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How to hire technical talent the right way(Part 2 -Longterm Talent Strategies)

“Consumers are not loyal to cheap commodities. They crave the unique, the remarkable, and the human.”- Seth Godin, Linchpin

Every big success is made up of little successes, each building on the previous and compounding over time.- Darren Hardy Author The Compound Effect

Change can take years-before it happens all at once.- James Clear Author Atomic Habits

Our goals can only be reached through the vehicle of a plan. There is no other route to success. -Pablo Picasso

Law of brand vs performance marketing- All marketing activities are a trade off between immediate conversion & long term brand equity.

Happy New Year 2021 and I hope the new year brings along with it many talent opportunities whether you’re an employer or jobseeker. 2020 was a whirlwind of terrible events and many changes that forced businesses to rethink the workplace and the role of HR. Some companies like Google even choosing to let their staff work remotely post Corona. Many times the best moment to rethink our plans, strategy, goals & priorities is at the start of a new year. And because of that, we kickstart the year with a continuation of our 2018 article which highlighted the different techniques hiring teams can employ to attract & source quality tech talent in order to meet short-term business needs. Our objective through this follow-up article is to encourage you to adopt a long term thinking about your TA so you don’t get too shaken up by uncertainties, competition, changes, or say a global pandemic, as well as learn how to add more business value to the org by leveraging the 2 key business drivers-data and relationships.

Look at your workforce plan to determine where your business is headed and what roles are going to take you there.-Mckinsey & Co

For a deeper look at strategic HRM & priorities for HR leaders this decade, check out our other piece on workforce planning & the future of the workforce composition and the skills that will be needed from HR leaders, where we discussed the future of the workplace and how this then informs the following strategies for talent acquisition & ensuring the company has the right skills at the right time when and as needed.

But first, what’s the difference between recruitment & talent acquisition? If your receptionist resigns after 2 years of tenure and you put out a job ad and screen/interview/hire in 2 weeks, that’s recruitment ie filling an active open position. The role and skills are not extremely hard to source or fill. However, if you’re a company like Amazon looking to expand to the African market and most of your new talent will be executives and technical roles, you will need a TA strategy. This is because the talent market(tech) is highly competitive and finding & retaining highly skilled developers or e-commerce specialists(a growing category) is tough at this point in time. Another way to look at TA is by looking at it as sales & marketing as we’ve shown here. And just like S&M teams make strategies to enter new markets, sell difficult products or stay competitive, the hiring team has to invest in a plan that seeks to identify potential ‘customers’ early on, based on company offering & strategic vision, and chart an intentional way to capture their attention & get them in the door. Comprehending this could also be the difference between your hiring team working hard versus working smart.

Recruitment is about filling vacancies. Talent acquisition is an ongoing strategy to find specialists, leaders, or future executives for your company. Talent acquisition tends to focus on long-term human resources planning and finding appropriate candidates for positions that require a very specific skillset.( Jobvite)

The other case for this is through the law of compound effect which is defined below. In essence, then, successful employer brands globally succeed because of the results of multiple things done daily and across time and eventually pay off in the long run. So for instance, you can’t succeed at hiring by investing much into sourcing then dropping the ball on onboarding, interviewing, or job adverts.

The Compound Effect : “It’s the principle of reaping huge rewards from a series of small, smart choices. Success is earned in the moment to moment decisions that in themselves make no visible difference whatsoever, but the accumulated compounding effect is profound.”

Let’s dive in for more;


Sometimes the best way to acquire the skills you’re looking for, especially for the near future, is by growing/nurturing them. Fresh graduates, and all talent for that matter, can be built internally through training programs such as apprenticeship, internship, graduate programs, job sharing, enrichment, enlargement, rotations and shadowing, leadership programs, on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching. Perhaps one of the sectors known best for using this technique to grow world-class talent is Sports. From basketball to football, worldwide almost every country practicing competitive sports uses academies as a way to identify, evaluate & grow talent. Even the world’s best Christiano Ronaldo & Messi were both nurtured through football academies. A great example of this is Slack’s 6 month Rising Tide Program.

