| 7 min read

The Future of Talent Acquisition: Why You Need To Adapt

Written by Mat Roche

Talent acquisition has entered a period of seismic change, making it harder for organisations to recruit the right talent.

The move to a digital world is influencing most industries, and most companies within these industries are embarking on a radical program of digital transformation. This means businesses and consultancies increasingly need access to a new generation of talent that can harness new technology, drive innovation and empower this change.

The trouble is that recruiting people with these skills is easier said than done. Organisations are struggling more than ever to find the right people; PwC’s 19th Annual Global CEO Survey found that 73% of CEOs identified a lack of new skills as a major threat to their business in 2016 and a 2016 Tech City UK report found that new digital tech jobs were being created at a rate that’s 2.8 times faster than the rest of the economy. 

As new technology skills become increasingly important to the success of your business, having an in-house team capable of securing them will be key. However, we are entering a period of a huge change as a new era of talent acquisition dawns. If you want to succeed in this new era, you need to understand that change is happening, understand why it’s happening and most importantly, understand how to adapt if you are to bring the right skills into your organisation. 


So, what is changing?                                 

To date, there have been two eras of recruitment spanning the last 30 years both of which have fundamentally shaped how recruiters, both in-house and agency, source talent.  As we enter the third era, the digital era, it’s important to learn from the first two eras in order to understand how the market for talent is changing.



The first era: The Analogue Age

The first era of recruitment began in the 1980s and continued into the late 90s. During this first era, the elemental skills of a recruiting professional were established and refined. With telephones, fax machines and the postal service as their primary communication tools, and with print media as their main sourcing channel, recruiters had to focus on building relationships in order to add real value.   

Sourcing methodology was geared towards highly skilled techniques such as creating and managing internal networks of talent, building a credible brand, networking and head hunting.

In the Analogue Age, recruitment was more of an art form where the key was an ability to identify talent. This first age was not without its faults, but was by and large practiced by professionals whose work was respected.


The second era: The Age of Spray & Pray

The second era of recruitment commenced in the late 1990s, and was characterised by two features: advances in technology (the internet and email) – and the abuse of this technology.

The advent of the internet and email fundamentally changed the staffing function – both agency side and in-house - but not, as it has turned out, for the better. Interpersonal communication was replaced by mass transactional databases, job boards, online CV databases, and short-term thinking. And, ultimately a generation of lesser skilled recruitment professionals who abused new technology to send thousands of identical, poorly written emails to databases and fire off unsolicited inMails via LinkedIn, a once valuable platform which is no more.

This ‘spray and pray’ approach was less effective, but the sheer volume of communications sent out meant that there was typically some return on investment. Agency professionals in particular, came to rely on it as their default strategy. 

Perception of recruiters nowadays is a key measure in showcasing the decline of the profession during the second era.  Ask a candidate or a business stakeholder what they think of recruiters, and the response will often be negative.

The decline of the recruitment professional during the second era has had a negative impact on in-house recruitment functions. Many, aside from a select few that never adopted these practices in the first place, are staffed by recruiters who have only ever known these poor methods that have come to dominate. Especially as many have moved from old school agencies to in-house roles.


The third era: The Digital Age

Fortunately, the third and current era of recruitment, the Digital Age, has been a renaissance for the profession. The type of skilled communicator that dominated the Analogue Age – the relationship-builder, the cultivator of networks – is coming back as recruitment once again emphasises a strong need for one-to-one engagement.

Why is this happening?

The move to a digital world is creating a perfect storm for recruiters as exploding skills gaps combine with a fundamental shift in the way people are looking for work. Digital transformation isn’t just disrupting the way in which we order taxis or shop, but also the way in which we interact with each other.  The very nature of how we communicate in a digital world is changing consumer behaviour, including the way experienced professionals manage their careers, and change jobs.

These changes in candidate behaviour are hugely affecting your ability to recruit high quality professionals because your existing recruitment strategies are potentially becoming outdated and less and less effective.

What are the key trends?

As the move to digital has gained momentum, the active talent pool has decreased significantly in quality and in volume. Driven by easily accessible digital footprints, there has been a clear change in mindset where reactivity has replaced proactivity when it comes to job hunting.  As a result, there are now fewer people actively looking for work. The bottom line is that in-demand talent now expect career opportunities to find them, so they are no longer looking for you.

