Rethinking recruitment at Australia Post
Australia Post’s Rebecca Houghton, group manager, resourcing & careers, is on a mission to take recruitment to a new level. Here she shares her thoughts about what’s needed to keep pace in a rapidly changing world.

What are your priorities for the year ahead?

Our priorities are all to do with the changing nature of the universe and making sure we’re keeping pace.

We have five key priorities. First, we’re developing a new value proposition – to look at recruitment in a different light. We’re rethinking what recruitment means, what it does and how it’s valued in the organisation.
Second, we’re transforming our technology. We know we need more automation, a lot more orchestration. We need the kind of approach to technology that’s a long way from the traditional norms, and one that really leverages smart data and automation but keeps things simple for our users – talent, managers and recruiters.

Third, we’re thinking about our brand in a completely different way, making a deep alliance with marketing to structure ourselves much more as a marketing organisation than an HR organisation.

Fourth, we’ve got to nail it with our onboarding – that’s a really important piece for us. We have quite varied onboarding experiences, and we believe that materially affects retention, productivity and engagement for our new starters, and given our commitment to helping our people succeed at work, that’s a real priority for us.

Finally, we’re working towards a much more integrated view of talent. We’re trying to operate more connectedly with the talent team and the organisational development team to make sure that everything we build is based on a single view of talent, whether it’s internal or external, contingent or payroll.  This will benefit our people as it’ll be easier to access a wider range of opportunities.”

To go back to your first priority, can you provide some examples of how you’ll achieve that change in perception of recruitment?

“Our goal is to make everybody realise that there is no such thing as ‘recruiters do recruitment’;  Everyone is actually a recruiter, they just have subtly different jobs, so we need to move away from that service-provider mentality.

And backing that up with things like value-based metrics as well as process-based metrics.

We know that we’re a reasonably efficient outfit (with room for improvement!), but if we’re only ever going to measure ourselves on efficiency, then people will observe us from a transactional perspective not a value perspective. So it’s about rethinking how we’re measured.

Another example is exploring potential revenue streams, trying to reach a self-funded status, which would be terrific. That would be nice – I hate asking people for budget, don’t you?!”

How would you do that?

“There are lots of possibilities. One is to help our candidates more easily access all of our products and services, and easily access any offers or campaigns going on which they could otherwise miss.

We handle over a million candidates a year, so it’s a big marketing issue and it’s why being an important partner to marketing is very important to us. We really want marketing to pay attention to that and want to have a piece of our business, if you like.

Another example is working out how to provide better support to our extended workforce and all our small micro business customers. There may be things that we could do for them to add value.

We don’t know is the answer to all these things, but we’ll certainly ask.”

Are there any particular employment or workplace trends you’re keeping an eye on?

"One is definitely the gig economy including the contingent workforce, with increased levels of flexibility, having multiple employers and shared working. That whole bucket of behavioural shift is really fascinating.

We know the gig workforce has increased massively in the last year, it’s just exploding. Fifty per cent of our total workforce has a flexible arrangement with us one way or another.

The other issue, which sort of fits in a similar bucket, is this incredible sense of the workforce getting older and younger at the same time, really quickly.

We’re having conversations about veteran deployment at the same time we’re talking to millennials who are really old compared to the next generation that have already come through. How do you accommodate for everyone?

Perhaps it’s time to start pulling some of those barriers down a little bit and stop thinking about employees versus contingent workers, or mature workers versus digital natives and start to be more inclusive.

Of course, that’s really challenging because compartmentalisation is what makes things manageable. You break the world up so you can cope with it, but we’re beginning to wonder whether those constructs are creating barriers and boundaries to people being happy in the workplace.

Some of our most valuable people are employees, some are contingent workers, and some are running a franchise with an Australia Post sign outside it. Maybe we shouldn’t be treating them that differently after all. There are a million reasons why you have to, but ‘should you’ is almost the question to answer.”

Are there any external events or forces that might affect your area in the next 12 months?

“Definitely. I think the way consumers are online now, the way they choose to interact with your brand will have a really material effect on recruitment.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if in two or three years’ time 50 per cent of the recruitment industry are ex-marketers.

I believe really deeply that it’s not okay to have a recruitment experience that’s different to your consumer experience. You are just one person interacting with Australia Post on the topic of your choice at that point in time and your experiences should be quite congruent.

In order to make that happen, you become a marketing person. You start to think about your candidates as what they are – customers of Australia Post (even our people are our customers!).

There’s an awful lot of reshaping around that, and a lot for recruitment and marketing to get their heads around in terms of having a relationship that perhaps previously they didn’t believe they needed to. Or, if they did, it was reasonably topical, not transactional.

The other big one for us is making better use of the machines

A lot of our job is repetitive and that can be dull. We need to find a way – and there will be a way – to create capacity and less busyness for recruiters so they can have better quality conversations, do the research they enjoy doing but they never can and all of the important jobs that get deprioritised due to volume of work . Not being able to do these things can really stifle your creativity, your intellectual development and personal growth.

If we can create capacity for recruiters to do all that then suddenly the conversation with a recruiter changes. The conversation about recruitment lifts up a level, and I believe the experience of recruitment will go up a level too.”