Some Observations from Down Under

I returned just over a week ago from a sojourn through Australia and New Zealand talking about recruiting. The Australian & New Zealand Human Resources Institutes sponsored the conferences, which attracted several hundred people. I spoke on the future of e-recruiting and on some of the trends we are witnessing here in the US. What I had to say was “way out there” for most of the attendees although interest was high. Here are some observations:

  1. Most of the attendees were from agencies, which represent a significant volume of recruiting in both Australia and New Zealand. It seems to be more common for a company to outsource than it is here. While there are some great internal recruiters, even they tend to look to agencies for guidance. If there are any Australian or New Zealand recruiters reading this, I would love to hear from you about this. Do you find agencies offer a higher quality service than internal recruiters? Are they faster at sourcing? Or is the use of agencies just something that has become the norm?
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  3. The use of the Internet is definitely growing, but newspapers are still the preferred sourcing methodology. In fact, while both Australia and New Zealand are in the world’s top ten for Internet usage, the number of positions advertised on job boards is less than in newspapers. And, the Internet is much less popular for sourcing, communicating and conducting background checks than in the United States.

    Most recruiters there are familiar with job boards and use Monster.com and other boards. Many newspapers are developing job boards, which, unfortunately, seem to be little better than electronic versions of the classified ads. I sensed that lots of firms are beginning to see that job boards have to be much more than ads, and that they have to provide other services that are seen as valuable by both the companies that place the “ads” and the candidates. There are some services just for the local markets, but there isn’t the passion and interest that surrounds the use of the Internet as a recruiting aid as in the US. This is even more apparent when it comes to corporate web sites. Most companies do not have the quality of staffing web sites we have, and I don’t think that most of ours are very good! However, interest is growing rapidly as this conference showed. Hundreds of agencies and corporate recruiters showed up to learn what is happening in the US and elsewhere and how they can increase their own understanding. In some ways they are at an advantage because they can learn from our mistakes. At least in theory they should have a shorter learning curve and be able to duplicate where we are very quickly. Technically this is easy, but emotionally they will have a ways to go to accept the “impersonal” nature of the Internet, as they see it. There is resistance from both candidates and firms. Both find the resume, the face-to-face interview and the relationship to be key. Yet, at the same time they realize that the volume of need places demands on the recruiters that only technology can alleviate. My prediction is that they will find a blending of the two approaches and come up with something uniquely Australian and Kiwi.

  4. There is a lot if interest in shared service approaches to staffing. Resource Solutions is a firm that operates in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Asia and the US to provide recruiting for firms such as Air New Zealand, Telstra, and NCR. They integrate several suppliers and offer a real value added service. Another firm called Resumes-On-Line (www.r-o-l.net) is offering a “blending” approach as I mentioned above. They provide sourcing, screening, and background checking for subscribing firms. As in the US, this multi-level service approach is gaining popularity for good reason. It is an efficient and cost-effective way to cut down the time it takes to find good candidates. Telstra, one of Australia’s largest companies, has already moved far ahead of most other Australian companies in providing Internet tools and access for its employees. They have a robust Intranet, use the Internet extensively for recruiting and have moved much of their HR services to the Web.

All in all, the people Down Under are faced with the same labor shortages we face and have great challenges. They have a population of a few million that is widely dispersed across a territory about the same size as the US. They have a problem in keeping people from leaving the country to find more exciting and profitable jobs in Europe, the UK or here in the US. As the pressure for people rises, as it will over the next decade, they will engage with the Internet in a way that may be larger than we do. What was very apparent to me is that our Internet tools are very focused on the US and do not have a global appeal or reach. Many of our products and services just don’t resonate in Australia or New Zealand. They have different attitudes about employment and about how college students, in particular, are recruited. We just don’t understand the rest of world very well when we craft our Internet tools. I urge the software makers, programmers and all their associated partners to cast a wider net and make tools that have a wider appeal or than can be modified for local taste. After all, if we really believe that the world is getting smaller, we should stop focusing exclusively on the US market and think about the rest of the world and all its people who are or will be seeking jobs in the next few years. What a market for the ready firm!

Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for ERE.net, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at kwheeler@futureoftalent.org.

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