How talent acquisition teams can lead change
Talent acquisition (TA) teams are integral to a thriving organisation, but the pandemic has challenged the industry like never before.

There’s no doubt we’re experiencing one of the biggest recruitment challenges of the last decade, says Ann Baldwin, Head of Corporate, Enterprise and Healthcare at SEEK.

“Extreme labour and skills shortages coupled with extremely heightened competition for talent has really elevated the demand placed on talent acquisition professionals.”

Talent acquisition professionals are juggling a high volume of open roles, balancing hiring manager expectations, and continually adjusting to stay ahead of the candidate-led market, Baldwin says.

In October 2021, the highest number of job ads were posted in a month in SEEK’s 24-year history. “Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory all had more jobs advertised on SEEK than ever before, and the remaining states and territories were only marginally below previous record highs.

“Despite the number of opportunities, candidates are still really cautious about making their next career move, and we’re seeing application numbers down by 5.4%.

“Thankfully there is some good news on the horizon: we are starting to see changes in candidate behaviour, and we’re also seeing early signs of recovery in the proportion of Australians who say they are actively looking for a job: 29% in September, up 7% from a record low of in May.”

Baldwin spoke with SEEK Talent Acquisition Recognition Awards (STAR Awards) Talent Acquisition Leader of the Year finalists about influencing and leading change across organisations. Here they share their insights into the positive impacts made across their organisations.

How to set your organisation apart

A business’ branding plays a key part in securing talent. REA Group has invested heavily into employer branding, says Pam Straud, Executive Manager, Talent Attraction and Engagement Experience at REA Group.

“Every business became a tech business overnight when COVID hit. Our brand became diluted, so we’ve invested heavily in trying to help us stand out in an authentic and honest way in the market.”

At Westpac, the talent acquisition team had to change the way they attract candidates.

“We’re making sure our brand reflects a different market, and how we can help people,” says Adam Buxton, Group Head of Talent Acquisition at Westpac.

“We’ve had to focus on virtual onboarding, how we do things differently and how we support managers and candidates in a virtual environment.”

The importance of collaboration has gone through the roof, Buxton says. “In a virtual environment, we have to make sure we’re partnering with people and are putting our trust in them.”

How to use the talent and tools you have

REA has invested in the skills and capabilities of the talent acquisition team, Straud says.

“We’ve significantly grown our team over the last 12 months. There’s also been overwhelming support from our executive leadership team who understand that the role of a TA person these days is complicated and way harder than it ever has been before.”

“Having the right-sized team enables us to move faster and focus on the things that really matter.”

REA has also invested in building employer branding skills, sourcing skills and building employment programs. “We’ve got so many transferable skills as TA professionals, and we’ve been trying to lean into that,” Straud says.

REA has also focussed on expanding their technology through using AI and digitising the onboarding experience, Straud says.

At Westpac, Buxton says they spent time bringing the right people and capabilities into the team to make sure they can deliver.

“The last two years have been extremely volatile in terms of the volume of recruitment coming through, how we service the business and our ability to react and respond.”

The talent acquisition team at Westpac is now broken into specialised teams, who work on fostering deep relationships across the business, Buxton says.

“We’ve started introducing agile squads to support where volume and activity is coming through within the team. We also set up a data insights team, so when we need data and market knowledge, we have people who are experts at pulling this information together.”

How to bring leaders on board

“Talent acquisition is a team sport,” says Ben Whitfield, Global Head of Executive Search and Talent Acquisition Leader for the Pacific Region at Marsh McLennan.

“Critical to the success of any TA function is our ability to align and create that shared vision, and to partner with our senior management and the broader HR community.

“Success is not created in isolation, but through our continued discussion, refinement, feedback and our ability to listen to what the business has to say. Guiding statements that I continually champion with my team are: what’s working well? What’s not working well? And what do we need to do differently?”

Whitfield says his team has changed the way recruitment is executed and how candidates engage with Marsh McLennan.

For example, the organisation has launched new social media channels and diversity branding relationships, and implemented a new candidate attraction platform. It’s also rolled out new satisfaction surveys for candidates, hiring managers and the broader TA team to provide feedback and meaningful data in terms of the recruitment process.

It’s essential to engage key stakeholders early on and throughout the process, Whitfield says. “Take business leaders on a journey and create a shared vision of what good looks like. Have data and proof points that justify the why and the outcome, and evaluate any implementation and apply the lessons learnt.”

Talent acquisition leaders play a key role in the success of any organisation, but the pandemic has forced teams to constantly adapt. Talent acquisition can become more agile by forming specialised teams, working and aligning with upper management, using data to form insights and harnessing technology. Focussing on strong branding to show how you can help people will set your organisation apart in a competitive field.

Source: SEEK Employment Report, published October 2021.

Read more: