The Ri5 interview:
Jayne Cullen, TMP Worldwide


Jayne Cullen, business director, entry level talent at TMP Worldwide, has worked in the emerging talent market for more than 20 years. And the sector isn’t just her area of expertise – it’s also a market she is clearly passionate about.

She talked to Ri5 about some of the current challenges facing the market, as well as outlining some of her expectations for the future.

Cullen is pleased to acknowledge the market has emerged from its post-recession period, in which she says ‘business as usual’ overtook investment in emerging talent. Now, however, she says organisations are more focused on emerging talent from a strategic perspective.

She also says: “Leadership potential, which used to be the main focus for bringing in emerging talent, is still a key driver, but it’s now only a part of the picture. There’s now also a focus on the opportunity to bring in functional expertise, look after business-as-usual hiring and the ability to bring in new ideas and innovation.”

Emerging talent in a VUCA world

Cullen explains that many of the market’s current challenges arise from operating in a ‘VUCA’ (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) landscape. In her view, given some of the difficulties of a post-recession market, and with some lingering caution remaining within organisations, it’s more difficult for them to hire programmatically.

She questions how, amid such widespread change and with disruptive business models coming into play, can all organisations predict how many graduates they’ll need in 18 months?

“As a supplier of emerging talent, we used to react to what clients told us they wanted 18 months in advance,” she says. “Now, however, they can’t necessarily tell us what they’ll need in 18 months’ time, so we need to look ahead on their behalf.

“We need to consider how to help organisations decide if graduate recruitment is right for them,” she adds. “And if so, how they can measure the effectiveness of it.”

“Now,” she says, “that means using our peripheral vision of the market and our insight and expertise to support our clients with their entry-level talent strategies as well as delivering on the operational side of things.”

Diversity a key focus

Looking ahead, Cullen foresees further increases in the value of diversity and inclusion (D&I), which she emphases is already at the heart of TMP’s work. In her view, a tighter, more competitive market requires organisations to look elsewhere for talent – and this is supplemented by executives’ awareness of how diverse workforces get better results and growth. 

She says: “Organisations want D&I to be a key pillar of both their recruitment and procurement processes, and they also know it acts as a differentiator, setting them apart in their respective markets.

“Also, in the emerging talent space, there are often D&I targets to be reached. For example, 60% of undergraduates are female, but they only make up 40% of programmatic recruitment of emerging talent. Exploring the reasons for this discrepancy across the entry-level talent market and collaborating to achieve success is the only way to overcome this perennial problem.”

She points to the under-representation of female talent in STEM professions as an example, and suggests the industry shouldn’t underestimate the impact of parental and peer input into young people’s career choices, citing TMP school leaver research that found 40% of young people say their parents are the biggest influence on their career direction.

She says: “We’re encouraging clients to work hand in glove with CSR and education outreach teams in their organisations to provide more touchpoints for educators, parents and students alike.

Looking back to the recession, Cullen suggests some of the emerging talent market’s current challenges stem from how the recruitment industry itself lost a lot of talent during and shortly after the period.

While this wasn’t the case at TMP - where the team grew during this time – Cullen suggests it could be said there’s a talent gap and an absence of expertise caused by these losses.

“I really believe our industry needs to re-skill when it comes its own knowledge and expertise,” she says.

“All of our peers across the industry need to think differently about how they grow, develop and nurture their own emerging talent expertise and ability. For example at TMP we have invested in a number of apprentices to provide future talent pipelines for hard-to-fill roles such as IT.

How do we define ‘emerging talent’?

Another key consideration for the emerging talent market, Cullen says, is a significant change in what we actually view as ‘emerging talent’. She underlines how the traditional ‘three-stage’ working life – where we progress from education, into work and have a linear career trajectory before retiring - is no longer in play. Demographically, she says, as more people live longer and retire later, it’s not sustainable. So, will we see a much more progressive approach in the market?

She says: “Because of changes in learning and work, perhaps the term ‘emerging talent’ won’t just refer to younger people, but also for example to older people who decide to embark on a career change or a return to education.

“If so, as an industry we need to think about how to attract, develop and reward this new ‘emerging talent’. And this in turn leads us to question whether we should be attracting, assessing and developing these new groups in different ways.”

Looking to the future

Cullen also speaks about the possibilities offered by technology. While she admits its ubiquity means it can often be overlooked as a strategic tool, Cullen suggests that among the ATSs, plug-ins and matching tools, lie opportunities to tap into big data.

“Technology shouldn’t just be about facilitating new attraction activity or cost reduction,” she says. “It’s also about using it to access big data and enhance the overall recruitment process.

“It can help to make fundamental decisions – to question whether we’re doing the right thing and to also evaluate that all-important ROI. Technology is already being used for these reasons to an extent, but there’s clearly room for it to grow.”

And in a time of great change, Cullen suggests the market should also prepare for further developments arising from government policy. She says: “At a time when government changes might mean different pressures in the market, organisations should collaborate more on emerging talent. Look, for example, at the Nuclear Graduate Programme – there should be more models along those lines. I’d like to see more of these collaborative, strategic responses to changes in the market.

“Organisations should see the possibilities and potential long-term benefits of collaboration like this, and not just for themselves, but also across their supply chains and customers – not to mention to the wider UK economy.

Taking into account the future opportunities, Cullen says it has never been a more exciting time to work in the entry-level talent space, and she is buoyant about TMP’s vision to be the supplier of choice for organisations looking to attract, recruit and retain emerging talent - whatever groups that definition might encompass.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

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The Ri5 interview: 
Jayne Cullen, TMP Worldwide
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