#TalentQA | 6 min read

#TalentQA: Oscar Machado, Digital Recruitment Manager @ Vodafone

Francesca Greane
Written by Francesca Greane

We recently spoke with Oscar Machado, Digital Recruitment Manager at Vodafone, to hear his thoughts on how the talent acquisition industry is now key to the success of any organisations digital transformation plans, and how recruiters can overcome the challenges associated with sourcing this niche technical talent today. 


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

Oscar Machado (OM): I have been talent acquisition for the last decade, and the changes have been staggering. I believe that the main changes have come from how the industry has moved from serving mostly a transactional function to a more strategic one, at least in the specialist areas.

Talent acquisition is now seen as a driving force for change within businesses, by getting the right people in to take the organisation where it needs to be.

Alongside this, the technical advancements have allowed a complete overhaul of candidate engagement. Whilst the traditional approaches of post and pray and referrals etc can still bring results, you can no longer rely on those exclusively as you did ten years ago. So, in specialist areas like technology and digital, there has been a huge transformation in how talent acquisition professionals are doing their job.


TR: How have you seen candidate behaviour change? 

OM: Yes; the big changes in the industry have been driven by technological advancements and this has created a number of different expectations for candidates.

They now want processes to be faster, applications to be easier and simpler to complete - sometimes even without a traditional CV - and they demand that they can get almost instant feedback. We live in an era of instant gratification and this has spilled over into the world of recruitment.

A lot of candidates also now rely more on social media profiles to give them exposure to the market and make it easy for them to be passively approached. Whilst LinkedIn probably the most generic, there are now many other more specialised platforms that service a similar platform, with the likes of Slack, Overflow, GitHub, Xing, etc, and the impetus is now very much on recruiters to target candidates, not the other way around.


TR: Do you believe that candidates are harder to source and/or engage now, as a result of the rise in digital and technology? 

OM: It’s a tricky one; on one hand, the rise in the use of digital technologies and the likes of social media platforms has provided more options as a Talent Acquisition professional to be able to identify every possible candidate for your requirements.

But, it does throw up the issue of what the right approach is; how can you best to engage with a candidate that you approach through Social Media versus someone that applied to one of your adverts, or someone that you identified in a CV Database compared to a candidate that currently has decided to only have presence in closed online marketplaces? This fragmentation means that you might have to adapt your messaging and engagement for each circumstance, and can also cause costs to spiral out of control as you decide what platforms you should invest in. 

The struggle lies in engaging candidates in the right way, on the right platform, and being able to get this balance right. Just because you can now identify candidates doesn’t mean you can easily engage them.   


TR: How do you currently overcome this at Vodafone?

OM: We have created a very detailed plan for our Digital Transformation at Vodafone; we have a very clear view of the forecast of roles we need to hire and the timelines by when we will have to deliver them. This has allowed us to structure a team that is fit for purpose and choose the adequate platforms that we believe can bring us the best results.

Whilst our budgets are limited, this foreplaning has enabled us to pick right providers give us good value for money, and that allow us to tap into the right niche markets and reach out to the relevant candidates.

We also invested heavily in our employer value proposition (EVP) for digital and have focused on delivering a strong message for our potential candidates, whilst also improving the candidate experience. Things like streamlining our careers website and simplifying our application process have significantly increased the number of applications for our specialist roles.


TR: Do you think the rise in digital and technology will continue to influence and alter the industry?

OM: Absolutely; although it’s hard to say exactly how, because you never can tell what’s going to be the next big innovation and how that can change everything for the future. In 1985 people believed we should by now all have self-drying clothing, driving flying cars and flying skateboards, but no one ever thought back then of a Smartphone or Social Media, for instance, and they have now completely revolutionised our society as a whole.

So, I think that there are a lot of exciting technologies out there that will transform our future; with the likes of AI, Machine Learning, Big Data for instance, and there are some companies already trying to achieve very interesting things for the industry using these technologies.

However, it’s still early days, and whilst we’re going to see some massive changes over the next 10 years that we probably can’t even anticipate right now, there will definitely be some surprises along the way.  


TR: What other emerging trends are you seeing in the talent acquisition industry?

OM: As I mentioned previously, things like AI and machine learning can change the industry in the relatively short-trip. I think these technologies are going to make the role of a talent acquisition professional easier, by allowing them to concentrate more on relationship building and focus more time on the strategic time of the function while automating more administrative tasks.

I also see more candidates losing some interest in traditional platforms due to the overkill of approaches by every employer and agency out there. They’re instead opting more for the controlled communities and online networks where they can be selective with who they engage with, with candidates essentially looking to take more control over how they are presented and can be approached.


TR: Vodafone is a business in the typically legacy industry of telecommunications. How is digital transformation impacting the business today?

OM: Vodafone have been embarking on a digital transformation of its consumer business since last year and have taken a number of steps as a result.

The first one has been to implement a different type of organisation, known as the “Spotify model”, where we have organised ourselves in Tribes, Squads and Chapters; becoming much leaner, less hierarchical and where each Squad can drive an end to end product with multidisciplinary elements being part of it. We have also implemented Agile methodologies, which we expect will allows to do twice as much in half the time.

As part of this we’ve also identified the types of skills that we were lacking in in order to be successful in this transformation and created a plan to be able to bring these into the business. By identifying those needs, we realised that we weren’t in the right location to attract the required talent and have decided to create a Digital Hub in Central London in order to hire people there.

To give an idea of what has happened so far, we have been able to increase the percentage of Digital interactions with our customers, not only from a Customer Care perspective, but also from a Digital Sales /eCommerce perspective. This has driven up our margin on revenues, lowered costs for care and improved our NPS, and allowed us to invest in new propositions and loyalty programs like the recently launched the VeryMe Rewards.

There is still a long way to go but the results are starting to show up – and this direction of travel of Digital Transformation, is absolutely critical for our future. You’ve seen recently how more traditional business have struggled to keep afloat in the last couple of years, so we can’t afford to be unsuccessful in this journey, we have to do it now and we have to get it right.


TR: What are some of the unique challenges of hiring this ‘digital transformation’ talent?

OM: One of the key difficulties is that this “digital transformation” is something that is currently happening across the board in all industries – Financial Services, Telcos, Retail, you name it! Which means that there is very strong competition from everyone and a “war for digital talent” for almost all Digital and Tech roles.

We’re no longer just competing with the traditional Digital Agencies, Consultancy companies and Technology businesses that used to hire this talent in the past - and continue to do it today – but we’re literally competing with everyone else.

Some of these businesses are big names in their industries and have strong employer brands and deep pockets! So now you need to be much more strategic in communicating your EVP, and you have to be present in the right platforms, attend and organise the right industry events and make sure you stand out in this large crowd.


TR: You have experience working both in-house and in an agency. How do you believe that agencies can support businesses as it becomes increasingly difficult to engage niche talent?

OM: I left the agency world six years ago, so I may be a bit out of tune with the agency environment, but I do have some ideas about what will drive success for the them.

We now live in an era where talent acquisition is seen as far more strategic, where agencies have to become true partners for their clients and really understand their needs and how you can support them. The transactional approach for the quick fee by just pushing high volumes of candidates without high quality simply won’t cut it anymore. 

With that being said, agencies need to become ultra-specialised and have a very strong knowledge of their markets if they want to be able to deliver on the niche roles where very tight candidate-driven markets exist. If you can really deliver in certain areas like technology or Big Data/Data Science then you can pretty much name your price - but you will really have to walk the walk and not just talk the talk.