Challenges for recruitment: globalisation, gender, generational gaps

06 Dec 2011 14:55 | Deleted user

Globalisation, gender and generational gaps will be hard challenges for recruitment

Interview by Alessandra Zocca

Chiara Mancardi, Associate at b-management, leader in Belgium in interim and transition management.

Chiara, how do you define "talent"?
Ms. Mancardi – Let me first go to my “old dictionary” definition of talent, before defining talent in the perspective of recruitment and talent management: “Talent is a group of aptitudes that are useful for some activities. Aptitudes are innate components of a competency as opposed – for instance – to knowledge and understanding, that can be learned; or acquired abilities to do a certain kind of work and at a certain level. Aptitudes may be physical or mental and the innate nature of aptitudes is in contrast to achievement, which represents knowledge or abilities that are gained”
I would like to emphasise that, even if aptitudes are innate, this does not mean that they do not need to be worked upon. I like the quote “talent, like oil, needs to be refined”. Let’s take the example of sculptors, who have inside themselves the image and the shape they want to create, but have to use their knowledge to choose the appropriate materials according to their properties, plasticity, rigidity and so on..

 Chiara, sorry to interrupt you, is “leadership” a talent in your opinion?
Ms. Mancardi – Leadership to me is a mixture of things: it is not black and white; it is always related to a group of individuals, where some individuals stand out for their charisma, ability to convince others, uniting people around projects, communication, empathy and creativity. To a certain degree these elements come naturally to these outstanding individuals, but they have also refined and improved their natural skills.
Who are the top leaders in the business environment nowadays? Most of them have strong ethics and values, coherence in and outside the business environment, and compromise only on the small and unimportant details. This is my very personal view.

… back to talent and talent management …
Ms. Mancardi – Yes, talent management … Different organisations may assume different interpretations, for instance managing highly paid individuals (stars, top performers) or it can mean how talent is managed (based on the assumption that all people have talents that can be identified and developed).
In the perspective of recruiting, the challenge is to match the demand with the supply of talent available at the time.
Talent management means also defining a map of where talents – not in terms of individuals, but in terms of skills and capabilities - are, meaning in which functions in the company. It includes understanding whether talents are being used to their full potential, and also to identify potential talent and talent shortages in line with the company’s future objectives..

Scouting for, attracting, selecting and recruiting the "right" and talented people is a crucial and vital process for a company, isn't it?
Why then - often - do companies assign these responsibilities to employees with a lower seniority position and age? Don't you think that ensuring the company has the optimum human resources to fulfill the vision should be a responsibility of senior management?

Ms. Mancardi – Interesting question, Alessandra, there are several factors to consider. The age of the recruiter is not per se the issue; skills can be easily and factually assessed and selected, while attitudes and talent require, on the contrary, a contextual evaluation. The issue is rather the involvement level in the selection process of the right management, who has to take the final responsibility for the choice.
A distinction has to be made between routine recruitment for high volume positions and strategic talent recruiting. To be provocative, I say that we need to give space to young HR people, who have to start practicing in order to learn (hopefully supported by a supervisor who know the business and has operational experience).  In routine recruitment it is appropriate to assign young recruiters who are able to apply the recruitment processes and tools. It is not appropriate in cases where critical skills/abilities are required and here your point, Alessandra, is relevant. 

Which are nowadays the key factors of recruitment?
Ms. Mancardi – One key factor is the correct usage of the technology available nowadays to treat information, I give you a parallel example: of course it is not because you have the best CRM tool that you are a good salesman. HR recruitment tools are impressive, help recruiters sift through tons of data efficiently to identify the best candidates; it makes sense to use these tools, but the key factor is to use them correctly. In other words there is a difference between having access to large volumes of information and how you use that information; using the information requires the ability to read between the lines on a cv and to match the right candidate to the position.

From the job seeker’s point of view, it’s not so long ago (I still recall it myself) that people looking for a job used to buy the papers at the weekend, screen the job offers, prepare a pile of letters, post them and wait for a reply.   Today, with internet/technology looking for a job is a daily task, a full time occupation as a matter of fact.

The second key fact is quite obvious and it is the successful match between supply and demand.
The third factor, which clearly indicates that recruiting should not be seen in isolation, is that the company has defined the right offer for the right candidate: job content, function and the salary package have to be in line with the market and tuned to match the expectations of the target population.
The recruitment might have been done perfectly and the match is correct, but if the right retention elements are not in place, then the selected candidate remains with the company for only two months and this recruitment is no longer a success. The company might have done the appropriate actions to be visible and attract candidates, but if behind the scenes there are problems they will not be able to retain staff; merely showing the “carrot” does not work, companies need to actually fulfill expectations if they are to retain their most valuable staff. 
One more factor is that profiles must be conceived and defined in a medium/long-term perspective according to the company goals.

Which are the key competencies, qualities and professional background of the best recruiters?
Ms. Mancardi – HR people, so also recruiters, need to be reliable business partners for the other functions in the company. This means that recruiters are not just expected to find candidates, but to play an advisory role regarding the recruitment needs.
In terms of background it would mean that a senior recruiter or head of the recruitment team should have experience of the working practices of the company and a solid knowledge of its business.
Specific required qualities are:

•    Psychological insight, strong business acumen, business intelligence
•    A certain degree of creativity in identifying potential resources pools and different recruitment solutions
•    Ability to read between the lines of the of the cv to reveal the real contribution that the individual will bring to the company.
•    It is crucial for a recruiter to have developed and to keep updated his/her social and professional network.

Which are the differences between recruiting as Head Hunter/ interim or within the company ?
Ms. Mancardi – The major difference for a Head Hunter, compared to a recruiter in the company is that external recruiters need additional skills: first of all the ability to quickly understand the client company and their needs (good consultants are skilled in rapidly acquiring and understanding information and the characteristics of the environment). Equally important is the ability to extract from the given information the requirements of the job position now and how it could evolve in the future, which is necessary in order to find a candidate who will be able to cope.
Secondly, Head Hunters have to get and keep the trust of their clients through efficient and successful matches. Thirdly, they need marketing and sales capabilities (selling their services, selling the position to the candidate, selling the best candidate to the company).

How has recruitment evolved in the last few years (in terms of relevance, globalisation, organisation structure, processes)? How, in your opinion, will recruitment evolve in the next ten years?
Ms. Mancardi – There have been three main changes in the business environment and in the role of HR management in the companies.
The lack of continuity and the speed of change in the business world, which have dramatically reduced the length of economic cycles and which make it difficult to forecast the changes and their impact, require increased business agility and different leadership models. The globalization phenomenon - with flat structures, large teams and geographically remote teams - requires global talents. The modern technologies allow companies to have access to the same resources; companies need to become attractive for the candidates, especially when there is a resource scarcity (few candidates have the innovative technical skills taught in few universities or demographic issues meaning there are not enough good candidates).
These changes have challenged and influenced the evolution of HR teams more in their work methods and habits than in the organisational asset/structure of the HR function itself.
In the future HR should be covering a more and more strategic role in the company processes, earning more credibility and enabling them to take their place in the Boardroom. The skill of recruiters will be to contribute in defining more “meaningful” jobs, “cooler” companies to be able to fulfill the candidates’ expectations and retain them. Borderless organisations, gender and generational gaps will be hard challenges.

In the light of the EU Parliament resolution regarding women quotae, how do you envisage the impact on recruitment?
Ms. Mancardi – Maybe I do not have the full picture, but personally I think that quotas – dealing with gender diversity - have to be treated in the same way as “diversity” is managed in the company. From one angle quotas might accelerate women’s access to the Board, but it has to be taken into account that there will be differences across sectors, because there are types of jobs and environments that favour one gender over the other. The real question is whether women are ready to dedicate to their profession the required energy to progress to the top: if they have the potential, they have to fully accept the battle. In order to succeed in the battle women need to strengthen their capabilities and skills, for instance:
• Behavior and leadership style
• Communication
• Ability to prioritise and delegate (sorry, but I have seen a number of women overloaded because of a resistance to delegate to others)
• Networking at professional and social level
• Improve their work/life balance, which is indeed a matter of logistics and organisation; work/life balance should no longer be an issue for women close to the board level, because their salaries allow them to acquire all the services (schools, baby-sitters, home support, etc.).
Last but not least, if the quotae resolution will not obtain a clear social and political commitment, it will lose the effect to trigger the aimed equality and will risk becoming one of “those laws”. In terms of impact on recruitment I believe that there are two main risks: sub-optimisation of the match and potential reverse discrimination. If the company must take into account the fact that having a female candidate is preferable, then the selection is done in two sub-groups (male and female), which does not provide the same effectiveness of screening as one single pool.

  Short Biography
Chiara joined B-management in 2009. As well as leading international assignments in sales and marketing, Chiara also oversees B-management’s web presence, developing internet-based approaches and tools to better serve the firm’s client base and candidate pool. 
B-management has been awarded the  HR Excellence Awards 2011 as best
Interim Management company.
Prior to her arrival at B-management Chiara was an International Product Manager for StepStone, a leading provider of online career management services.
Chiara honed her marketing skills in the automotive industry (General Motors Europe), where she also increased her experience in Brand and Product management. She later joined an international publishing company (Wolters Kluwer) where she progressed through several marketing and sales positions, ultimately focusing on internet services targeting logistics industry professionals.
Chiara holds an MBA from the Solvay Brussels School of Management & Economics (ULB) and a Bachelors degree in Business Administration from the University of Torino (Italy).


Disclaimer - Any views and opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of B-Management, nor do they constitute a legally binding agreement.
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