According to Wikipedia, this is defined as

An apprenticeship is a system for training a new generation of practitioners of a trade or profession with on-the-job training and often some accompanying study (classroom work and reading). defines it as

a program or position in which someone learns a trade by working under a certified expert

This is not only a great way to equip existing talent with new skills but is also a great rewarding experience for those(mostly)within the company considered as subject matter experts{SMEs) to pass down their skills, mindset & tools to others in the workforce. It is cheaper and more effective too as these experts already have the trust & approval of management and coworkers. It also helps reinforce a culture of continuous learning and sharing depending on your company values. You can do this through the traditional on the job training methods eg job rotations or shadowing, coaching, buddies, academies, training boot camps, or also think out of the box & apply new techniques like reverse mentorship to retrain older employees using younger talent who may have expertise in new emerging skills like social media or invest more into your internship & graduate trainee programs. For more on how to get the most out of your internship program, read our guide here. Tap into your existing workforce and if not possible, the myriad of experts available on the job market who may be available to train your workers for a couple of days or weeks. And with Covid 19 pushing us closer to a more digitally connected world, you can easily get access to people at the touch of a button across geographies and at a competitive price. See below examples of World Bank & Microsoft do this.

Recent call for an Apprenticeship Program by Microsoft for Women in Tech
World Bank Young Professionals Program Features

Upskilling & Reskilling

6x-The net savings: It can cost as much as 6 times more to hire from the outside than to build from within.“ — Josh Bersin

We’ve mentioned in numerous articles here about the importance of L&D in the modern workplace and why this is now one of the HR Leaders Top 10 priorities. By building an internal workforce through the different learning models & tools, we provide the company with an efficient way to fill the skills gap it has without having to hire afresh. Learning also motivates employees and encourages them to stay longer with the company if they see growth opportunities through upskilling. Skills are the new currency as David Green explains here. It’s a great way to prepare the company for future business & talent needs as McKinsey notes here. Working with your workforce plan and skills assessment(more on this below), you can create strategic career development plans & career paths for your staff & leaders that meets both their goals as well as yours. For a more in-depth look at how to turn your Co into a learning powerhouse, check this out. Building your internal workforce capabilities strategically is also a great way to achieve your diversity goals by examining your internal talent pipeline from a mix of aspects including gender, race & disability as McKinsey show here. Test & learn from different learning methods such as the 70:20:10 principle, the rough breakdown of how learning happens in an organization; 70% informally, 20% socially, and 10% formally and narrow down on what works for your company. And while at it, do not forget to chart a plan for how to upskill or reskill your own hiring & HR leadership team in readiness for this future.

McKinsey- Closing the capability gap in the time of COVID

Partnerships with talent partners

Two is better than one and three is better than two. The 2 key aspects of quality sourcing strategies are affordability & accessibility i.e candidates & sources that are within budget but also talent within your reach & availability. Partnerships have long been considered a great way to achieve both of these and for good reasons. As a recruiter or team, your reach & capacity can only take you so far. While other business units like marketing have specialized in using partnerships to get things done faster, unfortunately, HR hasn't picked up this skill very well. However, there are several global companies that serve as great examples of how partnerships can help HR teams deliver recruitment goals better such as Unilever, Facebook & Google. Google & FB are well known to work with university student groups, D&I communities, and events to promote their company as an employer of choice. We’ve also written here previously about how companies like HP leveraged the power of CSR through supporting initiatives that are chosen by their staff to strengthen one of their EB value propositions as well as the impact of employee generated content EGC.

Talent partners include anyone in the talent lifecycle who provides services or value that you could tap into. These can be educational & training institutions eg colleges & universities, recruiting agencies, consultants, professional groups & associations including diversity groups, media & PR, industry groups & events, influencers, community leaders other employers & recruiters, parents & guardians, governments & NGOs, other departments, company leaders & top management among others. A great recruiter is a great networker. Finetune your networking skills online & offline to build your network. For instance, your marketing team could help you draft better copies for your job ads and increase application rates. Figure out what you want to achieve and who can help you get there faster as well as who you can help achieve their goals faster too.

Employer Branding & Employees as talent partners

From our article based on the book The Alliance by Reid Hoffman, we showed how Hubspot improved the number of job applications they were receiving by tapping into their existing staff LinkedIn networks. We also highlighted the various statistics around employer branding & its impact on millennial hiring & hiring costs. Your employees could also make or break your TA goals through branding, online reviews & referrals as these two have been shown to have a significant impact on hiring costs & brand equity. Previous employees also play a huge role in this as we note here.

Microsoft ADC event poster for a webinar by two software engineers sharing their experiences since joining ADC.

75% of job seekers consider an employer’s brand before even applying for a job (CareerArc).

If you wish to persuade me, you must think my thoughts, feel my feelings, and speak my words. Marcus Tullius Cicero.

Retention & Career Management

You don't build business. You build people- and then people build the business.- Zig Ziglar

You cannot buy loyalty. You cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds & souls. You have to earn these things.- Clarence Francis

Any successful HR leader knows that retaining the people you already have is cheaper than hiring new people. However, the statistics on this especially with millennial talent paint a difficult road ahead for managers. Work on your engagement & retention strategy actively and regularly, while communicating & engaging with employees to find out their needs and how you can meet them. Knowing what matters to them helps you keep them motivated and more loyal which in turn helps you manage your current workforce, reduce hiring costs & keep the company’s skills inventory in check. If you're turning over 20% staff every year, it makes it difficult & expensive to conduct any long-term HR programs like career pathing or succession planning.

