Talent Connect Analysis: The Future of Hiring is Where High Touch Meets High Tech

At a recruiting industry conference in 2011 I contended that the future of hiring was bleak. I predicted most companies would still be doing the wrong things differently in 2016, just faster.

Just last week I was at LinkedIn’s 2016 Talent Connect conference in Las Vegas and was asked for another prediction. I’m now much more optimistic. Below are some of my top takeaways from the event. Despite some apparent conflicting messages among the speakers, below the surface the theme was crystal clear: high tech must converge with high touch in order to hire top talent.

Existing processes must die.

I heard from multiple speakers that they’re throwing out their existing hiring process and for the interim going free-for-all. The truth is that processes built on the concept that IT systems should be designed to weed out the weak more efficiently, should have been discarded long ago. Talent leaders are now realizing that in a scarcity of talent situation you can’t use a transactional hiring process built on the assumption that there’s a surplus of talent.

Strategy drives process.

Many years ago as a rookie financial analyst I was showing some overhead slides when the CEO lambasted a group president saying that strategy drives tactics, it’s not the other way around. He then went on to say that it doesn’t matter if your tactics are great, if your strategy is wrong. Brian Fetherstonhaugh of OligvyOne Worldwide loudly and clearly reinforced the point. His point: Automation will soon replace recruiters except for those recruiters who embrace high touch. My takeaway: In a talent scarcity situation you need to build a high-touch consultative process designed to attract and nurture top talent.

Potential trumps experience.

Sir Richard Branson was the headliner here and he certainly delivered. The short reinterpretation of his enlightening talk: 1) hire mavericks who break the rules, 2) stretch your people and promote the heck out them, 3) if you want zero or negative progress listen to the government or your lawyers, 4) don’t look down, 5) start with a vision whether it’s a job, idea or a company and, 6) if you don’t force change the status quo will win and everyone else will lose.

Building at scale requires as much heart as head.

I give huge kudos to Amber Grewal at GE and Nellie Peshkov at Netflix. They both accomplished something remarkable which on the surface appears they each came from different planets. Below the surface it was clear to me that hiring success at scale requires exceptional recruiters, 100% executive support, the right processes, fully engaged hiring managers and inspirational TA leaders with a vision few see and the fortitude to achieve it.

The hiring manager is the king of the road.

The thing I find missing at all these recruiting-focused conferences is the acknowledgement that we don’t make the hiring decision – the hiring manager does. Regardless of the lofty strategies and the advanced technologies, without fully engaging the hiring manager hiring great people at scale is a non-starter. Bridging this gap is the key to a high tech, high touch tomorrow.

However, this is the shift I now see coming. One of the world’s largest firms hires 25 thousand people per year. They told me their best hires are driven by the personal engagement of the hiring manager in combination with a clearly defined career opportunity. Their new mission: hire 25 thousand great people one great person at a time.

Use job branding to leverage the employer brand.

Employer branding needs to adapt to attract the more senior 3-, 4- and 5-star recruits. This is done through job branding by incorporating a number of different marketing ideas into all forms of recruitment advertising and career site design. It starts with the elimination of generic messages with ones customized for each job. The best of these customized messages tie the candidate’s intrinsic motivator directly to the job and then tie the job itself to some important company project, strategy or mission.

For example, one of my favorites is from the McFrank and Williams agency out of New York City: “Your meticulous attention to detail drives our profitability.” This was for a cost analyst that initially emphasized years of experience, being detailed-oriented and having a CPA.

For those companies and talent acquisition leaders willing to change the status quo, ignore their lawyers, break some rules, hire some mavericks and become truly strategic, the future looks bright for hiring top talent. The same is true for those recruiters who embrace high touch. Not surprising, it’s already here for those who spend more time on the phone and less on the computer.