Jody Robie, SVP & Shareholder at Talent Works talks about how data and technology are driving Recruitment Process Outsourcing for talent acquisition
1. Tell us about your role at TalentWorks
I am the SVP for North America and a shareholder in the business. I was the first US employee 8 years ago, and it has been exciting to see our growth in the Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) space and in the market.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
I started my career in television as a broadcaster, producer and sales, working with local TV stations in Boston. As I shifted to marketing and sales, I saw the huge potential in talent communications and recruitment marketing. I have been in the talent consulting, marketing and outsourced recruiting world for more than 15 years. Understanding how to market and how to recruit are quite similar and I am glad I am able to wear my creative hat to help differentiate our clients.
3. How do you think technology is changing the HR Sector?
It is interesting to see the pros and cons of technology in the HR sector. On the positive, the days of just developing a nice looking employer brand and career site without the responsibility of any metrics or ROI are over.
Today we can track brand perception, application flow and the viability of social channels to engage the right passive talent via programmatic advertising. The ease and convenience of AI-based databases and search tools can help to kick off sourcing and executive search programs quicker than before.
However, there is now a tendency to rely on technology to replace human review and proper recruiting. If you only rely on an algorithm to pull talent from your ATS or database services, you are going to miss out on diverse and valuable candidates who need a good recruiter to review their profile, have a real conversation and engage.
That being said, technology can help in the initial, high-level processing of applications. When the volume of applications is high, AI and technology can help in the initial screening of candidates to ensure they meet the basic requirements and support recruiters by speeding up the hiring process. However, a human input is required to oversee this screening to ensure variation in candidates. There is no AI for nuance.
4. How do you think digitization is empowering the recruiting processes?
As a business, we have invested in building our own digital team that has the digital marketing and recruitment expertise to efficiently and effectively build pipelines and engage with niche talent like never before. Having the ability to track every dollar and to pull metrics and reporting on the passive candidate response from first engagement to application is a game-changer. For years, employer branding was a nice-to-have, but now it really is a necessity in finding the right talent and delivering the right message.
5. How does Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) help in finding the right fit candidate?
RPO is a great way to meet the challenge of recruiting without putting pressure on your hiring managers, leaders and in-house HR teams.
Today’s talent market has become more complex than ever before, with contributing factors such as the influx of roles available post-pandemic, remote working, 15-20% attrition and the pressures of diversity requirements in hiring. It is unrealistic to think that a small in-house recruitment team can put the active sourcing and recruiting time into every role given all these new complexities.
Job postings are not providing quality applications and each position needs some specialized attention. This is a global issue we are finding in US, UK, EMEA, India and beyond.
RPO allows an organization to have a planned resource that can scale up/down to meet the volume. I’m often asked the advantage of RPO versus hiring an in-house team and essentially it is the ability to commercially plan and have a team ready to deliver quickly.
The recruiter market is sky high and if you are looking at dozens of roles, it can become very expensive to continue to hire in-house recruiters at six-figure salaries not knowing how long you will have high volume requirements. No one wants to go back to laying off or furloughing employees if the business changes the forecast on headcount. Talent Acquisition leaders are being recruited themselves and if they leave, their pipeline and market knowledge leaves too.
A flexible RPO model, like the one Talent Works offers, gives companies the confidence that the pipeline, brand equity and candidate care will continue. We can fill a 6-month gap, work on a cluster of specific roles (IT, Sales) and give some support to internal, overstretched teams. Our approach is not one to replace but to augment and support in-house hiring teams – together as an extension of the team.
As we have the creative and digital expertise in-house, we can validate the reasons to join while pulling together the market perceptions and insights that are important for the business to hear. Most importantly, we can deliver the hires needed in an agreed-upon timeframe, which can be hard to demand of your own employees.
6. How is data driving the talent acquisition process?
Data helps us to avoid assumptions and biases. It is easy to assume the reason why we are not getting applications is due to a company’s reputation or that the salaries are not competitive – but data can help us to validate some of those assumptions. We can talent map and see if the profile of talent actually exists in the market we are looking at. It could be that maybe we need to change a job title or a job description to fit the talent, and data can help us streamline that process.
Having analytics on all candidate approaches both from the sourcing and marketing perspective quickly tells the story. We can then look and evaluate how many candidates we need to include in our funnel to allow for the vetting process, shortlist and ultimately a hire. Real-life conversations to validate trends are important, and continuing to brand track sentiment allows us to stay on track and avoid any surprises as we continue to recruit.
7. Tell us about your approach using data-rich insight, digital marketing, creative thinking and direct sourcing
Our in-house teams allow us to review every situation and determine which tools in the toolbox should be used, and help us to determine if the message is clear and authentic for the specific audience we are targeting.
Throughout many industries, data science is used extensively to understand how to find new customers, extending patterns and retention tactics. At Talent Works we use similar techniques to identify suitable candidates and how to attract them. We then control the parameters and our sourcing team can intervene to ensure we inject candidate diversity within the process.
8. How are you preparing for an AI-centric World?
As per above, we have data science skills in-house and use machine learning for data analysis and predictions. With the correct use of data we can find new talent pools that are different and diverse from historic hiring practices, but there’s no magic algorithm to this – it relies upon a careful balance of analytical tools and human judgement. Over-reliance on data in resume sorting algorithms will get identical candidates to the ones you’d had before and reduce parameters for hires.
In Talent Acquisition, we need to look at our AI adoption carefully and understand it’s limitations. We’ve a long way to go before recruiters and talent managers can rely extensively on AI to make candidate decisions. Moreover, not being able to say why a hiring decision has been made, because you can’t see the workings of the algorithm, could leave employers open to liability.
9. What are the major developments you are planning at Talent Works?
As a business, we turned 12 in March 2021. It is a very exciting time for the business. Our leadership team has spent time to clearly define our offerings across the digital, RPO and creative/research offerings. We admit to loving to work with scaling businesses and have some great experience working with cutting edge companies across our portfolio.
Our major plans are to support the continued growth of our business. My personal goal is to expand our RPO offerings across North America, which is not as mature a market as we see in EMEA. We want to continue to build out our reputation as a trusted partner expanding our clients’ growth, as we have done these last 8 years.
10. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
We have a close-knit global team. The majority of our employees sit in the East Coast US or in the UK, so we try to be respectful of the time zones. We have a team based culture and it is pretty much expected that if someone needs help someone will come back quickly with an answer or a suggestion as to when they can support.
We have a transparent culture driven by our Global CEO Neil Purcell. Each Friday we have a global call and celebrate successes across the business which is a nice way for our growing teams to meet other employees and learn about the exciting wins and good news.
I can honestly say in 8 years I have never been asked to do a call at 5am and likewise wouldn’t ask our UK team to do a 10pm call either. With that said, we have a lot of productive and relevant conversations and collaboration between 7am-noon EST. For the US team, it is great to have the confidence that you can wake up and have some answers, creative amends or media plans waiting in your inbox. For the UK team, having the opportunity to work with businesses across North America makes for interesting work as they learn more about some of our clients on the West Coast and other markets across the country.
We have made the effort to hire nice people who are excited to be supporting our clients in their talent attraction needs. I’m proud of our teams and the efforts they have continuously given throughout the pandemic and this very busy recovery phase.
11. What movie inspires you the most?
I enjoy real life stories like Hidden Figures and some of my favorite movies include The Fugitive and Shawshank Redemption: I like stories where you see fairness prevail and hard work pay off.
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