Innovation, Agile methodology & emerging tech

Decide this decade to deploy more resources to your HR tech. Keep an eye on HR tech discussions & conferences to learn about how emerging tech can help you achieve your hiring goals faster. From AI to VR, tech can be a strong lever to helping the company plan & manage its workforce. And in the age of automation and disappearing jobs, tech such as AI & bots could shape your talent strategy too as you distribute jobs between man & machine. This is especially so for teams with workers above 200. From change management, skills inventory, workforce planning to training & assessment, tech can be deployed at any point in the employee lifecycle to ensure your company is properly equipped through its tools to meet critical business needs now and in the future and stay winning. The tools act as levers to support your initiatives and efforts so you focus more on strategizing, monitoring & stakeholder management. Be willing to learn, adapt & innovate your TA department to keep up with times & stay on top.

Workforce planning through Skills Management

The Value of Measuring Employee Skill Data | my future does a great job in showing the importance of skills management for workforce planning & HR strategies eg development plans. Some sources of skills data that you tap into are;

  • Recruitment data: Resumes, cover letters, assessments, etc.
  • Career history data: Roles previously held by individuals within an organization, role titles, job descriptions, project descriptions, leadership roles, awards won, etc.
  • Learning & Development data: Courses undertaken and completed, development objectives, mentoring, certifications, 360-degree feedback, psychometric assessments, etc.
  • Performance data: Performance objectives, performance appraisals, written feedback by peers and stakeholders, etc.
  • External data: Professional networking sites, professional publications, patents, blogs, social media etc.
Strategic workforce planning

Ethics & Values through culture & leadership

We cannot talk about the power of hiring without mentioning top leadership. From the C suite to the hiring managers, hiring should always be owned by leadership & supported by HR. When there’s misalignment, you can almost always tell because of the results. And at the core of this, is your company purpose and values around people management. Your brand values radiate consciously & unintended, through every step in the recruitment process. It will guide your process, relationship building, and what you choose to measure. This is also one of the reasons why we have previously advocated for not outsourcing your hiring. By being in charge of the process, you choose what type of people match your culture through its values. Your top leadership is also the face of the company and thus should be at the forefront of your EB initiatives. This will not only impact your employer brand but can affect the delivery of your goals.

TA Analytics & Bringing it all in

All in all, the key to strategic thinking is about preparing for the future and wanting to differentiate yourself. It’s about both looking at the sum of the parts as well as how the whole can be just as powerful. Think differently about how you can hire & manage your workforce this year through the power of analytics & data as we show here. Data paints a picture that tells a story. Learn from your strategies by setting SMART goals and using data to measure what’s working or not. Do not get stuck on bureaucracies & indecision. Adopt a startup & agile mindset of small sprints, continuous innovation, collaboration & quick reiterations where you try big ideas in small cheap ways to learn the big lessons fast. Learn how you can also build a data-informed HR culture to inform most of your talent decisions & build your business case like what Spotify has been able to do for leaders & its employees.

Mark Zuckerberg, “Data settles all arguments.”

Spotify People Strategy

Data & analytics also help to paint a better picture of how all the HR programs are impacting each other and the business goals. Through it, we can learn that our new hiring source for diversity hiring has led to a certain % decrease in turnover for a certain category of hires. Or maybe it made no impact at all on other areas in the employee lifecycle & overall staff performance so we shouldn’t continue investing in it in the next year. Nonetheless, we can’t improve what isn’t measured. And your TA team doesn’t operate in a silo. Every process can be a weak link to what the rest of the HR is trying to accomplish.

Champions keep playing until they get it right.- Billy Jean King

We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.- Herb Kelleher

The essence of strategy is choosing what not do.- Michael Porter

In conclusion, as Mr. Paul Kasimu(CHRO Safaricom) puts it, “Mindsets, skillsets, toolsets win the day.” Invest in these in your HR team first then empower them to transform your people and you will see the company flourish.”

All the best.

Jobonics is a recruiting platform for startups & growing companies to attract, find & hire quality fulltime & part-time talent easily. Jobonics also allows jobseekers to search & apply for jobs, discover great companies & submit employer reviews.

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Stella Ngugi

Stella Ngugi

HR Generalist| Founder @JobonicsHR | Where HR, Tech& Entrepreneurship meet| Eat. Pray. Code. Blog. Hire | 🇰🇪 IVisit for more info.

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