(first published by CHRO SA on 11 June 2019)

Employer branding expert Celeste Sirin on how to transform your team into innovative advisors and creative thinkers.

Mixed feelings of uncertainty and excitement prevail as in-house recruitment departments progressively move towards automating the mundane and repetitive tasks which once consumed their work day. This transition sheds a positive light on HR leaders and their talent teams, being offered both freedom and opportunity to transform into innovative advisors and creative thinkers. In a published SHRM article Susan Milligan writes that “with technological advancements, it is advisable to begin enhancing your skills in critical areas that will include business strategy, analytics and people”.

HR leaders can now encourage their talent management teams to take a consultative approach, by offering long-term HR strategies and collective data insights that can guide their thinking and be translated into creative and value-added solutions. There is an untapped opportunity for in-house recruitment teams to elevate the manner in which they engage and offer “out-of-the-box” valued added solutions into their hiring managers.

Having recently attended an Internal Brand Communication and Employee Experience Summit, it was disheartening to hear how internal HR departments are still being viewed in a humorous, yet negative light, being labelled as “Human Remains”, “Human Resistance” or even being questioned as to whether they are in fact “human” or “resourceful”.

HR departments continue to be stigmatized as cost centres and not profit centres, with many companies still undervaluing the importance of human capital driving their success! For HR departments to be viewed differently, it is essential that HR leaders work closely with their CEO and executive teams.

This Harvard Business Review article highlights how companies should look beyond the perks and rewards and focus on “creating a talent framework that lays out the key qualities, behaviours and motivations that c-suite managers want to see in their workforce, so the company can deliver on its total brand promise”.

The employer brand is integrated within the holistic corporate brand and whilst the focus should be on attaining business objectives and goals, companies should consider the shift towards incentivizing the right behaviours and competencies with a view to promoting a “fit for purpose culture”. There is a growing awareness around companies looking towards recruiting and deploying talent internally based on competencies versus hard skills, knowledge and experience. Abstract, intangible qualities such as critical thinking, teamwork, empathy, collaboration, problem-solving abilities, critical thinking and the like are being seriously considered by companies with a view to addressing the ongoing talent shortages and mismatch crisis. But how can HR teams ensure that they attract and keep talent that meets these requirements?

Below are four keys things that HR leaders must focus on to transform their teams into innovative advisors and creative thinkers.

1. Accentuate the Employee Value Proposition

Recruitment has morphed into a marketing and sales speciality. It is, therefore, essential that HR talent teams not only have a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of employer branding and crafting of their EVP (Employer Value Proposition) but that HR can hold a professional dialogue with their functional hiring managers to articulate the importance of this imperative when fulfilling their hiring needs. LinkedIn confirms that 75 percent of candidates research a company’s reputation and employer brand before applying for a job and 83 percent of employers confirm that an employer brand plays a significant role in their ability to hiring talent.

And now, with many companies having in-sourced their recruitment and talent acquisition function, I foresee employer branding as an integral part of the value that HR brings to the table. Beyond engaging with candidates and their hiring managers on job spec requirements (skills, knowledge and experience) a strong EVP does not only inspire and re-engage current employees but it attracts future good talent.

2. Focus on the organisational culture

Intangible attributes like culture fit and competencies are often overlooked and/or understated. The success of failing to fulfil a critically high demand role can often be due to culture fit and not necessarily technical skill, experience or knowledge. Research confirms that company culture is rated as the number one reason candidates choose one job over another. It’s in the best interests of HR leaders to encourage their teams to avoid overlooking but to probe essential job competencies with Hiring Managers. Polarising hard skills versus soft skills can often work to one’s disadvantage. As mentioned, research reveals that companies might sometimes overlook competencies, which is critical nowadays to recruiting new talent who can adapt to and integrate into an advanced digital environment.

3. Understand that knowledge builds credibility

HR advisers need to take personal responsibility in future-proofing themselves to address new trends and business demands. They need to build their knowledge through research, insights and benchmarks, thus becoming far more resourceful in demonstrating value-added service. For example, when faced with a multigenerational society it is imperative to understand how these individuals are “wired” and to address how your company EVP would resonate with them. Additionally, to realise what research needs to be done in order to target these various multigenerational segments. If something hasn’t been done before, the onus is on HR leaders and advisers to collect the research and best practice. This serves as one’s business case, with a view to establishing the facts, figures and ROI in order to secure buy-in from hiring managers.

4. Ask the right questions

To establish whether HR is delivering on the value-added service and brand promise into the hiring manager, it is essential to continue requesting feedback. Questions such as: “Did HR add value to the process?” “Could HR’s intervention have been done differently in order to improve the outcome?” “What value do you believe HR brings into the business?” “We can activate on this project, but what expected deliverables or ROI would impact on your ultimate business objectives?”

HR leaders are becoming trusted advisors more than ever before, as they draw upon analytics to develop long term strategies, reskill their workforce and redesign jobs needed to integrate into an evolving automated environment. Faced with a diverse multigenerational society HR will need additional knowledge, insights and data analytics to demonstrate how their workforce will deliver on business objectives and bottom line profitability. Restless to move if not given the opportunity to learn and grow, HR Leaders will need to continually keep their finger on the pulse in retaining their most valuable assets, their people!