Why strategic talent acquisition can help address the productivity gap


By Richard Shea, Managing Director, EMEA Search at Futurestep


The UK’s productivity challenge is widely accepted and debated. And with good reason; recent ONS data found a gap of 16 percent with other G7 countries.



In basic terms, productivity means output per hour worked. The ONS found that, while all G7 member countries experienced slumps since the late 2000s, the impact was far greater in the UK – double, in fact.


Speaking in September, UK Chancellor Philip Hammond, suggested that low skills and poor infrastructure are to be blamed or the UK productivity gap.


This clearly represents an enormous challenge to individual workers, and organisations of all sizes across all sectors. But what can talent acquisition professionals do to help address productivity?


Before we look more closely at this, let’s consider some wider context.


The age of digital disruption

It’s no secret digital is ripping up the rule book across many industries, transforming business models, industries and working practices. Consequently, new roles have been created and demand for different and new skills has rocketed.


When it comes to getting the right people, hiring and retaining workers who are agile and who can adapt to the fast pace of change is and will be critical for staying ahead of the competition curve.


Existing approaches to hiring and workforce planning need to transform to match a new world of work.


Today’s talent acquisition challenges

In a recent research series, The Talent Forecast, we explored the challenges, goals and general state of talent acquisition in 2017.


This research confirms the challenging state of talent acquisition today, revealing competition for talent and quality of hire the key issues keeping EMEA talent professionals up at night.


It also found the drivers for the talent shortage were a lack of candidates that have the skills to move up the leadership pipeline, competition from other sectors, and sophistication of skills required for sector/niche roles.


So where does this leave talent acquisition professionals today, and what can they do to best support their organisations?


The role of the talent acquisition professional

We’ve all seen kneejerk hires being made to fill an immediate requirement or to make use of budget. How often do these work out? It often isn’t because the candidate is ‘bad’ – they’re just not the right person for the company at that time.


In order for talent acquisition professionals to help make a difference, a more strategic approach must be taken. And, thankfully, this trend appears to be taking hold.


The Talent Forecast revealed such workers in EMEA list their top metrics as time to hire (63 percent), retention (51 percent), and performance up to 18 months after being hired (42 percent). This puts other more short-term and transactional measures further down the list, including cost per hire.


A more strategic approach to hiring can ensure that any organisational workforce challenges can be addressed – whether that be because staff have the right skills, are a strong cultural fit, and have long-term potential.


This helps minimise kneejerk hires or long periods of time where it’s tough to find the right candidate.


Time to take a strategic approach

Businesses face a multitude of challenges today, and getting workers to be more productive is just one way of helping overcome them. While talent acquisition can’t solve the productivity puzzle alone, it is vital that organisations recognise the difference it can make.


It’s time for talent acquisition professionals to take a more strategic approach, and be given the flexibility to do so by the business. It’s encouraging to see this trend take hold, with a clear move away from short-term and transactional metrics applied to hires.


With a strategic approach, organisations can be more confident they’ll have the right staff to get the job done properly at the right times – and ultimately be more productive.


Those businesses who fail to adopt a more forward-thinking approach will see both quality of hire and talent retention suffer, and therefore continue to suffer productivity challenges.



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