Contextualizing Talent Acquisition
The changing trends in recruitment are closely interrelated to a wider shift in the social perspective towards work
Organizations today are simultaneously looking at a mix of multiple skill sets in the candidates. While technical knowledge acquired through formal training/education required to complete a specific task in the work environment is still the most important skill, the emphasis has shifted dramatically towards assessing softer skills ranging from the most basic abilities like aptitude for effective communication to socio cultural skills that ascertain an individual’s competency in interacting well with people from different social, cultural and economic backgrounds. The changes in talent acquisition processes are to quite an extent reflective of the popular work related trends prevalent at any given time. This article attempts to explicate the socio-economic context within which contemporary organizations are placed in and argues that acquiring talent is intricately interwoven with this context.
Randstand India recently published a report on the “Talent Management Trends in 2015 and beyond.” The report suggests that in the next five years organizations will require to focus most of their attention on hiring leaders (45%) with lesser importance given to technical workers (13%) and skill trade workers (3%). This means that the overall personality of an individual and his/her ability to take initiative and influence people in a team will play a key role in recruitment. Organizations like Amazon have already incorporated various leadership traits as criterion in their hiring as well as performance appraisal process even for entry level hires. To keep pace with these emerging trends organizations are also adopting innovative ways for hiring and selection, like the use of social media, use of video CV’s, meeting prospective candidates in more informal settings etc. These avenues provide much wider insight into the individual’s personality and leadership potential than the usual resume based formal interview would do.
It seems very likely that these changing trends in recruitment are closely interrelated to a wider shift in the social perspective towards work. When there is a wider change in the value placed on work, a mere superficial change in recruitment processes might not be effective enough. This is evident by the fact that 78% of the Human Resource leaders interviewed in the Randstand India study are grappling with issues like managing a multigenerational workforce and designing flexible work options for the highly mobile workforce. They agree that they lack both knowledge and consensus on how to go about designing this. Comprehending the social shift in attitudes towards work at any given point in time could provide some answers to their challenges. These insights would allow for designing work roles that ensure both personal development as well as retention of talent.
Comprehending the Social Shift
Irrespective of which part of the world an organization is located in and which generation it belongs to, the organization is always a microcosm of its wider socio economic environment. Any work related trend is therefore reflected in a simultaneous change in values related to work in its wider social context and vice versa.
The predominant work values at any given point in time are one of the strongest indicators of how work gets designed within organizations. There has been a considerable shift in the work values of people today vis a vis the employees in India about three decades ago. Various environmental changes have influenced these values.
Firstly, in every organization today at least two generations coexist - generation X and generation Y (Millennials). Studies have found distinct work related values in each of the two generations. The millennials seek meaning in their work more than the previous generation, while the generation X is driven more by dutifulness towards their work and family. Along with these generational differences, cross national and cross cultural diversity within teams is also prominent due to the global work environment. The growing level of education and migration into larger cities and metros has resulted in people from diverse socio-economic backgrounds working together in the same organization. These simultaneous changes in the demography of the work force have a significant impact on the meaning and centrality of work in the lives of people. People today value freedom, risk and meaning in work much more than employees did a couple of decades ago.
The second environmental shift is economic in nature. India has seen an accelerated economic growth, growing influence of capitalism and a parallel fading of socialistic dominance in politics. This has led to an increase in the availability of jobs, income levels of people, education and exposure to global cultures, influencing the centrality and meaning of work in turn. The economic environment and social values therefore feed into each other creating a chain of interdependence.
Some Pointers from a Sociological Perspective
Awareness, they say, is the first step to resolution. Therefore, organizations need to understand the social changes and the predominant values of their prospective employees. Understanding the differences in values without being judgmental is a big challenge and requires training. Human Resource professionals need to be trained either formally or informally about how values get created socially and the way in which people are driven by dominant social values of the time. Job designs have a crucial influence on behavior within organizations. Understanding work values could provide a strong basis for hiring candidates and designing jobs that facilitate the expression of leadership and people skills within them.
Another important aspect of the recruitment function today relates to the standardization of the process. With the increase in the sophistication of technology, automation and outsourcing of the hiring process has become a preferred option of almost all organizations. While the cost effectiveness of standardization are undeniable, the social shift stated above will require a fresh perspective on cost saving. Organizations will have to balance standardization with the customization of work roles according to the values and needs of the employees. This process might not be as cost effective in the short run, but the long term benefits could far outweigh the short term challenges.
While evaluating a candidate’s interactions on social media, during informal interviews over coffee, while deciding on a course for employer branding to woo prospective candidates or while designing job roles, one needs to infuse the understanding of the predominant work values into these efforts. Without this understanding the new methods of talent acquisition might not translate into an effective strategy for talent retention.