Leading digital transformation for talent acquisition

Digital transformation is demanding a lot from HR and business, and talent acquisition is at the cusp of inviting and on-boarding new talent

Tarandeep Singh
Updated: Aug 24, 2018 03:00:21 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Insights from 2018 Aon Study across Asia Pacific and Middle East

Digital is truly disrupting both our market and workplace. At one end, it has eliminated the need for middlemen thus, changing the relationship businesses have with customers. Internally, it has demanded confluence of technical, domain and business knowledge, thus changing the needs from talent. No wonder, chief executive officers (CEO) and senior human resource (HR) leaders repeatedly tell us critical skills availability and leadership pipeline are amongst top two factors that are impacting their growth.

We asked 557 talent acquisition professionals across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East about their priorities and key challenges, and evaluated their readiness to make strategic shifts in line with business needs. While much has been said about the need to create strong employer brand, and engaging digital natives and millennials, we found realities to be different on-ground.


The above dichotomies are just tip of the iceberg as we studied the data deeper to understand readiness of Talent Acquisition (TA).

This White Paper purports to create a blue print for a leader wanting to transform the function and take bold steps towards meeting the challenges of digital future.

Enclosed is a 7-step guide through the lens of Aon research and insights.

Step 1: Understand your business
With the rise of digital jobs, new roles and "hot skills" have emerged. Functions ranging from marketing to manufacturing are demanding technology-cum business skills. Before you venture on a journey to transform Talent Acquisition, gain a thorough understanding of your customer's (business') challenges and external market realities. Find a mentor within business, who is willing to coach and will be an advocate for the changes you are likely to propose through the journey.

Another key consideration at this stage is the demography of your future workforce. Millennial and Gen Z's expectation of job is different from the Gen X. As per Aon's engagement studies, learning and work-life balance are amongst the top most drivers for millennials and Gen Zers, and hence your organisation's readiness to support these goals, and your ability to convince them through the hiring process is critical to getting them on-board.

This will help create a success profile for every critical role in the organisation. Beyond writing a comprehensive job description, this profile should articulate key skills and traits that have been observed with high performers. Such a profile might vary across levels, however certain traits and skills may typically remain constant. As our recent TA study suggests, critical thinking, results orientation, innovation and creativity are most commonly valued by organisations in the digital era.

Interestingly, future critical skills and traits identified are assessable using psychometric, behavioral and technical tests, however less than one-third of the talent professionals are currently using such objective methods.

Step 2: Re-articulate your brand
Customers need to be constantly reminded of products and services. How are employees different, more so in an era of gig and shared economy? As a talent acquisition leader, you know the employer brand is your reputation and distinctive strength. However, the messages and communication channels need to be refreshed in line with the evolving business needs. One of our recent employer branding assignments with a UK-based global financial institution positioned the bank as a place to explore and achieve more -- not only for personal aspirations, but also for societal impact. Its choice of brand narrative aligned with the current and prospective employees, thus improving attraction and hire ratio for the client. In addition, a thorough understanding of organisation's culture, future skills and demographic profile helped client short-list new talent sources and communication mediums.

As our current research suggests, Return On Investment (ROI) measurement is a missing piece with most employer branding efforts. Clients who leverage assessment technology and focus on measurable outcomes in conjunction with branding efforts can improve the perceived brand impact by over 8 percent to 19 percent.

Our study also indicated that despite above advantages, close to 2/3rd of surveyed companies don't measure branding ROI.

Step 3: Strategically source critical talent
Changing business landscape and competitive pressures from unforeseen quarters is demanding cost and productivity improvements across all value chains of an organisation. Talent acquisition is no different. Hence, it is important for TA professionals to continuously review their sourcing channels and introduce newer ones that align with the talent of the future. As per our recent research, employee referrals and online job portals are the most preferred sourcing channels for junior to mid-level hiring, while campus recruitment is common for cadre building at entry level. Search firms are best suited for senior level hiring.

