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Five trends every recruiter must know

The digital age is re-writing the rules of business as we know them. Alongside the huge advances in technology, economic and geopolitical uncertainty are undermining established business models. Emerging digital infrastructures are reshaping the forces of production and consumption. The expectation economy is redefining the relationship between business and their customers.

What does this mean for recruiters? How do the changes impact the world of talent acquisition? Here are five macro trends that every recruiter must know.

1. Fundamental change in the nature of work, the workforce and the workplace.

Organisations have far less time to extract value from their talent and faster moving markets require faster moving workforces. The independent and outsourced talent marketplace is growing in relevance, delivering higher quality solutions more cost effectively and with fewer risks and liabilities than large, owned, vertically-integrated workforces centralised in expensive real estate.

As technology decouples the link between location and delivery, and as sharing replaces owning, organisations are leveraging disruptive new talent models and directly accessing brand new talent pools. The balance of employment power is shifting as technology gives independent workers at the top end of the gig economy access to greater volumes of more satisfying and profitable work.

That means a lot fewer permanent heads to recruit. Instead, a greater proportion of headcount will be aligned to projects not roles as businesses acquire specific skills to deliver specific results, maximising their ROI. Recruiters will need to much more accurately forecast when, where, and how long certain skills are needed, working much closer with project teams to dynamically link supply to faster evolving demand.

As organisations connect directly to a greater depth and breadth of on-demand talent supply, their dependency on traditional recruitment suppliers will fall. Instead, in-house recruitment teams will have to find, connect and nurture a much larger range of work-sharing and freelance talent supply platforms, investing in stronger, collaborative relationships to access richer pools of talent.

2. Reputation is everything. As trust in ‘the establishment’ plummets, consumers are increasingly turning to businesses for ethical and social leadership. Positive organisational cultures have therefore become critical for communicating purpose, values and meaning. Culture is becoming an organisation’s most powerful marketing asset, not just for talent, but as a cornerstone of its commercial proposition!

Just like consumers, candidates have switched from being passive to active. Focussing on mutually beneficial collaborations, they are now motivated by shared values rather than financial incentives or slow-moving vertical succession plans. They no longer ‘fix themselves’ to fit in. They have disengaged from generic corporate ‘push’ messaging and are instead engaging with authentic, ‘pull’ content created by independent peers.

Employment branding is evolving into talent branding while candidate attraction is moving away from promotion and sales to advocacy and influence. Recruiters must find new ways of indirectly creating demand while constantly differentiating a wider range of value propositions to much more diverse audiences. Increasingly, they need to think of candidates as assets that will grow in value, positioning themselves as ‘enablers of careers’ rather than ‘employers of jobs’.

They must build stronger, more intimate relationships with talent communities that have re-formed around opportunities and challenges instead of industries or geographies. They need to encourage advocacy, sharing compelling, curated and contextualised content that adds value to their target communities to create an ecosystem of engaged and supportive followers.

3. All experiences matter. The information revolution is driving greater visibility and accountability, making engagement much harder to win and much easier to lose. Companies and managers are rated much like AirBnB hosts or Amazon vendors. Workers are turning to independent like-minded peers for authentic insights, ignoring corporate broadcasts. Inconsistencies between what a company says and what it does are quickly shared and immediately toxic.

As talent behaves like consumers, they expect to see an organisation’s purpose, values and behaviours consistently reflected at every stage of their talent journey, not just at ‘the point of purchase’. More and more generations make up the workforce, all of whom expect more personalised, valuable and immediate experiences across the talent lifecycle. As independent and outsourced workers become more important, their talent experiences need to be just as engaging as permanent workers.

Recruiters must proactively shape talent experiences to address a much wider set of motivations, in more locations, for more generations, at more career stages. They must collaborate across their organisation to create experiences that are valuable, consistent and congruent across the entire talent lifecycle.

They must focus on quality of experience, particularly at emotionally-charged moments of truth. They need to actively work with candidates to constantly improve experiences, getting them involved in the development of relevant and compelling content. Crucially, they can no longer afford to let any candidates fester in the blackhole of an ATS, endure unnecessarily protracted processes or navigate pointless digital selection gimmicks.

4. The value of talent has transformed. Talent is increasingly the key source of competitive advantage. People improve sales through enriching corporate reputations, personalising customer experiences, or differentiate offerings in crowded and competitive marketplaces. They are key to developing essential new products and services, creating new IP or developing new process and systems that deliver game-changing results. They are key to building the holy grails of customer loyalty and trust.

Commercial success is increasingly dependent on a different set of skills and behaviours. The half-life of skills is plummeting as new technologies, new economic models and new companies disrupt incumbents in every sector. As AI and automation replace repetitive roles and functional expertise is supplied cost effectively on-demand, human capital value is defined by the great cognitive leaps, divergent thinking and the rich relationships that humans are uniquely placed to deliver.

Recruiters must therefore refocus on candidate quality, not quantity. JDs and adverts cannot focus on the skills and experiences of the past when it is the ability to create a completely different future that matters. As windows of opportunity compress, selection and assessment approaches must target and accurately assess these attributes much earlier in the hiring process.

Recruiters must also shift their focus away from filling ‘butts in seats’ to acquiring the candidates that create lasting commercial value. They need to stop prioritising transactional task efficiency and instead index their success to the performance of new hires. They need to refocus on speed to value, not speed to service.

5. Increased operational pressure. Many more candidates will flow into organisations as talent is hired onto projects instead of roles. Operational complexity will increase as talent flows through more diverse channels in more distributed locations. Everyday recruitment activities will fragment as project teams demand a more varied range of talent solutions to match real-time demand.

Candidates themselves will be increasingly diverse, distributed and discerning. They will increasingly own the conversation, deciding the channels they use while controlling their journey. They’ll use a much greater range of platforms to ask questions, source information or cross-reference answers.

Recruiters will have to deal with huge increases in the volume, variety and velocity of interactions. They’ll have to find, acquire and deploy a greater volume and range of talent quicker than ever. They will need to proactively monitor and shape perceptions over many more channels, reacting quickly and effectively to a much wider range of requests.

Recruiters will have to develop more processes to cope with the diversity of channels, simultaneously accelerating without compromising their effectiveness. They will need to update and/or augment legacy tools, systems and infrastructures with innovative new technology to cope with increased workload.


As the world of work changes beyond recognition, so must recruitment. Competitive advantage will be reliant on better planning and stronger connections with brand new supply channels. On new ways to build trust, loyalty and demand with increasingly autonomous talent. On a shift in focus on what ‘good’ is as well as rethink on how to deliver it. As the questions recruiters face change, so must their answers.

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