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Keith Potts

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‘Hands on’ HR is key to successful future recruiting


Keith Potts predicts what recruitment will look like in 2019, and suggests that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to recruitment will become ineffective.

The A&R man who passed over the Beatles. The nine publishers who turned down JK Rowling and Harry Potter. Sheffield United deciding that £200,000 was too much to sign a 17-year-old Argentinean called Diego Maradona. Sometimes all of us could do with a little extra foresight in our decision making – especially when it comes to recruitment, where a missed opportunity or a bad hire can cost a company dear.
I’ve been involved in online recruitment for nearly a decade and a half. In that time, recruitment processes have changed almost beyond recognition – and that’s only set to continue. If employers, and the companies they use to help them with recruitment, are to stay ahead of the game, they need to make sure they’re well placed to take advantage of any developments.
To better understand the potential scope of these changes, we commissioned a Delphi study into the future of the recruitment market. Entitled Recruitment in 2019, it pools the knowledge and insight of a panel of experts – including recruitment media and technology business owners, academics, HR professionals, recruitment consultants, market commentators, web technology specialists and futurologists – to give some robust observations into how the market is set to evolve over the coming decade.

The human touch

The core prediction is that the human touch will return to HR. Recruitment processes will become even more hands-on, despite a rise in new technologies. Employers will need to abandon any attempts at a one-size-fits-all approach, due to a more demographically and geographically diverse workforce, a jobs market in which in-demand skills and experience give quality candidates greater leverage, and an increasing number of application technologies. Instead, there will be a renewed importance on intermediaries and the skills, experience and expertise of human decision makers.
The next decade will see major demographic shifts within the labour market, such as an aging workforce and ever-increasing numbers of working women, who will outnumber men for the first time. This will be combined with a rise in international recruitment, particularly across the EU, and larger businesses continuing to outsource and offshore some functions. These factors will create a more diverse candidate pool, which will be the biggest factor affecting recruitment in 2019.
This splintered labour market poses two challenges: firstly, how to reach candidates and, secondly, what to offer them. A diverse candidate pool rules out a blanket, one-size-fits-all recruitment strategy. Different job hunters will consume different media, look for vacancies in different places – and in some cases expect to be actively found by recruiters. There will be a gap in the adoption of new recruitment technologies and media, particularly between tech-savvy younger recruits and the older generation.
While there will be large numbers of candidates who use the full range of technologies to market themselves to potential employers (via LinkedIn, Twitter, corporate career portals etc) there will be others who refuse to do so, for a variety of reasons, ranging from growing concerns about privacy in the post-Facebook generation to antipathy towards increasing levels of automation.
This is where the human touch returns. The ability of recruiters to understand and appeal to candidates across the spectrum will be a crucial success factor – even though it will add complexity and cost, and force recruiters into using a wider range of channels than might appear optimally efficient. Recruitment communications will increasingly have to adopt the kind of careful audience segmentation and multi-channel approach used in advertising and marketing campaigns. Indeed, the blurring of boundaries between HR and marketing will be a key development in the coming decade.

Diverse talent pool

The tailored approach will need to continue when it comes to making offers of employment. A diverse candidate pool will create demand for increasingly bespoke employment packages such as home working, flexible hours, healthcare provision and childcare facilities or allowances.
We’re already seeing this shift in attitude towards greater flexibility in working practices, remuneration packages and career paths but it will increase tenfold over the coming decade. It will be driven particularly by those sections of the workforce where competition for quality staff is at its fiercest. At the same time, legislative reforms and a broader demographic pool will turn flexibility from a ‘nice to have’ into a necessity for many. Working parents (of both sexes) and older job hunters will look for, and may be guaranteed by law, something other than the standard 9-5.
Of course, lifestyle flexibility will not be accommodated by all employers for all employees – but the effect of its use in specific demographic and hard-to-recruit markets will spread to other areas. Expectations will be set by the behaviour of the most competitive employers, who are willing to offer the most attractive range of recruitment packages.
Being able to call the shots over a benefits package is just one instance of the ways in which the candidate will become king. Assuming the global economy returns to a ‘normal’ state by 2019, the report predicts a return of the ‘war for talent’ in key markets, such as IT, engineering and financial services, for candidates with soft and hard skills alike. The varying adoption rates of technologies discussed above will also mean that it will be job hunters deciding new recruitment processes – not recruiters.
Hiring quality staff is already a complex, important decision. This report shows how that decision is set to become even more complex – and potentially more important, as companies strive to remain competitive. Current recruitment models could come under threat from more targeted methods, with specialist recruitment consultancies predicted to enjoy a renaissance. Technology may be used to manage the time-consuming, transactional part of the process but it will only serve to enhance decision making – not replace it.
2019 may seem a long way off, but these expert predictions are based in the here and now. HR professionals, recruitment consultancies and those of us working for job boards need to start making plans today if we are to successfully meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Keith Potts is CEO of The full ‘Recruitment in 2019’ report is available to download for free at

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