An interview with Charlie McIntosh

Posted by Fiona Horton on May 9, 2019 2:07:00 PM
Fiona Horton
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How has the talent research and sourcing market developed in the past few years and how do you see it evolving?
I’ve been working in recruitment for over 18 years now, with the past five years focused on talent research & sourcing solutions.  During this time I've seen significant change within the in-house recruitment market, moving from a back-office function to a more strategic business partnering model. This change, and the resulting change in what in-house teams what from their recruitment suppliers, was a key reason why I moved away from traditional agency recruitment and into talent research.

Five years ago the talent research concept was very new to the market, with few providers. Now the market is well developed. And it's used by many large organisations to add capacity to their growing in-house talent acquisition function, and gain insight into talent markets to inform recruitment strategies.

As the in-house recruitment model evolves so will the talent research supplier market. In-house talent acquisition is becoming more specialised, with organisations building their own executive hiring, talent insight, volume sourcing and branding & marketing teams. The investment by businesses in this area shows that the acquisition and retention of talent is a critical part of their corporate strategy. While this could be seen as eating into the external talent research supplier market, I've actually seen it drive demand for the services we deliver – working as part of a hybrid direct sourcing model providing extra capacity and capability where needed.

The challenge for Charlie McIntosh Ltd (and other suppliers in the talent research market) is to stay relevant and add value to the increase in demand of insight and candidate sourcing. What I can see changing in the supplier market is segmentation of specialisms, not necessarily by industry or skill set but more by service (e.g. Senior/Executive Sourcing, Volume Sourcing, Big Data & Market Analytics (Quantitative data) and Detailed Market Intelligence (Qualitative data) as has happened in the traditional agency/search recruitment market.

What’s your broad current view of the candidate market?
We have a very diverse client base which includes Big 4 consulting firms, global engineering businesses, high-growth tech organisations and private education groups. Consequently, we do have a good feel of the broader candidate market. While companies have become more focused on what good looks like for them, in many cases moving away from technical fit and more around aptitude, culture and mind set, it is still very much a candidate led market.

The candidate market is also very similar to the retail consumer market.  It is self-serve and mobile, where candidates have access to a wealth of information on prospective employers, opportunities and employee reviews. As a result, individuals usually have a firm idea on which companies they would be interested in joining well before they make a decision to look for a new role.

A big trend I've also seen from candidates, across a lot of industries, is the expectation of a flexible work life. Where it used to be seen as unique and a great benefit, now if an employer isn’t offering flexibility around working from home or working hours/days then it can immediately turn off prospective talent – irrespective of opportunity or remuneration on offer.  

Slightly linked to this is now the geographical spread of candidate markets. A decade ago, London was still seen as the area where you would eventually need to look at moving to, if you wanted to progress in certain skill areas or to a specific level in your career. However with the rise in remote working, and the expansion/relocation of many organisations into the ‘regions’, talent no longer has to make a choice to move in order to progress their career. 

In the North of England this has been highlighted with the quick growth and development of digital skill markets, built off the back of companies such as the BBC, Sainsbury’s, Sky, Auto Trader and more recently Channel 4 moving to the region.

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What challenges do you think Resourcers currently face?
The role of an in-house resourcing/recruitment team has transformed over the past 10 years. A decade ago most recruitment was done through agencies or via a select number of printed/on-line advertising. It was reactive and, in a lot of cases, the first time a candidate would have heard of the employer would have been at the time of application.

Now the world of the in-house team is very different. This leads to many challenges but also lots of opportunities. The main change is that resourcing teams are focused on direct recruitment and there are far more channels and platforms to go looking for talent. The challenge around this is knowing which route(s) to market is best (quality and cost of hire) for sourcing, attracting and engaging with the target talent population.

The other challenge is – how do we stand out from the crowd. Companies can’t always rely on their size or being a house-hold name to attract the best talent. They need to be able to articulate their purpose and proposition to candidates in a language that they relate to and understand – again, not too dissimilar to retail/consumer advertising.

Businesses are also looking for ‘something different’ in their candidates.  This often means they want people from outside of their industry – ‘why get someone from a competitor when the business wants to stand out and offer something different to your competitors?’. The challenge here is understanding what good looks like outside of the usual talent market they use. And finding out if it is even viable to attract people from outside of this – factors such as remuneration & reward, availability, inclination to move need to be fully understood before embarking on such a strategy.

Understanding what your target talent market is looking for in their next company and role, where and how they look for a new role and your perception as an employer is key to overcoming these challenges. Many of our clients use the intelligence we provide them, either as part of a stand-alone insight project or as part of a recruitment assignment, to inform their strategies and approach to market. This enables them to maximise the outputs from the time and money they invest in talent acquisition projects.

How can resourcers make the most of external perceptions of both them as an employer and the wider market they sit within?
I often see a disconnect between the internal and external perceptions of a companies employer brand. Existing staff understand the benefits of working there. But unless these benefits and ‘value propositions’ have been successfully communicated to the broader, external talent market, the perception of an employer is often made up of what people from the outside say – ex-employers, people who have been for interview or the general word of mouth with experiences of people with a company.

If a resourcing team is not aware of the perception of themselves as an employer or the broader perception of their market, it's very difficult to change that perception. If that perception makes you as an employer less appealing to your target talent market, resourcers will find their job significantly harder to attract and successfully engage talent.

By gaining insight into a talent landscape and speaking to individuals to understand their perception of you as an employer or your broader sector, resourcers are able to build a communication strategy designed to inform their target talent market of the true value proposition, improving attraction.

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How do you see the fight for talent panning out over the next two years?
Top talent is the biggest enabler to any business, whether that is driving product innovation, customer services or sales. This means the fight for talent is going to get fiercer and far more competitive.

With innovation and changes in the market (e.g. AI, Robotic Process Automation) you are also seeing the death of some talent needs and the rise of new skills. As a result, finding individuals within developing skill sets, and/or individuals who possess the ability to adapt and develop new skills, will significantly alter how companies recruit and assess talent.

Innovation is also going to provide greater visibility and access to talent as well as intelligence into talent landscapes and their mindset. Harnessing the right tools and utilising intelligence in the right way will be critical in gaining a competitive advantage in the talent market.

What does the market feel about Brexit and its potential impact?
I always find it hard to answer the Brexit question. Even if you had a crystal ball, I'm not sure you’d know what or where we will be in the next 6-12 months. I am not sure leaving the EU is really the biggest issue either. It's the uncertainty around what that means for EU nationals coming to work in the UK. There are no assurances or guarantees that have been good enough to convince most people it is worth making that move.

The impact in industries such as retail, leisure and hospitality has been well documented.  We're also seeing an impact on attracting senior/executive talent in sectors such as technology and engineering. The EU has been such a critical source of talent for many companies. And to have that channel almost cut off, it has put greater pressure on resourcing teams to identify, engage and hire the skills and people they need to. Hopefully the political shambles will come to and end soon and this is only a short term issue.

 All this being said it is making recruitment teams think of different ways in which to expand their talent network and recruit and retain talent which isn’t always a bad thing.

Topics: Interviews With Industry Leaders