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Outsource magazine: thought-leadership and outsourcing strategy | July 25, 2017

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Recruitment challenges in Asia Pacific: the sustainability of talent acquisition?

Recruitment challenges in Asia Pacific: the sustainability of talent acquisition?
Outsource Magazine

Last week I was meeting with HR and business leaders to understand how their talent acquisition strategies were coping with the pressure for growth in Asia, specifically greater China. In this short article I will discuss the key trends and conclude with some ideas on ensuring talent acquisition is sustainable in the future.

High volume and high growth

It’s only when you’re face to face with leaders in the region that you truly realise the rate of growth. I came across examples of organisations planning to double their headcount in the next year. Not only does this create pressure on finding that volume of talent, but it also poses issues for organisational stability. How do you onboard so many new people without fundamentally diluting the culture and values of the organisation?

Reactive recruitment

For many organisations, the pressure on filling live roles was immense. When designing their talent acquisition models most had planned to dedicate a proportion of the team to proactive sourcing, focussed purely on filling the funnel with great passive candidates. Unfortunately work volume had resulted in these individuals being redirected to help with the flood of requisitions, with most HR leaders admitting they were ill-equipped to do the job. Inadequate consultative skills alongside poor political savvy to work through the nuances of their organisation’s hiring regimes were cited as the main limitations.

Quality as a secondary consideration

Possibly most concerning of all was the apparent lack of consideration for the quality of talent being brought into the organisation. When probed further, most HR leaders felt that recruiting people who ‘appeared’ to be good hires was hard enough. Questioning and seeking data that may or may not support this perception was happily buried under the proverbial carpet. Most recognised that this attitude was a ticking bomb, but one they were happy to leave for a little longer.

Partnering to accelerate capability

Many of the organisations had or were considering outsourcing part of all of their talent acquisition function to help them achieve more. It was however interesting to note that the rationale for buying these services was not on the traditional basis of cost, efficiency and flexibility. Instead, many organisations were looking at outsourcing as a way to accelerate access to expertise and to enable a competitive advantage in engaging the best talent.

What’s next?

From my meetings, few HR or business leaders had wanted to concede that simply ‘upping the anti’ on transactional recruitment wouldn’t help overcome the issues they were facing. It’s clear that to make talent acquisition sustainable in the future, a few mindset shifts would be required.

Firstly, candidate quantity would need to take secondary consideration to quality. Whilst, in the middle of a hiring frenzy, candidate volume feels like the answers to everyone’s prayers, we know that in reality, this is the motoring equivalent of trying to overtake cars in a traffic jam; in the end, you don’t get to your destination any faster.

Secondly, the measures of success will need to change. Whilst cycle time and efficiency ratios help focus on the detail, it doesn’t answer the longer term question: are the new hires adding value to the organisation?

Finally, proactive sourcing must be invested in. We all know that the core competence of sourcing has shifted from candidate ID to building engagement and relationships over the long term. Organisations that continue to “spray and pray” in a reactive fashion will sooner or later get left out. Creating a hard segregation between consultancy activity and proactive talent sourcing is therefore essential.

Moreover, a number of organisations had chosen to partner with specialist consultancies to deliver this capability; partly to leverage their domain expertise, but also because that’s what they were contracted to do. There was no risk that their resources could get suck into day to day delivery.

So where does Asia and specifically, Greater China turn to now? We’ll have to wait for history to do the talking, but one thing’s for sure; the current approach will, sooner or later, run out of road.


About the Author

Paul Daley is Director for Asia Pacific, leading the Ochre House business in that region. With over 10 years’ experience in resourcing and talent management, Paul partners with Ochre House’s leading global customers to help transform their resourcing and talent management capability. Paul has held a number of positions at Ochre House and was previously  the Director of HR Consulting and Services where he was responsible for developing and executing of a range of talent management solutions with leading clients including Agilent Technologies, Telefónica O2 and Bupa.

Prior to Ochre House, Paul worked for Futurestep, where he designed and delivered a wide variety of resourcing solutions with global organisations. Paul’s early career included programme management roles within the Staffing and Talent Acquisition team at Hewlett Packard.

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