Talent Acquisition - Lessons from North America

Two countries, four cities and lots of air-miles...My recent trip to North America took in San Fransisco, Toronto, New York and Napa. This was a great opportunity to experience business life on another continent as well as the chance to lift the lid on the recruitment and HR industry in the most advanced economy in the world.

On a professional level, there was a lot to learn and bring home to share with colleagues and clients.

The American Talent Acquisition and Recruitment industry is not as advanced as everyone thinks it is in Australia. Actually, I think some of our HR and Recruitment practices are more progressive. No one is really doing anything radically new or different and the 'hot-topics' sound awfully familiar - EVP & Employment Branding; Proactive Sourcing and Talent Pipelining; Efficiency and Productivity; Doing more with less; Mobile Technology; Strategic Workforce Planning; Referrals; Employee engagement & retention.

Job boards are seriously out of vogue and a lot of recruiters are trying not to use them; preferring to leverage Social and Professional networks - LinkedIn has a stranglehold in the US too! You have to question the business model for Monster or SEEK - if those sites do not evolve they will really struggle moving forward especially as corporates seek to reduce the quantity of unqualified applicants and their general spend on job boards.

Sites like Glassdoor have real cut through in America and they provide access to REM data, opinion and branding commentary as well as direct jobs. Amusingly, if a company has not subscribed to Glassdoor, you can advertise your organisation's jobs on a competitor’s page - cheeky but effective!

Diversity & Inclusion is not just gender diversity as it tends to be in Australia. There is a real focus on cultural, gender, religious and ethnic diversity, which is important for such a diverse population as the US. Having seen some of the American D&I initiatives, it makes me think Australia provides lip service to some of these issues. I think it's about time we 'walk the talk' in relation to Diversity and Inclusion.

It is a very hot talent market particularly in the major metropolitan areas in California and on the East coast (NY) and candidates are always on the lookout for opportunities. As a result, companies are beginning to really focus on retention strategies which will become increasingly important as the economy starts to grow further. A growing and strongly performing US market is good for Australia and the rest of the world. If it continues to grow, labour markets throughout the western world will tighten once more, particularly in the technology, finance and engineering based industries.

My three big 'take-aways' for Australian Corporate Talent Acquisition functions to think about are:

  • Sourcing channel relevance and optimisation ...Assess what is currently working for you; consider trying new channels (not traditional job boards); analyse the value of job board vs. other channels in terms of applications to hire ratios; quality of hire; cost of hire; conduct some media consumption habits of your target applicants 
  • Formulate your social media strategy; assess who in your business will own and drive this; seek executive sponsorship to drive this social media strategy through the entire organisation, not just in Talent Acquisition and then focus on content and not just job broadcasting 
  • Assess your technology landscape. Are your recruitment tools enabling you to deliver outstanding performance? Are there best of breed technologies (ERP, CRM) that will transform your productivity, results or ROI? Can you access the data you need easily and in a meaningful structure? Is your technology mobile friendly?

I think Australia is punching above its weight and can demonstrate just as much capability and maturity in corporate talent acquisition. Our only slight deficiency is our lack of technology innovation (by which I mean innovation that is designed and built here) and our slow adoption of social media for recruiting purposes. I think just as many Australians should be invited to speak at American Talent Acquisition conferences as Americans present here - and may you be one of them!

On  a personal level, although I will NEVER fly Air Canada again, I will return to New York to soak up more of the ‘anything goes vibe’ and I pledge to go back to the Napa Valley for some actual wine tasting as well as San Francisco, which is a great city and a lot like Melbourne.

I appreciated lots about the consumer culture in the United States, clothes and shoes are half the price they are in Australia, for example; customer service is paramount everywhere, and to everyone, and you can use Wi-Fi on domestic flights; but other things were difficult to stomach, the 20% tipping culture was a burden and the traffic in San Francisco and Toronto was awful - I will never complain about the Monash into Melbourne again!

Written: June 24th 2014

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