HR as a whole needs to become far more strategic and far less operational
What has changed over the years in recruitment and what is driving businesses now?
Some things have remained intrinsically the same, such as recruitment is a people services business and it will always remain the same. There are a number of factors around technology and processes that have changed throughout the last 10-15 years in this sector. Looking back, in 2003, staffing was a very straightforward process; it was recruiting staff – contractual, permanent or on a flexible basis but through a very limited amount of resources. Back then you could work closely with the companies in a very linear format. Over a period of ten years, a number of disruptive changes have come in the market and there has been a change in the way we work, and technology is a big part of that. The avenues of attracting talent have exploded over time. What were exceptional circumstances earlier have now become the norm and skills have globalized. We had to re-diversify what we delivered, and from being a purely recruiting company, we became a people services company. But what has fundamentally changed is the technology platform we operate on and the customer base that is even more demanding now – today, a customer does not just ask for people, they may ask us to source people, manage their onboarding, reference them, sort the outplacement services, training and all of such people services.
Customer demands and expectations have increased with time. What is driving these changes and what have been the challenges?
I think the trend we are seeing now amongst our customer base is that the competition for skills is now global. Technology is driving change at a fast pace and skills market has to react to this at a much faster pace to keep up. Hence, companies today, are under a huge amount of pressure to deliver on the ever-expanding needs and also refining their own services. The customers we work for today want to drive the pricing with value added services and the pace of delivery. So where previously the procurement exercise would have been very cost driven, cost is now one of the three or four of the primary drivers in a procurement process. Companies are becoming very adept at attracting skill.
At the moment, our customers are competing on their EVP – Employee Value Proposition and where they position that in the global skills market is absolutely fundamentally important for their success rate as an employer and that is driven by technology. And it is our job to be able to refine that proposition and put it out there in the market because it is a skills-driven market. Today the customers and companies no longer dictate how and what type of people they want. Now the power shift is very much more going to the skills market, where the new generations coming into the job market is dictating the terms of how and where they want to work. This has provided far more opportunities to the employee than the employer, and the employers have to adapt to that.
So the skills or employees today are driving the business and not the employers. How is the HR leadership community evolving to this change?
Historically, I think HR has been aspirational rather than entrepreneurial. However, the HR will have the opportunity to increase its influence because I think HR will become far more dominant in terms of procurement as skills and people become more valuable in a complex environment that is driven by technology and advancements. HR has the opportunity to become really more mainlined in an organization. Today, I see that very few of the CEOs come from the HR area of business – most come from sales, marketing or finance. And I think that shows that HR is too far from the transaction, commercial side of the business whereas that should not be the case. With the growing importance of the workforce and the skills that are coming through, there is a potential, there is the opportunity for HR to restart, plug into the main board and to generate CEOs eventually. HR leaders can be significantly more impactful than the others. HR leaders are fundamentally there when their staff comes to them. They definitely have far more inclusive skills, for e.g. they will get involved with sales and marketing and they are commercially aware of how they can impact the overall company direction. Thus, they become really important to the overall fabric of the company and people get to be positioned far more centrally as a service.
How will automation empower the end buyer considering the fact that organizations like Arrows are working a lot faster to fulfill the recruitment or other needs of companies?
I think technology will be shrinking the role of HR from an administrative perspective. And for HR, the value that will be added will be from strategic perspective. For example in America, now it is very common for people to miss out the staffing sector and go directly to the market and put out contracts. There is no HR, no third party staffing provider. Therefore, HR as a whole needs to become far more strategic and far less operational because operations can be automated and we are seeing the evidence of that already.
Tell us about Arrows industry’s move in India. There has been a lot of effort into building a global team. What drove this decision and how has it been so far?
It’s a massive eye opener working in India; the experience of operating a business here has been fantastic. It was a compelling reason for us to come here because the skills market is globalizing and if we are to remain a strategic player within this sector, we have to be able to deliver a global service. One needs to become people services business and also to be able to offer service across HR training. Working from India gives us that opportunity – the skills are here, it’s been the global leader for BPO and it marries very nicely with the evolution of our strategy. The strategy we are pursuing is really being able to have a global operation center based out of India as it provides us the ability to attract high level skills, ambitious, well-educated and motivated people. It also gives us an opportunity to adopt the Follow-the-Sun sourcing methodology where we are now able to start working round the clock to compliment what we are doing in Europe.