In an ever VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world, HR professionals are accustomed to navigating an evolving landscape, constantly assessing and tweaking their talent management strategies to contend with changing workforce demographics, new regulations and skills requirements.   It’s perhaps fair to say then, that given the widespread publicity about the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) which come into force in May 2018, this legislation should be front of mind for resourcing teams.  But are HR teams fully prepared for this new data privacy legislation and what does it mean for future talent pipelining?

Despite the much publicised fines that organisations face if they fail to comply with GDPR – as much as €20 million or 4% of global turnover (whichever is greater) – new research reveals an alarming lack of preparedness.  The government’s annual Cyber Governance Health Check Report, for example, shows that just 6% of the UK’s FTSE 350 are fully geared up for GDPR, with the biggest concerns for businesses being an individual’s right to personal data deletion and tightening of consent requirements.  This makes for concerning reading given the short time frame left for companies to be GDPR compliant. It would appear that many in house resourcing teams have some distance to go before they can be confident that the way they store and use data relating to potential employees is fully compliant. And the clock is ticking.  

Our discussions with resourcing teams demonstrate that while there is a clear understanding of the need to achieve compliancy, there is widespread trepidation about ongoing engagement with passive candidates to ensure access to the right talent, for the right role, at the right time. Clearly, effective talent engagement strategies will arguably be more important than ever post May 2018.  After all, the art of successful talent pipelining relies on an organisation’s ability to provide compelling messaging which encourages an ongoing, mutually beneficial, relationship. Resourcing teams that do not realise this risk losing access to an abundance of potential talent.

So while many are viewing GDPR as burdensome, surely it is more valuable to see it as a driver for change, an opportunity to foster closer relationships with the talent a business might want to engage with and hire in the future? This is a sentiment echoed by a specialist in information systems management at Vlerick Business School, Oyku Iski, who says: It would be much more beneficial to view GDPR as a catalyst to identify where a data driven organisation wants to be in five years’ time, so using it as a springboard for change, an opportunity rather than a hurdle. And remember that, if a recruiter pursues transparency and control over data relating to professionals they will be on the way to building a genuinely trustworthy organisation. One that a senior executive will be more likely to trust with their data throughout their career.”

The message is clear, while the arrival of GDPR poses challenges for HR professionals, it also offers abundant opportunities to reassess the way in which talent is engaged with. The use of compliance management systems – such as in-house recruitment software which helps ensure due diligence– will clearly be beneficial, but so too is the need for a shift in culture to accept the changes and embrace them. This is an issue we will be focusing heavily on at The World Executive Search Congress in October which will feature both a presentation and a discussion panel on the new legislation and how it will affect talent pipelining.

Organisations are facing a future where professionals stand to have more control over their data than ever before – and effective talent engagement strategies which encourage talent to give their consent for their information to be stored is now business critical. However a global research project commissioned by our parent company, Dillistone, has found that very few potential candidates have any real awareness of how GDPR could affect the way that resourcers find and approach them and consequently how that could impact their future careers. The obvious and worrying corollary of this is that many organisations may fail to gain this consent unless meaningful changes are made, and the impact on future talent pipelines could be very severe indeed.

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