LinkedIn was once a valuable tool for recruiting but this is no longer the case. The people you want to hire just don’t use the platform as much as they once did. When they do, they are faced with a barrage of mostly irrelevant job offers and irritating messages.

The issue with LinkedIn is part of a wider problem. The constant job notifications on all social platforms is causing apathy and desensitisation towards career opportunities. Such is the disillusionment with the working practices of mainstream recruiters – in-house and agency alike - that they’re now considered akin to a form of paparazzi. As a result, your target audience is likely ignoring you.

Candidates have more choice than ever before as the balance of power shifts from employers to people. Every company now has the same ability to market their vacancies to the same talent pool and many have something to offer as they invest in digital transformation. The net result is that it is now harder for employers to stand out than ever before.

These trends are resulting in the emergence of two distinct recruiter profiles: the outdated ‘dinosaur’ recruiter from the 2nd era who hasn’t changed the way they source talent in years and the modern sourcing professional who is aware of these trends and is adapting their techniques.

What does modern recruitment look like in the digital era?

As the Digital Age dawns, the key to talent acquisition is no longer about a recruiter’s ability to ID candidates, it’s about how they engage and build relationships with them.

It’s a recruiter’s ability to effectively build and manage communities of talent, both online or offline, that separates the industry’s most successful recruiters from transactional second era recruiters. Modern recruiters must also be able to embrace the art of social selling (the process of developing relationships via social networks), and become a marketing champion, with strong creative writing skills and the ability and the discipline to develop a strong online brand for themselves and for their business along with creating excellent, thought-provoking content.

In the second era, the recruitment profession’s reputation took a serious hit. But as we enter the Digital Age, the profession is coming full circle and is once again becoming highly skilled as sourcing talent becomes much more complex.



What does this mean for you?

Your number one priority should be to ensure your in-house function employs people who have a flare for modern recruitment. Second era recruiters have no place in a digital world.

Your second priority should be to ensure they are leveraging the latest sourcing techniques  and productivity apps that will allow them to engage and recruit high quality talent. Investing in training will be key.

In addition, as sourcing the latest tech skills becomes more and more difficult, the need to complement your in-house team with modern agency suppliers to plug resourcing gaps or fill niche roles has never been greater.

So, when it comes to your recruitment suppliers, you need to update and re-evaluate them, purging your PSL of any old-school recruiters who operate resourcing methods developed in the second era and, who are quite simply becoming redundant as we move from one era to another. What’s more, you should do this as quickly as possible. Most recruitment agencies haven’t moved on from the second era and show no desire to due to a lack of vision and awareness.

If you are outsourcing some of your key hires to agencies at present and you are getting frustrated with the lack of results, you should consider the following:

  • How many of your suppliers are aggressively investing in building a respected brand that will benefit you? Or, how many have poor reputations that could hinder your ability to access talent.
  • How many of your suppliers have significantly changed their resourcing methods in the last few years? Do you actually know?
  • Is it easy to differentiate one agency from another? Most suppliers are now clones of each other; a tell-tale sign of a market that has reached the end of an era.

It’s likely that the agencies on your PSL do not score highly against these key measures of success. It happens to every industry during the transition from one era to another: businesses become outdated and ineffective. They either adapt to suit changing times or they get replaced by businesses that do.


Rebalancing recruitment for a new era in talent acquisition

 If you want to improve your ability to source talent during this transition from one era to another, the questions to ask are simple:

  • Do you employ in-house recruiters who have a flare for modern recruitment?
  • How many of your recruitment suppliers are now becoming out-of-date? And what are you going to do about it?

Hiring recruiters who have the personality, skills and competencies for modern talent sourcing is tricky as they are few and far between. However, they do exist and are increasing in numbers as the added complexity of hiring in the Digital Age attracts a new generation of people into recruitment.   

Without the right vision, without the right in-house recruitment talent and, without the right forward thinking agency suppliers in place, your company risks falling behind in the battle to recruit high calibre professionals. A combination of in-house recruiters with a real flare for modern sourcing along with forward thinking agencies who have adapted their businesses to The Digital Age, will significantly improve your ability to access the talent you need. 

Building an in-house recruitment function fit for the Digital Age will take time, but will be a worthy investment. If you can’t wait and need to recruit skilled professionals into your organisation now, improve your access to talent immediately with a truly forward thinking group of recruitment suppliers.  Here’s how.

Read our eBook for tips from some of the UK’s most respected in-house recruitment leaders – and discover how to drive more value from your agency PSL.