work. But to catch up with these developments and get ahead of the curve, we also need a new strategy that will redefine an increasingly insufficient approach to the acquisition of talent and its flow.

That’s why Pontoon’s new recruitment philosophy of ‘talent rivers’ (as opposed to static talent pools) is an increasingly important aspect. At its core, the approach is based on ‘lean’ principles, invented in the Japanese automotive industry, to design a faster, more agile, and responsive hiring process that is set to disrupt markets.

Tim Meehan, who heads Pontoon’s global innovation lab, and his team are responsible for developing the idea. And he has also given the approach a new name in an effort to banish the phrase ‘talent pool’ and introduce the wider concept of ‘talent river’. Tim says it better reflects the concept of time-starved talent, rushing past recruiters who are trying to fill roles at an ever-faster pace. On the other hand, talent pools may not necessarily attract the most suitable candidates.

To put it simply: the talent river is a more dynamic environment, allowing people to triage a job advert in just seconds before making an application, or moving on to the next, more attractive job posting. In other words, the convenience of the application process should not be underestimated when it comes to a candidate’s experience.

Thinking outside-in

Companies in need of talent might want to put themselves in a candidate’s shoes. Try this as an experiment: How easy is it to apply for a position with your company? If you don’t know – find a job your company has advertised and apply online. Did you have to post a CV, create an account, upload documents? How long did the process take overall and most crucially how impressed were you with the overall experience? The candidate you’re looking for might be prepared to spend a few minutes on an application, but no more. Any longer at this stage and good candidates will give up trying and move on to another company with an easier process.

The measure of success

How do you measure a company’s talent acquisition success rate and return on investment? If you keep in mind that it takes 1,000 job views to convert to one hire with the current processes, the existing approach is vastly inefficient. What’s more, drop-out rates increase with cumbersome and outdated platforms where candidates often fail to complete their applications. We can undoubtedly draw valuable lessons by assessing existing structures and procedures and ultimately contribute to better results and conversions.

The concept of lean comes to talent acquisition

Redesigning the talent acquisition workflow to give the candidate an outstanding experience is already a huge step for some companies who are using outdated technology platforms. By removing hurdles and automating some steps of the workflow, businesses can see an increase not only in terms of speed or volume but more importantly in terms of quality of applications which could result in estimated cost savings of 9% per application.

How can a talent river process make a real difference?

This candidate-centric focus brings numerous benefits to companies (beyond their improved access to talent).

Once the overall talent acquisition process has been thoroughly reviewed, a lean concept applied and workflow steps removed or accelerated through automation, companies should see:

  • stronger online presence: better, more targeted, relevant online engagement and advertising attracts the interest of talent flowing past and channels potential candidates into a more satisfying end-to-end application process
  • Speed: a two to five minute application process aided by technology. Chatbots speed up the workflow and take the candidates smoothly through the application steps. This will help companies hold a candidate’s interest for longer.
  • Efficiency: an efficient assessment of applications using technology to screen candidates, followed by AI-assisted initial interviews with only the minimum intervention by recruiters. This helps speed up the process towards final face-to-face interviews and a successful completion.
  • Just-in-time capability: the ability to become more agile and responsive to the business’s talent needs. Hiring can become a ‘just in time’ activity to fill recently vacated roles in days rather than weeks or months.
  • ROI: Using a more efficient online process usually translates into lower overall costs. This is a real opportunity for recruiters – but it’s also something the CHRO and CEO will be interested in.

From a river to a bridge

We live in difficult and rapidly evolving times and pressure will increase on companies to find solutions for their existing staff when faced with mounting costs and declining revenues.

At the Adecco Group, we’ve seen how COVID-19 has hit some of the companies we work with so hard they were forced to furlough or lay-off staff. On the other hand, we’ve also witnessed companies struggling to recruit enough employees quickly enough to cope with huge spikes in demand, especially in logistics and healthcare. Innovative thinking on potential solutions became a necessity to quickly adapt to an ever-changing environment.

To address this situation, and in conjunction with the more long-term talent river approach, we need an additional layer of measures. We call this the ‘employment bridge’.

Adecco Group companies LHH and Modis have created a unique solution that facilitates the flow of workers from sectors laying off thousands of workers to those having trouble hiring. Companies under pressure to eliminate jobs staff ‘lent’ their surplus people to Modis and suspended, rather than cancelled their employment contracts. Modis then contracted out these employees to companies looking to fill vacancies as a direct result of the Covid-19 related shifts in consumer behaviour.

This all sounds great in theory, but colleagues at LHH and Modis are already proving the concept works in everyday life. They have just completed a pilot project with two large European companies that will eventually lead to the migration of 6,000 employees across the employment bridge.

The benefits to the employees are clear. But at the same time, companies are able to retain the talent they built up over years and decades and avoid expensive restructuring costs.

The employment bridge also offers the original employers the right to recall their workers when business picks up again. A huge advantage of this approach is that ‘donor’ companies don’t lose key talent, which gives them the best chance to successfully ramp up operations as quickly and cost-effectively as possible once the situation normalizes.

With a bit of innovative thinking and creative corporate spirit, I firmly believe that we can make the future work for everyone.