Why early talent recruiters are set to become total talent recruiters

Oct 25, 2023 | Home Featured, Opinion, Sector & policy

Ten years ago, not many ISE employer members were hiring school leavers, now they are. ISE’s Stephen Isherwood explains why early talent teams will evolve into total talent teams.

Ten years from now, we expect many ISE member recruitment teams will not only recruit school leavers and graduates, but also career changers, older workers and be fully engaged in internal mobility programmes. They will evolve into total talent teams.

What will drive this change? Two significant macro forces will cause employers to radically alter their approach to talent recruitment and talent management:

Firstly, employers have an ever-increasing need for skilled employees. We already see this in current hiring patterns – despite the current economic uncertainty student hiring targets for many employers are going up, not reducing.

Secondly, there will not be enough supply in the labour market to meet employer needs. The UK population is not only living longer, but birth rates are falling – fewer young people will enter the workforce over the coming two decades.

Demographic and skilled worker deficit

The UK population is ageing, but not just because we are living longer. Over the last ten years births have declined by 17%. The UK’s population profile is no longer a pyramid, there are 16% fewer 20-29 year olds than 50-59 year olds.

For recruiters this means fewer students leaving school to start apprenticeships and fewer graduates to join a graduate programme.

If technology was reducing the need for skilled workers, a smaller working population wouldn’t be a problem. But the available evidence suggests that by 2035 the economy will need 2.6m more people in work. UUK estimated that the UK will need to produce 11 million more graduates by 2035.

The UK skills debate is often based on a misconception that too many people go to university. Across the workforce, the OECD reports that 27.7% of the UK workforce are underqualified for their work.

If the UK has a problem when it comes to developing skills that the economy requires, what can employers do about it?

The Total Talent model

Many of tomorrow’s jobs don’t exist today and we will work for much longer into a 100-year life. The changing structures of work and employment will lead employers and employees to reassess their strategies. We see three changes taking shape in organisations:

1. Early talent programmes will focus less on a person’s age or education exit point.

2. Firms will place a greater emphasis on internal mobility, retraining and redeploying people, and rely less on external experienced hires.

3. Organisational progression pathways will shift back towards managed, internal career pathways.

The Total Talent model requires employers to take an organisation wide view of its talent strategy, not only in concept, but also in how teams are structured and how recruitment, L&D and resourcing are managed.

People strategies will feature a broad range of interconnected features:

• Skills based hiring where the ability of an individual to use their transferable skills whilst developing technical skills will take the place of hiring focused on previous experience.

• Training programmes will become more accessible to career changers and older workers. For example, employers may invest in programmes that target ex-military personnel.

• Structures that facilitate greater internal mobility will enable employees to undertake short-term projects, multidisciplinary projects, internal internships, and work more freely across the organisation.

• Enterprise-wide technology solutions will create an internal jobs/opportunities market, identify and map skills and skills gaps, and deliver learning tools on-demand.

• L&D strategies will evolve to deliver short-form interventions that can fill skills gaps and meet training needs on demand.

• Career coaching and mentoring will become embedded as part of the HR delivery model across the organisation.

• Recruitment roles will be broader in scope so that recruiters can source talent from broad talent pools less defined by experience and education exit point.

HR strategies and structures will by necessity become less siloed.

Return of internal careers support

The World Economic Forum identified self management in its Future of Jobs report as a skill that employers will require more of. Whilst there will be a greater onus on employees to take a more flexible approach to their careers, employers can’t expect people to autonomously self-manage their careers.

In the total talent model, employers will take a less laisser faire approach to their employees’ careers and provide a greater degree of career support. To facilitate internal mobility, employers will build career mentoring and coaching capabilities into their people support structures.

One of the greatest challenges firms will face will be to develop cultures that reward the total talent approach.

Line managers will need encouragement to hire people with less direct experience than they wish and be willing to release team members into other parts of the organisations. For such a culture to be successful, it will also need to be accessible by all employees, not just an elite few.

Barriers to change

Whilst many HR and resourcing leaders agree on the talent challenges their organisations face and the potential solutions, there are many barriers to change.

When focused on here-and-now pressures, teams can lack the time and the headspace to work through and deliver a broader, organisation-wide approach.

Technology is often seen as enabler of change but many HR systems are disjointed and struggle to offer firm-wide solutions. Understanding the skills of the current workforce and predicting future skills needs across a large, multi-national organisation is difficult. As is building a recruitment system that can facilitate internal mobility as well as manage external candidates.

For a business to invest in the systems and structures that facilitate a Total Talent model, a certain leap of faith is required as return on investment is not easy to prove.

Line managers need to be open to hiring career changers, school-leavers as well as graduates, to releasing people on their teams on internal secondments.

Change, however, is unavoidable

Much of the current policy debate – growth, productivity, education reform and funding, immigration – stems from the UK’s struggles to solve its productivity problem. Much of an employer’s current and future talent challenges can be traced to macro issues around demographic changes and technology advances, both at a UK and global level.

Employers that hire for potential and develop capability across a range of programmes will have a broader pool of potential employees to tap into.

Employers that adopt a total talent approach to their growth and retention strategy are more likely to have access to the talent essential to their success

The UK’s skills and demographic problems pre-date the pandemic: they are structural and require long-term solutions.

In a world where talent shortages are a semi-permanent issue, employers that take a radically different approach to recruiting, retaining, and redeploying talent will emerge as the most successful.

Over the coming months, the ISE will develop these ideas in more detail. If you would like to join the debate, or have examples of the total talent approach in practice, please drop me a note at stephen@ise.org.uk.

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