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Hiring for tomorrow

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It’s no longer enough to simply recruit for current roles, you’ve got to consider people for jobs which don’t yet exist. Sabrina Zolkifi finds out what HR leaders are doing to hire tomorrow’s brightest talent, today.

Recruitment used to be an almost administrative procedure, but as organisations evolve and the HR function becomes more strategic, recruitment has developed into a business critical process.

“Recruitment is never just about fulfilling the immediate manpower needs,” Audrey Chin, director of HR at McDonald’s Restaurants Singapore, says. “In fact, it is very important to have succession planning and continuity in mind and to take into consideration how best we can train and retain the talent in the long term.”

Chin says a lot of leaders currently do not hire with both the companies’ and employees’ long-term goals in mind.

“They need to understand that having a capable successor in the pipeline actually helps their own career, and opens up new avenues for advancement or development,” she says.

Gaurav Sharma, organisational development and talent management lead at Coca-Cola Singapore Beverages, agrees, adding a company which hires myopically are short-changing themselves in terms of long-term sustainability.

“Sustainability of a business model is key to its success, and sustainable businesses are likely to manifest this long-term thinking in all decision making – especially so when these decisions involve people, since people will build or dissolve organisational culture around long term thinking,” he says.

Therefore, in order to put this ideology around sustainability into action, companies have to start by looking at hiring and talent development with a long-term perspective.

Looking into the future

Increasingly so, leaders are realising that while it is important and practical to hire for current needs, it is even more so essential to hire for the future.

Vijaya Nair, HR director at Vopak Asia, says this should be high on the leaders’ agenda because of the changing business landscape.

“We realised along the way that the pipeline is getting thinner and thinner. With new projects that are coming up for us, we’re looking for people with certain skill sets that we don’t already have in the organisation. This is where the challenge comes in,” she says.

Hiring with the intent to move new employees up the career ladder is also a business-centric move for Coca-Cola.

Sharma says when the company is forced to hire externally for roles higher up in the organisation because of a lack of succession planning, it causes “a time lag opportunity loss”.

“New incumbents will have to go through their own learning curve before integrating with organisational culture and delivering as per business expectations,” he says.

Therefore, we do have a business case for hiring high-potential employees ahead of the curve.

But how can HR ensure they are hiring those with the potential to succeed on the leadership track?

The science of recruitment

Sharma says Coca-Cola engages in a more scientific approach by utilising various psychometric and assessment tools. Not only does this help make the hiring process more reliable, he says it also gives HR better insights into “the ‘will’ element of incumbents after assessing the ‘skill’ element through interviews”.

“These insights on motivators of incumbents help us to align individual traits to organisational requirements for making the right decision,” he says.

Aside from looking at the hard data, Chin says it is also central to keep in mind soft skills when looking for the right talent fit.

“In addition to sharp business acumen and vision, it is important to look out for the humility and the desire to understand and fit into the organisation’s culture and the leadership skills and dynamism to bring the organisation to the next level,” she says.

Having analytical data on new hires will also help HR better plan the employees’ career projection, allowing for a better pipeline to be created.

Once we understand someone’s preferred career direction and progression, we give them opportunities to learn and grow through challenging tasks that would excite, optimise and stretch their abilities and talents.

At McDonald’s, restaurant managers are often given the opportunity to go for overseas training, work in cross-functional teams or rotate functions in order to receive a more comprehensive understanding of the business.

Another method of hiring those with leadership capabilities for future is through internal referrals.

Keeping it in the family

Nair says Vopak resorted to employee referral programmes for new, trusted hires after it had exhausted all its recruitment options.

“We wanted to try this internally and tap on our employees’ networks. We also approached my counterparts in other divisions and countries who can then identify people in their organisation who they think have the potential or those who are keen and mobile,” Nair says.

But it’s not enough to have managers be on the lookout for talent who might be willing to move or know of a referral to fit a role. Nair says the employee community themselves have to be aware of such opportunities.

“We do realise in some of the countries, we do have people with the right skill sets but are sometimes not aware of these mobility opportunities or they have not thought about moving overseas,” she says.

“We’re very much in the initial stages of this, but we’re hoping as we keep talking about it and creating more awareness during town hall meetings, people will apply.”

Once the right hire has been brought into the company, Chin says it is important they are engaged consistently early in the on-board process. This is especially critical in the development of new future leaders as sustaining their engagement over a long period of time while they prepare for bigger roles can be a challenge.

Building stepping stones

“People need to know where they are heading. If you have someone who is very talented and committed, you need to let that person know what his or her career trajectory will be like in the company,” she says.

McDonald’s trainee managers are each aware of their individual development plans, which Chin says lays out what they can expect in terms of training, development and advancement over the next few years.

“Through this approach, we can see that our people are motivated to continuously strive for excellence and it also enables management to plan for succession,” Chin says.

“In the long run, the organisation benefits from the good quality of work and strong passion from our people and this also reduces hiring costs.”

Leaders have to realise that building a strong talent pipeline to propel any organisation forward starts from the hiring process.

“Engage employees from day zero to ensure that new employees do not go through a post-purchase dissonance,” Sharma says.

Chin adds leaders must also be open to hiring candidates who may one day surpass them.

“Many people fear that their successors will supplant them. Instead, they need to understand and see how having a successor actually helps them with their desired career progression,” she says.

HR’s recruitment woes
Will HR ever stop worrying about recruitment?

The Asia Pacific region has been struggling with a limited talent pool for the past few years and this is a challenge that looks set to stay. However, as more companies compete for the same talent, Audrey Chin, HR director at McDonald’s Restaurants, says leaders have to adapt and learn to recruit creatively.

She says HR also has to sift through available candidates and make sure they are selecting the right talent instead of just filling numbers.

“This remains a challenge because most companies are rushing to fill in the gaps, especially at the operational level,” she says. “A good recruitment strategy has to be well planned.”

Another concerns HR leaders have with regards to recruitment is ensuring the process remains reliable.

Gaurav Sharma, organisational development and talent management lead at Coca-Cola Singapore Beverages, said another important focal point is “reliability of the hiring process in terms of consistently delivering desired outcomes across all levels”.

However, the worries do not stop after the candidate has been hired. Chin says HR has to maintain a strong onboarding culture to sustain engagement and excitement in the new hire.

The first 90 days of onboarding is important and we need to pay attention to new hires and ensure that they are comfortable settling down and adjusting well.

On the flipside, another factor that can help HR leaders improve upon their recruitment processes is exit interviews.

“Analyse exit interview feedback in depth to assess push factors which can be controlled or removed,” Sharma says.

Read more:

Case study: GlaxoSmithKline

Case study: Vopak Asia

Case study: McDonald’s


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