How does this compare with your sourcing mix? One of our large automotive client has 90 percent reliance on search firms across all levels, with referrals giving only 3 percent results. Not surprisingly, impact of social media is still a blind spot. This is a good opportunity for talent acquisition to demonstrate cost and efficiency gains through functional transformation. Decide the metrics that your business wants to measure and lay the foundation to collate data for measuring improvements. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Step 4: Leverage technology The above steps should give you a holistic perspective of organisation's future talent needs and measurable outcomes, thus demanding a deeper view into ideal state processes and required technology. We often hear clients rushing to implement latest Human Resource Management System (HRMS) or Applicant Tracking System (ATS) without knowing enough. Technology should enable your needs, and no technology vendor can fully tell or comprehend what you need. So, your own exploration journey even as you engage experts.

Besides time to hire, cloud-based technologies today can address key metrics like quality and cost of hire. Selection and assessment platforms assist in simultaneous reach out to a wider audience, as well as leverage behavioral science and psychology to short-list culture fit candidates. These techniques are also useful in identifying motives, learnability and predicting future performance.

Despite above, only 22 percent of surveyed organisations in recent Asia Pacific and Middle East study are currently using technology-based assessments, against a global benchmark of 52 percent.

Good news - 55 percent of those not using them yet, plan to introduce in the coming year.

Step 5: Create superior candidate experience
We are aware of the all-pervasive impact of mobile and social media in our daily lives. Convergence of technology from organisation to candidate is the next step in our transformation journey. More so, when terms such as millennial and digital natives are being used inter-changeably, and they expect to experience the same lives in their personal and professional spheres. A friend of mine once told me her daughter changed her job since her employer gave her a Microsoft PC at work while she was used to iMac and iPad at home.

The other aspect of candidate experience is the ability to receive and provide feedback. Black-box approach to selection leads to poor social ratings and impacts much crafted Employer Brand. Our research indicates 25 percent to 50 percent higher retention by companies that capture feedback, vis-a-vis those that don't.

Aon's assessment tools designed with mobile first architecture promote open and candid sharing, while keeping candidates engaged. No wonder our successful clients have over 96 percent completion rate.

Step 6: Meet interviewing challenge
Despite technology advancement, virtual and in-person interviews continue as preferred mode of final selection. Even when machines can learn to probe like an unbiased human mind, interviewers justifiably prefer to "know" the person and use their gut for decision.

In lines with the demographic and brand imperatives, train your hiring managers to conduct thorough, competency-based interviews that cover all aspects of the role. Some personality tests auto-generate interview guides that provides targeted probing questions and make recommendations. Such tools are effective to check and verify candidate's behaviors and suitability, besides technical and cognitive levels. Overall, your endeavor should be to create a consistent interview process.

Besides consistency, an often stated challenge is the ability to conduct multi-rater interviews across different time zones.

Step 7: Convert metrics to analytics
Transformation steps listed above create multiple opportunities to gather business and candidate data. Technology platforms from ATS to referral tools, and from career pages to assessments can provide us rich inputs. Metrics at the initial level help measure what they are purposed to, and support logical deductive decisions. At second level, metrics can look for unforeseeable trends and drive future inferences, for example predict drivers for superior employee performance or make timely suggestions for a new brand imperative.

Integrating ATS and other recruiting platforms can help mine and utilise candidate data in ways that wasn't possible before. With primary focus on efficiency and cost / time to hire, 50 percent of the large employers in Asia Pacific Middle East (APME) have integrated their internal systems.

One of the recent studies by Aon in India analysed data from 48 companies and 69,225 employees to conclude that satisfaction with pay is poorly correlated with high-percentile (85th-90th) pay levels. Rather, factor analysis identified areas such as performance management, manager and senior leadership as key drivers to impact satisfaction with pay. Obviously, results varied by levels and so should our strategies to motivate and retain the talent. Analytics has the power to make real difference to your talent acquisition strategy too.

Seven steps to transforming talent acquisition function in the face of digital challenges does not stop with effective execution. It is a continuous process of defining and redefining the success measures.

At the core, however, lies another internal transformation for a TA professional. That of being a culture custodian and elevating one's role from measuring cost, quality & time to one that enables culture change. Digital transformation is demanding a lot from HR and business, and TA is at the cusp of inviting and on-boarding new talent. Much as the era of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning can screen and assess candidates, engaging them has emerged as a critical skill for TA professional.

The author is a Partner and Assessment Practice Leader at Aon.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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