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Talent Acquisition Strategy 2021: The Guide

16 July 2021

With the challenges the global economy faced in 2020, it has become paramount for organisations to reevaluate their talent acquisition strategies. The most profound change the global health pandemic has imposed upon companies has been technological. As Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, recognised in April 2020, “we’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months.” Furthermore, The McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) estimates that more than 20% of the global workforce could work the majority of its time away from the office - and be just as effective.1 A change in the way people work, means a change in the way they are hired.

Uncertain times often present promising opportunities. The pandemic has marked a shift in the recruitment market to being employer driven. Organisations will be able to cast their nets wider in the search for exciting talent – a success for diversity and inclusion. It will also force them to strengthen processes and advance their brand identity. Here, we’ll guide you through the pillars of a robust and competitive talent acquisition strategy for the coming year.

Recruiting in a transformed landscape

Assuming the age-old adage that necessity is the mother of invention, virtual recruitment dominated 2020 in light of the global health pandemic and will continue to do so this year. The past 12 months have asked questions of organisations’ digital recruitment capabilities, and many have stepped up to the challenge.

Recruitment outsourcers Cielo reported that two thirds of businesses in the UK had successfully interviewed and onboarded new starters during the COVID-19 outbreak. Early signs suggest that once the pandemic has subsided, this new recruitment landscape will remain. Their report highlighted that 82% of the hiring managers said they will continue to interview using video once the pandemic is over. Furthermore, two fifths are also happy to onboard staff virtually, and 32% are not concerned about making job offers without meeting candidates face-to-face.2 As Deloitte expressed with certainty on video interviewing, ‘’it’s clearly the new normal.’’3 Some organisations may choose a hybrid model blending in-person and virtual recruitment, but are unlikely to ever go back to ‘the old’.

A huge winner in this digital transformation is diversity and inclusion. Virtual recruitment coupled with remote working opportunities will widen the pool of talented professionals, allowing for greater access to candidates from underrepresented groups. Remote work in particular is reported to result in over 20% greater geographical diversity among applicants.4 In 2021, an organisations’ D&I is no longer about ticking boxes, but will be valued for the knowledge, experience, and perspective diverse teams possess.

With a widening pool of talent however, organisations may face the challenge of a lack of ‘considered’ candidates – or those who have the necessary amount of information to self-determine whether a given position is a good fit for them. Therefore, increasing the efficiency of the hiring process is a priority. One way to do this is to rethink the candidate journey, and focus on developing an employer brand and EVP that attracts not only the best, but the right talent.

Case study: OC&C Strategy Consultants

Being in a competitive market, London-based OC&C turned to a complete e-recruitment system to provide a great candidate experience. Their goal was to upgrade aspects of their outdated process such as Excel applicant tracking, web application forms, interview slot phone calls, and postal onboarding packs. They integrated a ‘candidate portal’ into their careers site where applicants can find out more information about the company, available roles, apply online, and monitor their application status. In line with the company’s D&I strategy, the portal also runs a name-blind CV process to reduce unconscious bias. Furthermore, the platform also features the company’s onboarding schedule to improve engagement with new hires, ensuring they don’t lose talent at the final hurdle. They now have a complete end-to-end experience with branded and consistent communications throughout the process.5

Employer branding takes centre stage

Building a strong employer brand is a necessity in 2021, and convincing talent to join your organisation will require a competitive EVP. A report last year highlighted that 81% of candidates think company culture is somewhat or very important in their decision to apply for a job.6 When talented candidates compare companies, they'll choose the one with the best culture, values, and work-life balance.

The coronavirus pandemic and an organisation’s response to it is at the heart of the employer brand question this year. A company's actions, messaging, and how it treated employees during these difficult times will speak volumes. LinkedIn suggests that ‘’as candidates and customers look for companies to take stronger stances on social issues ... employer branding will be seen in a radically new light.’’ 7 Highlighting the company’s benefits must be supplemented by strong messaging as to what organisations are doing to support employees and communities in a time of crisis. Long after the pandemic subsides, people will remember how they were treated by their employers.

Showcasing a great remote working experience and highlighting it as part of an organisations benefits package is crucial. With D&I policies in mind, how does this experience support people with diverse responsibilities – such as parenting – and needs – such as neurodivergence? Furthermore, what steps will you take to support your employees’ mental wellbeing – which has been subject to immense pressure as familiar working habits were stripped away last year?

Then, there’s communicating this message. Social channels will become central to these campaigns, providing an opportunity for organisations to showcase their polished brand image, especially to passive candidates. Employee testimonials can be a great content resource in building the human bridge between an organisation and exciting talent. Furthermore, employer branding videos promise to be particularly impactful in 2021.

Case study: Thales

The engineering firm’s “Together We Are Thales” video demonstrated the effectiveness of good employer branding and use of media. It conveys key pieces of information to potential talent, including its culture of teamwork, innovation, and the wide breadth of the organisation’s operations. The impact: a 37% increase in career page visit time, an 8% reduction in bounce rate, a 60% uptick in the number of applicants with an engineering background and – most importantly – 100% of vacant positions filled.8

Technology provides a solution

With organisations striving for more quality and less quantity in talent acquisition, technology will provide the solution for streamlining many aspects of the process. AI and automation tools can increase the efficiency in the search for the best candidates and reduce the burden on internal recruitment teams.

2021 will be an even bigger year for the marriage of Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) and HRM platforms, or “’TA suites,’ a term coined at the forefront of this new era.’’9 Utilised effectively, these suites will automate the process of posting jobs via multiple channels, sorting through applicants, scheduling interviews and assessments, and onboarding – uniting recruiting, sourcing, tracking, and employee analytics into one system. Crucially, this localised storage of candidate data means you have valuable and actionable insights for the future, to nurture potential talent further down the line.

All this data will help organisations better evaluate their talent acquisition strategies. They’ll be able to understand with more clarity where top talent comes from in their sector, so employer branding efforts can be targeted with laser-like precision towards certain academic programmes or professional networking sites, for example. Embracing these technologies will see organisations enter a self-perpetuating cycle of continuous improvement.

Case study: Unilver

Unilever recruit 30,000 people a year and receive around 1.8 million job applications. To make recruitment more efficient, they employed AI/Automation technology to hire candidates. For their most recent rotation, Unilever aimed to hire 800 people, receiving 250,000 applications. To reach their recruitment goals, they partnered with two firms working in the AI tech space – Pymetrics and HireVue. Using this software, they narrowed their applicants from 250,000 to 3,500 people – all of whom were invited to assessment centres, where the final choice of 800 people was made. For candidates, the process was engaging and fair. For Unilever, the process saved a huge amount of time and money, whilst still getting a total evaluation of their candidates.10

1 https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/leadership/the-next-normal-arrives-trends-that-will-define-2021-and-beyond
2 https://ukrecruiter.co.uk/2020/10/19/how-the-global-pandemic-has-fuelled-a-rise-in-virtual-recruitment/
3 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/blog/human-capital-blog/2020/talent-acquisition-tech-trends.html
4 https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/future-of-recruiting/2020/future-of-recruiting
5 https://www.eploy.co.uk/resources/casestudy/oc-c-strategy-consultants/
6 https://www.jobvite.com/blog/future-of-recruiting/9-recruiting-shifts-in-2020-that-are-here-to-stay-in-2021/
7 https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/blog/future-of-recruiting/2020/future-of-recruiting
8 https://launchpadrecruits.com/insight-articles/attract-right-candidates-improve-hiring
9 https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/blog/human-capital-blog/2020/talent-acquisition-tech-trends.html
10 https://teseteo.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Unilever-Case-Study.pdf