I get it. No, really I do. If I was the guy with the red pen hovering over the costs on the company’s P&L, I’d be a bit tempted to knock some noughts off that “Recruitment” line. This is the recession, after all. Times are hard, and we just have to Do More With Less. Be creative, use our spend wisely – that kind of thing. And it will save us a lot of money.

Except, of course, it won’t. Let me explain.

The UK economy has been growing. There remain fears for Europe, especially with Germany stagnating, but overall the two biggest winners so far of the recovery in the Western world have been the UK and the US, and with growth – in the UK especially – has come jobs. Now I don’t believe all the stats, simply because we cannot truly know a) how many people now claiming to be “self-employed” have any kind of sustainable and long-term income prospects, and b) how many people who formerly (under the last government, for example) would have been eligible for jobseeker’s allowance are now simply ineligible but still not employed. However, the trend is unarguable: more people are employed in the UK now than have been for six years. Not exactly boom-time, but a good base upon which to build.

But, talent acquisition / recruitment / candidate engagement (call it what you will) has not moved on since the dark days of 2009, when budgets were slashed, HR teams rationalised and suppliers consolidated. The mantra “Do More With Less” has become “Do Much More With Much Less” (damn the lack of vowels there – I could have made that into a great acronym…). And it simply doesn’t work.

Let’s just understand what we mean by talent acquisition, and get an idea of what it takes to successfully attract and recruit talent. First of all, you need a good offering to the market. Unless you are Google or Facebook, the chances are that your organisation’s brand is actually less important to talent than the opportunity you are recruiting for. If you can communicate the opportunity, and back it up with a compelling employment proposition (flexible working practices, decent salary and benefits, and – most importantly of all – a great culture) then you’ll be OK. If, that is, you know where to place the message.

That’s where sourcing comes in. You need a team of people who get the process of how to find people. It would be nice to believe that – as some social media advocates might tell you – that social media is the answer to all of your problems, but it ain’t that simple. You need talented recruiters who can sort the wheat from the superabundant chaff, and engage those mighty kernels on your behalf. And guess what? Talented recruiters won’t work for you unless they think that you have the tools in place (culture, rewards, brand etc) to enable them to be successful in their roles.

Your talented recruitment team will then badger you for marketing budget. Why? Because there’s a lot of noise out there, and there’s no point having a great opportunity if no one ever hears about it. Oh yes, and to make everyone’s lives much more efficient, you need a decent recruitment system, a seamless digital candidate experience and some company branded pens (OK, so maybe you don’t need the pens any more – but I bet you still have them!).

Now, I’m hoping that you understand this will all cost money. If your team is insourced, you have to pay them a salary and they become part of your headcount. Solution?

Outsource your recruitment! Well, yes, but then you’ll be paying the team’s salaries, as well as a chunky margin to the RPO business, but at least you’ll have robust SLAs, less direct man management and reduced headcount. In any case, we are talking ££££s. Add to this the skills gaps that exist throughout the UK and global economies, and you have a real challenge.

BUT. Your organisation is its people. Period. It isn’t its technology, or its mission, or its bottom line, its CSR policy, its website or that funky break-out area on the third floor with the Tassimo machine and the purple bean bags. Because your people, this organic, dynamic mass of humanity that you pay – directly or indirectly – to be part of whatever you are, have originated every single thing that your organisation has ever done. Without talent throughout your organisation, the best products will sink without trace (BetaMax), the market leaders will lose their grip on the market (MySpace, FriendsReunited, Nokia), the best loved brands will collapse altogether (Woolworths, MFI, Comet etc ad infinitum) and corporate earthquakes will continue to happen (Enron, Lehman Brothers). No business is safe in the 21st century, but the best way to ensure that you are as safe as you can be is to recruit and develop the best talent.

So, why is the red pen still in evidence? Procurement teams are charged with slashing costs which means that RPO deals are increasingly unattractive for outsourcing businesses, unless they can be delivered by cheap, often off-shore resources (remember that “talented” recruitment team we talked about earlier? Yes, them – they’re working somewhere else now, somewhere they are rewarded appropriately for their skills and where they can build real relationships with hiring managers and candidates). HR budgets continue to be squeezed, and are often owned by HR Directors, who – generally speaking – are more interested in OD and L&D than they are in recruitment. Under-resourced recruitment teams are often working on as many as 60 vacancies per head – the perfect recipe for an immersive, high-touch candidate experience, I’m sure you’ll agree. And attraction and assessment tools, from brand to testing and interviews, range from tired but functional to off-putting and in some cases plain wrong.

TalentPunk believes in being straight about these things; we know there is lots of amazing work going on out there to combat these issues, often doing Vastly More With Vastly Less, and to those guys somehow finding a way, all credit must go. But it’s not sustainable. Your talented recruiters (insourced or outsourced) will leave, your brand will suffer and your competitors will recruit the game-changers that could have changed the game for you. So, three recommendations:

  1. Brand is important, but culture and opportunity are crucial – invest time and effort in these two areas, and the brand will begin to look after itself
  2. Analyse your talent acquisition function – is it satisfying what you need as an organisation, or is it chasing its tail? If it’s the latter, then your entire organisation will be failing to perform to its maximum potential
  3. Create a talent strategy – and don’t just link it to recruitment metrics, link it utterly and intrinsically to the achievement of your entire corporate strategy

It’s going to take a bit of courage, a bit of support and – sorry – a bit of investment. But if you really want to beat the competition, then you need more than just Do More For Less. Perhaps we should now be entering the age of Do Much More, With The Right Amount (“DMMWTRA” – it’ll catch on; mark my words…).

For more information about how TalentPunk can help you realise your organisation’s goals through talent acquisition and management strategies, please drop us a line at enquiry@talentpunk.com