Rebecca Callahan, President, Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Randstad Sourceright, on the evolution of talent acquisition and development strategies in organizations.
Katheryn Sillo: How have you seen talent acquisition change over the years, and how has it adapted to the rapid change in your business and in the market?
Rebecca Callahan: Talent acquisition has had to become more competitive, and it’s had to act more like a sales organization than a traditional HR organization. In the past, when employees worked for companies for 10, 15, and even 25 years, tenure was something people wore like a badge of honor. The role of talent acquisition back then was to minimize turnover and then develop people to help them get promoted internally.
Today, as competition has increased, talent acquisition specialists have had to turn themselves into marketers and figure out how to brand themselves as employers. What does their brand look like? How are they attracting the next generation of workers today? Why would someone want to work for this company versus the next? Career sites are peppered with YouTube videos and avatars. That’s very different than the way that people were hired in my father’s time, when people primarily responded to newspaper ads. For me, it was job boards. One of my daughters, who is in her 20s, got her last job through social media. Talent acquisition has to be able to figure out how to live in this changed world.
In what ways would you say HR is a marketing-driven function? What does it take to strengthen your employer brand today?
It’s no longer true that just having a big brand name will automatically attract applicants. Certainly, there are companies out there, like Facebook and Google, that attract thousands of resumes every day based on their brand. But that’s not the case with the typical organization, and HR organizations have had to learn to be more proactive, to go where the candidates are, and to engage with a variety of tools to do that, whether it’s finding folks to market their job on Twitter or rewriting job specs so that the headline is compelling enough to attract the right applicant’s attention.
One thing I see happening in a lot of these organizations is that they typically don’t think of themselves as marketing organizations. The term “recruitment marketing” is a fairly new term that’s being used more frequently, and HR and marketing are now starting to work more closely together, but the role of talent acquisition inside an HR team has to take on that proactive stance and reach out to the candidate pool. You can have a great career site, but if you haven’t figured out how to draw people to that career site, you will miss out.
“Honestly, we will have a huge gap in talent when the economy improves.”
In terms of an organization’s talent management strategy, there’s a need for a mix between developing the current workforce and expanding your pipeline. What do you think organizations should be considering?
Honestly, we will have a huge gap in talent when the economy improves. We’ve got two forces working against us in many cases. First, the baby boomers with 401Ks heading into retirement have been a bit stalled due to the economic downturn, but they will retire soon, and it’s widely known that we’ve got a skill shortage looming behind them. We’re also not building up the skills in our college grads fast enough to meet our future needs.
We really need to understand where the skill gaps will be in the next 10 years, and then we need to begin a program that will address those gaps two-fold. From a talent acquisition perspective, we need to be a little more concise and prescribed about filling that gap. If I am going to be short 3,000 engineers in the next three years, what percentage of my current workforce should I develop, and how do I do that? Do I start sending people back to school? That may help me build a drive toward tenure and loyalty as a result.
Then I need to ask myself whether I need to rethink my talent acquisition strategy in advance. I don’t mean simply going to the top schools to find the most promising engineers as soon as my organization has a shortage. That kind of strategy is not going to work anymore. There are other organizations that will be viewed as more exciting places for individuals to work. So we have to figure out how to position ourselves as employers of choice in the skill sets we want to acquire. We need to ask ourselves, “Where do we want to recruit from? How do we start building content on our website so that we look like the type of organization that an engineer would want to work for?”
What are the things that will have engineers coming back to my site regularly that ultimately allow me to capture them so that I can reach out to them later? How do I start building a talent pool of these individuals and getting my engineers to engage with them? That attraction strategy has to start a couple of years before I find myself in dire need of those candidates. Otherwise, I won’t see them when I do.
Do you think that the activities of discovering, assessing, and developing talent are more interconnected today? Are there still holes within this process in many organizations?
In the past, these elements of the process were connected in the sense that, when you were going to work for a certain organization, it was a given that you would have some type of talent development. People entering a company would plan to spend the first 10 years of their careers there, and there were expectations that came with that. It was part of the reason why someone would take a job. Today, all of those pieces may still be connected, and it’s certainly a valuable benefit to employees, as well as employers, to remain with a company. But those parts of the process look different now.
Today, the talent discovery effort has to be more targeted. We used to think that recruiters only needed discovery skills, but that’s changing. You can find just about anybody now via LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social media profiles. Not all of those people are looking for jobs, but they’re discoverable. Engaging people is what HR organizations are missing. Once you find them, how do you get them to talk to you? How do you get them interested in your company? Engagement is a skill that recruiters need to have today.
Assessment looks different, too. Assessment today typically involves assessing the abilities of candidates via face-to-face, video-recorded interviews.
Last is talent development. While the tools have changed for that part of the process, the industry hasn’t changed much in that sense. We continue to face the same problems we’ve had in the past. Companies are still wondering what to do with individuals, how to recognize their talents, and how to help them move forward.
Is there anything else you want to add?
The changes in this industry are exciting. Being a talent acquisition professional today requires new skills in marketing your company as a great organization to work for, and that makes it wonderfully challenging. The tools available to these professionals today present a lot of new options, and these professionals should be looking for ways to integrate them and become more competitive in their approach to talent acquisition.
Considered one of the industry’s most prominent thought leaders, Rebecca Callahan is President, Recruitment Process Outsourcing, Randstad Sourceright. In this capacity, she leads her organization in the strategic execution of one vision: helping clients put the right person in the right job for the best value.
Prior to her current role, Callahan was President, SourceRight Solutions, which subsequently became part of Randstad through the acquisition of SFN group in 2011. She joined SFN Group in 2003 as vice president of the assessment group, followed by the role of senior vice president of sales, which leveraged her more than 20 years of sales experience at privately held and publicly traded companies such as Blue Pumpkin Software and PageNet. She became president of Sourceright in September 2009, having previously served as the senior vice president of the company’s Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) division.
Callahan has earned high marks for her leadership role in the success of the Randstad Sourceright team’s RPO business. Under her leadership, the company has received the industry’s highest accolades, including top scores on HRO Today magazine’s annual “Baker’s Dozen.” She is the global chair of the HROA, and widely recognized as a leading voice for driving strategic talent optimization in the industry. She is consistently recognized by Staffing Industry Analysts in “The Staffing 100” report.