What Hypergrowth Environments and the Gig Economy Can Teach Us in Talent Acquisition

In a world where the HR function delves into “break-a-thons” and innovation doesn’t hold the competitive advantage it once did, it can get harder for talent acquisition organizations to continue delivering value. Add to that a global, transforming talent workforce and you have a twofold challenge to get the job done.

None of this should be discouraging, but rather a unique opportunity to offset a long dreaded image of recruiting as commodity.  There are key lessons that are translatable and can help talent acquisition organizations pave the way toward a more contemporary era (something I’ll talk more about at the fall ERE event for fellow talent leaders). 

Find Focus – Keep Focus – Flex

It’s easy to get caught up in “hyper speed” or organizational matrices without ever really knowing where you’re headed. Whether it’s work that doesn’t add value or organizational smokescreen, define a “true north.” This can be done by focusing on aligning talent acquisition goals to outcomes the business wants to achieve.  The closer the alignment, the easier it is to both keep focus and know when to flex.  Take a minute, reflect, and look around — don’t let “too big” or “too fast” get in the way of removing work that doesn’t make sense.

You Can’t Do Everything; Accept It

In innovation today, there’s a focus on doing a couple of things great. Applied to talent acquisition, this could mean practices that are either “big swings” or “quick wins.” Each year in GE, we establish key projects that address critical areas and have relevant organizational impact.  Most recently, this included an elevated focus in our sourcing and executive search capability as we proactively hunt for passive talent. Underpinning all of this is a move to contemporize our recruitment technology as we integrate and streamline our user experiences and analytics teams.

Act With Speed, Ask for Forgiveness

In a company like GE, this has to be one of the lessons learned that’s hardest to navigate. Sometimes our hierarchy and “the way we used to work” clouds our ability to be nimble and fast. We can address it by reducing the amount of prep meetings and stakeholders that are involved. We encourage our teams to tackle problems with solutions that are “MVP” — most viable product — to embrace speed and learning with error or failure.

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Scale, But Right

With focus, speed, and knowledge of what you can and can’t do, build teams to respond to the priorities that are established for the year. At GE, one challenge is to cultivate candidate interest, sometimes well ahead of any visible company investment in the region. This need to scale happens time and time again. Our approach has been to create centers of excellence globally, allowing us to establish the intelligence that’s needed to respond swiftly as we build strategically, using an existing framework of people, processes, and tools.  A few years back our strategy was about building out our capability and leadership in our growth and emerging markets. We established our Global Growth & Operations structure to accelerate our pace. Now our focus is on becoming the premier digital industrial organization … we are scaling in alignment of those goals.

Empower and Collaborate

In order to enable collaboration and drive accountability, people need to be set in flight, free to question, test, fail, and start again. Letting teams be the owners embraces the spirit of entrepreneurship, at whatever size or scope it happens.  Rewarding drive and creativity allows us to grow and retain our talent.

It’s the last point that really resonates with me personally as a leader in the talent acquisition space. A key piece to the enablement and empowerment is effective and active listening. I saw a quote on LinkedIn recently attributed to a gentleman by the name of Andy Stanley. It really summarizes how I have built teams that continue to inspire and motivate me:

Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.

Steve Knox joined GE in 2007 as the head of talent acquisition for GE Canada and within one-year built GE’s first-ever country CoE model. A graduate of the University of Western Ontario with a B.A. in history, he is also a Certified Human Resources Professional through the Canadian Human Resources Professional Association. He has been dedicated to the recruitment function for the last 18 years. Prior to GE, he was the senior manager of talent acquisition for the professional services firm Deloitte & Touche and began his career working for Kimberly-Clark Inc. and Fedex as an HR Manager .

In 2011 he took on a new role as global talent acquisition leader for the emerging markets. In this role he helped define the overall recruitment strategy and spearhead efforts to build talent acquisition centers of excellence for all of GE’s growth and emerging markets spanning 50+ countries. In 2014 he took on a global strategy & operations role with overall responsibility for GE’s recruitment technology, global processes, tools and programs, recruitment analytics & metrics, talent sourcing strategy, recruiter competency model and curriculum, and recruitment marketing and branding.

In his spare time, he sits on the Board of Directors for Our Place, Community of Hope which is an organization focused on supporting and aiding individuals suffering from mental health issues.

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1 Comment on “What Hypergrowth Environments and the Gig Economy Can Teach Us in Talent Acquisition

  1. Lots of powerful and practical focal points for reviewing Talent Acquisition function current practices to find gaps that when addressed, lead to improved effectiveness. I question the opening sentence though, and in particular the notion that “it can get harder for talent acquisition organizations to continue delivering value”.

    I have argued elsewhere that talent acquisition organizations have at least three “yuuuge” gaps between potential and delivered talent value that currently deliver screening tragedies, short list maladies, and decision interview fantasies. https://app.emaze.com/@AZLTRQQF/objective-gamification?fullscreen

    Screening tragedies happen when the top talent that delivers 80% of on-the-job value gets knocked out by a low score on a science-free screening test (like the MBTI, Disc, Predictive Index, etc.) or clicks out of a long, boring, text-dense test completely disconnected to the job. Completion rates for unproctored online testing range from a disturbing 50% to an unacceptable 10% or less for high-demand jobs screened on smart phones. At under 10% completion rates, the top talent is long gone. Validated short, powerful, visual profilers and gamified test administration can turn this around. That’s real sustainable value.

    Short list decision maladies include test batteries that are so comprehensive that hiring managers get confused and ignore them. Irrelevance more than abandonment is the core problem here. Available solutions include “traffic light” scoring based on validity-weighted composites of a few powerful predictors.

    Decision interview fantasies abound. One flavor insisted that the more interviews the better. Field research at Google proved that after 4, no incremental value was found. Another fantasy that I had a role in promoting (I published the first research and wrote the book on Behavior Description Interviewing) was that behavioral interviewing delivers vastly improved final decision accuracy. It can, when the key best practices get practiced in the field, but they seldom do. The gap is debilitating, taking as much as 70% of the potential hire value off the table. Objective interviewing is the remedy. It deplo9ys natural language analytics to score the content of candidate answers to carefully developed behavioral questions. The talent value increment delivers an upside three orders of magnitude greater than that of currently prevalent “worst practices”, and at a reduced total cost, so ROI does not apply. There is a saving, not an investment. It is an ROS in this case, Return on Saving.

    So if we get serious about deploying science in talent acquisition, there is much than can be done to deliver substantial and sustainable value. Too many words, but that’s my point.

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