| 5 min read

#TalentQ&A: Nigel Kalra, Global Talent Partner @ Sage

Francesca Greane
Written by Francesca Greane

The latest in our Talent Leaders Q&A Series, we are delighted to feature Nigel Kalra – Global Talent Partner at Sage. Nigel shared his insights on the changing world of talent acquisition, on how candidates are becoming increasingly in control of the market, and how businesses – especially those seeking to fill niche technology requirements – can alter their sourcing methods to engage that hard-to-reach talent.


Third Republic (TR): How have you seen talent acquisition change in your time in the industry?

Nigel Kalra (NK): Talent acquisition has seen many changes; so much so that we’re now seeing corporate talking about the likes of generation Z, female hires, diversity, the importance of attractive benefits, and having amazing workspaces, and even the best trending hashtags. In general, though, I think there’s been four major changes; adaptability, data, the need for marketing, the candidate experience, and talent rediscovery. 

In terms of adaptability, talent acquisition professionals are now – more than ever – able to share information with candidates that never formed part of the conversation before. From changes in leadership, to ramping up projects, or through to redundancies, talent acquisition used to just be about filling the empty space, but now there are real conversations going on about the state and the need of the business – and the whole thing is making it more transparent.

There has also been a massive emphasis on data – particularly on the importance of it. We now know that data speaks louder than anything now, and therefore is playing an increasingly important role around talent attraction, selection or branding as we move into 2019. It’s like knowing your ABC; if you can’t collect and interpret your data, you’re going to end up going around in circles!

Then there’s the fact that recruiting is now basically marketing; if you’re not able to market yourself then you aren’t in the right job! Recruiters are learning how to identify their organisations strengths, and market them in order to engage candidates in creative ways.

Finally, there’s the shift from proactive candidates to reactive candidates. Gone are the days when you could wait for talent to come to you. Instead, recruiters have to go out engage talent who aren’t really looking or wanting to have a conversation. With that in mind, talent partners now have to work on building a pipeline well before the job even goes live, and understanding their business needs well in advance in order to ensure they can use the right channels and engage the right talent as quickly as possible.

In line with this move to a more passive candidate behaviour, it’s now all about the candidate experience. It starts from the job description, and how you write a job advert to engage candidates and make them feel comfortable with applying and goes all the way through to ensuring they are at the centre of all processes. From end-to-end it’s now about having more of a pull than a push approach.


TR: You mention candidates being increasingly passive. So, how have you seen candidate behaviour change during your time in the industry?

KN: Candidate behaviour has changed in a drastic manner because there is just such a high demand for them! Especially when it comes to niche skills and experience with niche technologies, companies are using every carrot possible to try and pull candidates towards them. As a result, candidates have stopped applying for jobs because they know that the jobs will come to them! They will often have several offers in hand, and it’s down to you as a recruiter to ask the right questions to get them engaged, interested, and to fundamentally secure them a role.


TR: With that in mind, would you say we are now working in a candidate-driven market?

KN: We have been working in a candidate-driven market since 2017 – if not before – and candidates now have to be at the centre of the entire process if you want any hope of attracting and hiring them! Let’s talk just about the attraction strategy; if a job description is just talking about what a company has to offer, and not what a candidate will get out of the role, then candidate’s in today’s market won’t even think about responding. And then, when you think about the offer, if you aren’t able to discuss your candidates’ needs and translate that to how the business will be able to support those needs, then you’re going to probably never be able to secure that candidates.

In this candidate-driven market, talent partners, and their organisations, need to go to market with an open mind in today’s landscape. Salaries and benefits need to be flexible in order to support the potential candidates’ needs, rather than just offering the same package to everyone, for instance.

Recruiters are kind of finding themselves in limbo, where candidates have the upper hand, and talent acquisition professionals are having to find new methods and techniques to source and hire, and to navigate the changes the industry is going through.


TR: Do you believe that technical candidates are harder to source and engage now, as a result of these shifts

KN: Technically skilled candidates have always been harder to source; on one side is the fact that organisations are moving at an increasingly rapid pace to try and meet customer needs by bringing in new technologies. On the other side, the pool of candidates who are trained in these technologies is incredibly small. As a result, when you have a business who are looking to implement a technology, talent acquisition professionals are all searching in similar pools of talent.

Technical candidates also continuously upgrade their skills based on the market, so it’s a very knowledge-based driven market and the more confident you are on your skills, the more likely you are to be in demand. Then, in an organisation like Safe, there is a huge element of customer-facing capabilities and collaborating with stakeholders in any role, and so this only increases the difficulty to find candidates who are not only technically competent, but who can also stand up in front of stakeholders and manage those relationships.


TR: So, how do you overcome this challenge at Sage?

NK: Sage is a market leader in accounting, payroll, HR and payment products, so it’s a very fast paced organisation and an advanced SaaS company. We are 100% in the cloud in the UK, and in other locations across the globe are following that trends. With the diverse skills like AWS, Azure, Kubernetes, Artificial Intelligence, UX design and more, plus the operations and collaboration across various levels, it’s a very dynamic environment and adaptability is key for us.

So, in order to make hiring happen, we try to remain flexible and approach the market with a tailor-made package. We continuously review our benefits and salary offerings to ensure that we are able to attract the right talent and retain them with the business, and we use various sources to hire - including Linkedin, Meet-ups, networking, leadership conferences, job fairs and etc. For us, it  is more to do with engaging passive candidates and building pipeline for these hard to find roles, then just engaging every candidate out there – who might not be the right fit further down the line.  


TR: Finally, with all of these challenges and the changing industry in mind, how can recruitment agencies support businesses today?

KN: It is all about omni-approach. Direct hiring is great but there are skills that are absolutely difficult to fill and, in those situations, Talent acquisition partners should have enough knowledge to engage efficient agencies to support them. Ultimately, it is about getting the right candidate, and if the roles are not getting filled within 60 days then it is important to review them and engage agencies at the right time. Specialist agencies have a larger network, and they can therefore help in filling those roles faster - simply due to their background and experience in niche technology areas, for instance.