The Ri5 interview: Andrew Wilkinson, TMP Worldwide

The Ri5 interview: Andrew Wilkinson, TMP Worldwide


Candidate shortages. Skills gaps. The dreaded war for talent. If you believe the headlines, opinion pieces and conference speakers, it’s never been harder to attract and recruit the best people.

But is this really down to a shortage of suitable candidates, or is it because recruiters aren’t managing to engage with the whole, total talent pool?

Andrew Wilkinson, CEO of TMP Worldwide, thinks it’s the latter. In his view, there are candidates out there; but we need to think differently about where to find them and how to engage with them. Furthermore, in a post-recession climate, he says talent should sit firmly at the heart of the business agenda, to help organisations drive future business performance.

“It’s time to reflect on the market and ask whether talent is helping to drive organisations forward,” he says. “Are organisations focusing on hiring the right talent as a strategy, or are they just treating recruitment as part of their ‘business as usual’ and papering over the cracks?”

“We know how it is,” he continues, “people are busy, they don’t think they have time to focus strategically on talent as a business issue. But we’re constantly hearing about skills shortages – so, you have to ask whether enough focus and investment is put into improving the processes to find and hire the right talent. Or, are organisations simply filling vacancies with the candidates that they can find?”

Wilkinson concedes that largely, vacancies are being filled. And from a short-term perspective this means recruitment is considered a success. But are they being filled with the right people – the best in the market to fit the culture and values, and who will drive personal and business performance?

“People who are responsible for recruiting for organisations are winning praise” he says. “But that’s often for ensuring roles don’t remain unfilled. Success isn’t defined by having long-term talent goals and measures. The problem with recruitment is that it’s rarely a ‘do or die’ situation. Even without innovation, people still get brought in to fill vacancies so it’s still getting the job done.

“But what is currently driving talent management performance within organisations?”

It’s clear that the recession, which for many businesses is still a very fresh memory, has had a major impact on many business processes - including resourcing. In addition, HR functions are leaner and smaller than they were before the recession took hold.

But Wilkinson suggests the pain of the recession shouldn’t absolve organisations from making important decisions about their current and future talent strategies.

He says: “The last recession was so brutal, organisations are often carrying on with the same tools and processes from 2008 and before – but are these fit for purpose for 2016? It is not about huge numbers of people – just hiring the right people.”

He also acknowledges that businesses now operate in a ‘VUCA’ world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous); but he questions whether that should be a barrier to change and innovation, or in fact a catalyst for it.

“Do we accept that we’re in a post-recession, VUCA world where organisations just need to operate in a cautious, risk-free way?” he asks. “Or, do we use that VUCA landscape as the reason to kick-start a new focus?”

He continues: “I recently read an article which asked whether it was time to reinvent HR. It suggested that in organisations, the CFO has moved on from being a number-cruncher, and is now a strategic figure helping to drive the direction in which the business moves. The article questioned why HR isn’t doing that to the same extent.

“Is HR driving change – or is it simply responding to the demands of the other, noisier corners of the boardroom?” he questions. “HR should ask itself, is it an operational, responsive function, or is it a strategic function that can demonstrate its value in the whole people agenda?”

Part of the issue, Wilkinson suggests, is the well-worn question of exactly who owns total responsibility for matters of talent.  “For example,” he says, “we see line managers being left in control of recruitment decisions, which isn’t ideal. The process is often not being driven by the strategic agenda but by the operational one, so it’s about expediency over quality. And that’s why we see £4billion spent on staffing agencies rather than invested in building brand, talent communities and better selection processes.

“If resourcing is outsourced, is it just to save money?  What does that say about how much you value talent? Outsourcing should be about getting more great hires from using specialists who focus on the end-to-end candidate experience in a highly efficient manner.”

Wilkinson is adamant that, in a VUCA world, HR can make a huge difference to organisations through bringing in better people for the long-term. It is a fine balance but he does think the focus is currently too short-term and that there is little pressure on HR to up its game on their resourcing front.

“Resourcing isn’t failing, but at the moment - and looking ahead - I’d say it often isn’t fit for purpose if the goal is to find the best talent across the whole, total talent pool.”

Thursday, 17 December 2015

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Vincent Coraldean Date: Dec 22, 2015

Outsourcing recruitment processes makes so much sense in today's world. Organisations in general don't have the contacts or know-how to tap into the vast talent-pool hiding under the surface. In the past, companies have adopted a winner-vs-loser, supply-chain type model of recruitment, where they only have a small number of candidates which are filtered down to just a handful. The world is changing, and a more network based, people-centric model is emerging - with the talent pool not limited simply to the reach of that one organisation. Organisations in the private and public sectors often don't realise that there are so many options and they often don't have the time or skill to work on creative and impacting campaigns. If a body really is looking to recruit and keep the best, they should seek out the assistance of experts who really understand the market as it unfolds ahead.

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