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HR takes pole position in race for business growth

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RaceHR is being called upon now more than ever to ensure its recruitment and retention strategies are as effective as possible. Grant Crow discusses what the future has in store for HR professionals and whether they hold the key to business growth.


Stories of global talent battles and skills shortages have saturated the media lately, bringing HR to the forefront of the news agenda. HR professionals are increasingly adapting their talent deployment and recruitment methods to keep abreast of the new demands placed upon them. Whilst their value may have been questioned in the past, businesses are turning to their HR departments now more than ever to ensure they are recruiting and retaining the best possible talent to help their organisation survive and grow.

The battle for talent is at an all-time high – StepStone’s ‘Total Talent Report 2008’ identified that globally, business leaders unanimously agreed that recruiting and retaining talented employees was getting tougher, with 41% believing it was becoming significantly more difficult.

Overly high salary expectations and a shortage of candidates with appropriate skills is adding to organisations’ problems. The growing tendency of employees to change jobs is fuelling talent shortages in many companies, whilst a lack of suitable career opportunities provides a common barrier to retaining talented individuals. In order to tackle these challenges, we are seeing organisations respond in a number of ways.

“The growing tendency of employees to change jobs is fuelling talent shortages in many companies.”

Recognising the changing needs of the workforce is the first step. Today’s diverse employees have different priorities and expect their employers to comply with a broad range of demands.

Top executives now expect to be offered a chance to move around within the organisation, whilst young employees entering the workforce have high expectations of what companies should be offering them in terms of experience and development and place more importance on social and environmental policies than previous generations. Older workers, for their part, are looking for more flexible working hours.

Engagement and employer brand

In addition to catering for the changing needs of the workforce, employers now have to consider the most appropriate channel to engage with employees whilst building an employer brand that encompasses what the company can offer a prospective candidate.

Furthermore, organisations need to contend with the emerging global market, in fear they could lose valuable staff as employees are now more willing to travel abroad to find work and boost their CV. Our research highlighted that 44% of all business leaders surveyed believed the Asia-Pacific region offered their businesses the best opportunities for growth over the next three years.

Whilst remuneration that is clearly linked to personal and business objectives is an important factor in retaining talent, employers have a variety of different factors to consider. Employees today expect their employers to be far more accommodating by offering flexible hours, sabbaticals, extended leave and the capability to work overseas.

In essence, companies need to ensure their recruitment and retention strategies tick every box, paying close attention to the channel through which they engage with candidates.

Stay ahead of the game

HR directors are already embracing new technologies, utilising e-recruitment tools and social media networks, to stay one step ahead of the competition.

RM, a leading ICT supplier, transformed its entire recruitment strategy, by developing a state-of-the-art jobs portal, combining the latest interactive features and compelling viral content. Recognising that the vast majority of its target market, and particularly Generation Y school and university leavers, increasingly share online information with one another and hold entertaining online destinations and interactive content in high regard, RM tapped into the latest online media trends to attract tech savvy candidates. The jobs portal allowed candidates to ‘chat’ with the recruitment team through an instant messaging system and featured an interactive video that allowed candidates to find out about working in different areas first-hand from current employees.

“Brand perception and the candidate experience can make or break the interest of a potential recruit.”

Effective ‘candidate relationship management’ is also of vital importance as organisations cannot afford to miss out on successful hires as a result of failing to treat candidates in the right way. A good example of this is Virgin Atlantic, which incorporated an SMS job alert scheme into its recruitment process. Prospective candidates are alerted, via text message, every time a new vacancy appears, helping the business become more proactive in its recruitment strategy.

In terms of recruitment, as with any online initiative, brand experience is imperative and HR professionals are beginning to realise the importance of brand perception in their recruitment outreach. Brand perception and the candidate experience can make or break the interest of a potential recruit.

Since the recruitment process can be considered an extension of the brand, failing to treat candidates correctly could be costly in the long run. For RM, a company that prides itself on being high-tech and innovative, and Virgin, a brand synonymous with innovation and fun, it was important the recruitment process reflected their values and attracted talented applicants with the right skills.

Through balancing different employee demands and using new recruitment methods to hire the right candidates, the HR function can take the driving seat when it comes to an organisation’s future success.

However, to achieve this, organisations need visibility of employees’ skills and capabilities, and further recruitment gaps to realise the growth they are promising their shareholders. Historically the HR function has seen a lack of senior management support. Given the advances in talent solutions, it is inevitable that senior management will become more involved in the HR process.


Grant Crow is managing director of StepStone UK.

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