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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | August 23, 2017

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Q&A: Jeanne MacDonald, Futurestep

Q&A: Jeanne MacDonald, Futurestep
Outsource Q&As

Jeanne MacDonald is President, Global Talent Acquisition Solutions at Futurestep – A Korn Ferry Company. Ahead of her appearance on our video roundtable on ‘The Future of RPO: 2015’  we got together with Jeanne to get her take on some of the biggest issues at play in the space right now – including the challenges and opportunities posed by technology, the secret to attracting the Millennial generation, and what she herself looks for in a potential hire…


Outsource: Jeanne, let’s look at the big RPO picture. The landscape’s changed a lot in recent times – and is continuing to change. What do you see as being the key trends today and going forward?

Jeanne Macdonald: I think the RPO buying market has matured considerably. RPO was a relatively new offering going back eight to ten years ago, but now it’s been on the market and in existence for a good decade so you have more mature buyers of RPO, as well as more mature users.

One of the biggest shifts is that recruitment and talent acquisition is taking a bigger seat at the table. At the top level you have more CHROs sitting on boards, positioned in the executive suite and reporting directly to the CEOs. Also, if you look at the increased alignment of organisations’ talent and business strategies, it’s becoming more relevant and more important.

Also, on a tactical level there’s been a great increase in the complexity of the technology on the market in the way you go about attracting candidates and the offering RPO provides. You have to customise solutions specifically to the client’s needs whilst providing a consistent experience to candidates globally. This has become more of an expectation as companies have matured and become more global in the way that they want to operate, and the way they want to buy and partner.

O: How’s that having an impact on the way you work on a day-to-day level?

JM: On a day-to-day level, RPO providers need to spend more time on implementation and front-end consultation to make sure we understand the client’s current state – which is why our talent acquisition consulting services line is so vital. This ensures that when we do turn on the lights and start executing our strategy, we’ve taken the time to understand the clients overall business strategy and the alignment of process – so, what the client really wants the provider to do and what we can see in the client’s current state that needs improvement.

So for example, a client might say: “We don’t excel at onboarding new recruits and need your help to improve this process; however we are really good at involving hiring managers in the recruiting process so we don’t need you to focus much time carrying out training for them.”

In terms of technology, being able to provide the client with the tools to screen potential hires more appropriately is critical. This is to make sure that not only is the right candidate being identified based on their skillset, but also in terms of their cultural fit into the company.  Additionally, using mobile technology and being able to come to the table with tool sets, IP and solutions to provide those services is very important

Ten years ago clients would have said: “Come do the recruiting for us”, and our whole value proposition would have been centred on the fact we have great recruiters that we can bring to the table. But now it’s become much more of an expectation to bring the processes, tools, infrastructure and methodology, as well as assessing the company’s current state and future state to fill the gaps and make their recruitment process better. Clients want constant insight to allow them to make continuous improvements.

O: Let’s take a different perspective: why would a hire benefit from being recruited by an RPO rather than directly?

JM: Essentially what it all comes down to is the candidate experience. Some companies are really great at creating a stand-out candidate experience whether an individual ends up being hired by the organisation or not. Most companies haven’t really focussed on candidate experience so much, which can be damaging to a company’s brand – particularly in the retail or consumer space for example, where job applicants are very often customers too.  A negative experience caused by an unanswered application or an unstructured interviewed process can be extremely damaging. As such it has become really important in the RPO space, particularly for Futurestep, to ensure when we work with our clients that we take the time to look at the entire candidate experience. We are here to ask the questions: What’s your current state? Are you doing exit interviews? Are you doing check-ins on the first 30 days? Is the candidate clear about what it takes to be successful when they join the organisation? Do they have tools that enable them to do their role correctly?

Whilst these questions are critical once talent is hired, the 90% of the candidates that are not hired mustn’t be forgotten. Many companies have several thousands of candidates coming to them and how they are treated in that experience can have a lasting impact. You hear many stories of “I put my information in the system and I didn’t hear from anyone for six months.” It’s really important that all the RPO providers are assessing that, addressing it and providing solutions, whether than be as simple as responding to every applicant within a three week period or something more advanced such as putting a hotline in place that candidates can call to  speak to someone if for some reason they feel like their application got lost in the process.

This is what I would call a ‘Gold, Silver, Bronze’ approach to candidate experience. Some companies will say they want the candidate to have a ‘gold’ experience, which will entail them having a team of, say, four people on site who are walking candidates around, shepherding them through the process, not left in a lobby. This is something RPO providers have been taking a really proactive stance around. Another example is mobile. A lot of candidates will use mobile technology for an application process now so if you are a candidate and want to apply via a cellphone then you can have that capability to do it quickly and effectively.  And if they want to understand what it is to work a day in the life of the company in question they can just click a link and view it on their phone. That’s an interesting, engaging experience for a candidate.

O: That leads nicely into the Millennials, in terms of how they’re engaging and what they’re looking for in a role. How are you working to make the most of that generation?

JM: I just touched on it: it’s speaking to the candidates in the way that they want to be spoken to. They live fast-paced lives so we need to be able to grab their attention when we can. Mobile technology is an excellent way to captivate the Millennial generation, helping them understand and go through the experience of what it would be like to work for a specific company in a specific job. The brand conversation to the specific Millennial generation is really important too. A lot of companies will have their brand message wrapped up, but how does it then translate to the employee value proposition?

Then you take it to the next layer: what kind of message do you want to send to Millennials specifically about working at this company? For example do Millennials want to have mentorship or groups of people that they can do activities with? Being able to share what your company’s story is with Millennials is really important and the correct tools need to be in place to convey those messages. We did a whole campaign around Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects (STEM) for Rolls Royce where they had four superheroes, with a S, T, E and M speaking directly to that generation to make it feel young and cool, and to show this candidate population that Rolls Royce is not an old-world company; it’s a forward-looking, proactive, interested and interesting company.

O: How have your learnings impacted upon your own hiring: when you’re recruiting for your own team what do you see as being the most important attributes for a professional fit?

JM: Assuming that they meet the skills, it’s really about the cultural fit and their ability to be agile. No matter how skilled a person can be, if they come into a company and they just don’t feel like they fit there, or they can’t flex and move with what the company needs them to do, they are not necessarily going to be successful or, as successful as they could be. I’m assessing, really, for fit and agility above and beyond skill.

The lessons I’ve learnt during my career have been that you shouldn’t be afraid to push power to other people to allow them to really flourish. Don’t take credit but give the credit to others and then people will be more engaged and create an environment where they really feel they are making a direct impact. That’s really important from a development standpoint.

Also, wherever you are you have good years and bad years. You need to learn from the good and the bad. It’s not necessarily your performance – it could be the microeconomic climate – but you need to learn from the bad years and make them better no matter what happens. Just consider it a learning experience and keep on going. You see a lot of people who get blocked and think: “I need to go somewhere else, or I need to run from…”, but you should always run to, not run from.

This article was first published in Outsource #37 (Autumn 2014)

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