There is a direct correlation between a company’s ability to attract, retain and nurture high calibre talent and its bottom line. Having the right people is critical to the success of your business and to provide value to your key stakeholders.
So, how do you approach recruitment for high-value talent?
Our guest today specialises in proactive talent acquisition to meet immediate and long term strategic hiring needs. Combined with a genuine interest in people and an understanding of what drives and motivates them, it’s no surprise that she has a great track record with recruiting high-value talent.
Ronel Raats is a Partner at Sales Recruit partners – a recruitment company with a reputation for accessing proven B2B sales professionals and sales leaders in Australia and APAC.
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YouTube Channel: HR Think Tank
00:00:00 – Intro
00:01:14 – Key Trends in the Industry
00:02:37 – The Process of Finding High-Value Talent
00:06:23 – Refining the Recruitment Process & Expectations
00:09:39 – Establishing Trust with Senior/Executive Candidates
00:13:52 – Key Tips to Pre-screening High-Value Candidates
00:14:59 – Identifying Whether a Candidate is a Good Cultural Fit for the Company
00:16:22 – Key Actions to Ensure Success for Your New Recruit
00:17:46 – Effective Talent Developments
00:19:18 – The Role of Performance Management
00:22:07 – The Value of Exit Management/Offboarding for High-Value Talent
00:27:00 – Fast Five Questions
00:31:35 – Outro
It’s quite a big question because there’s lots happening in the market – and I think some of it’s been affected by COVID-19. Obviously, businesses are trying to be more agile and take care of the people within their business a little bit more than they used to.
I have noticed since COVID-19 that there’s definitely a global talent pool – there are many roles that can be performed at home. From a company perspective and candidate perspective, it expands the candidates in the pool and the companies that could be considered.
And so, the biggest trend I’ve noticed is that there’s far more diversity.
The second thing is just on the back of diversity. Diversity and inclusion have become a far bigger part of our work life now. From an inclusion perspective, the focus has changed to “I work with” instead of “I work for”, – which essentially creates loyalty, synergies and partnerships that previously lacked in certain companies.
Inclusion also minimises certain biases. While biases aren’t always conscious, they tend to creep in, in the way we work and the kind of people we work with. So, by creating a more inclusive environment, companies are minimising some of those biases.
The third trend has been a focus on candidate experience. If I look at the Australian market right now, we definitely are in need of talent. There are a lot more opportunities available compared to available talent. So, companies are moving towards focusing on the candidate relationship management aspect of the hiring process.
The fourth trend would be employer branding. There’s a big drive to make sure that you can position yourself successfully for the right candidate. They’re using the same kind of marketing campaigns to attract candidates as they would customers. The campaigns are focusing on what their business does that would attract their ideal candidate.
The fifth thing I would say is internal mobility. Companies are a bit more open-minded about where this candidate can go in their business – which helps with retention later on.
And that takes me to the last point – retention has been a big focus in the hiring process. Companies have started thinking about the candidate journey in their organisation, which has led to far more thorough onboarding processes and programs. They’re also providing a flexible and agile environment where there are development opportunities for candidates in the business.
There’s a couple of aspects that I look at.
The first step of the process would be pre-search. When I talk about pre-search, it’s the preparation work that identifies what talent the company needs and what their talent attraction strategy looks like. There are a couple of factors that you consider in the process, but it essentially comes down to knowing your business – knowing your team, your culture and what kind of personality profile will fit in with your business.
You also need to have clarity beyond just the job description. Many companies think they’re set to start the recruitment process when they have the job description. But there’s so much more that needs to be considered outside of the job description.
For example, what are you hoping to achieve from the hire? If you’re recruiting for a sales role, you will want to understand what personality that person needs to have to fit into your business and represent your brand. And how does that personality work with your customer base and what your business hopes to achieve in the market?
Are you focused on the retention of existing customers? Or are you focused on the acquisition of new customers? All these factors play a role in who you decided to hire for that sales position. You need clarity in terms of what capability that candidate needs to come with.
The second step in the process is in-search. We’ve seen an increase in opportunities that require search because of the lack of talent in the market. Here’s where it would be beneficial to work with an experienced search partner that understands the market. You need a thorough process to uncover talent in the market – to identify the candidate’s needs and align with what the business has got to offer so that there’s a benefit to both parties in the hiring process.
The other thing that’s important to mention with in-search is transparency. If a company partners with an executive recruitment firm, transparency will create accuracy in finding the right candidate for your business.
There’s no company that’s a 10 out of 10. There’s no candidate that’s a 10 out of 10. But you can find the areas that you can compromise on and develop.
Q: Have you ever given feedback to clients and told them to re-look at their recruitment process and expectations? How have those conversations gone?
At the end of the day, we’re working together to find the best talent in the market. And I’m not working in isolation. I’m working in partnership with the business to say, well, let’s help you be successful in the process. And if that means that maybe we tweak things here and there to ensure that success, that’s really what we’re driving to be quite honest.
Some companies that approach me have been unsuccessful in finding the right candidates, or they’ve placed the role a couple of times but haven’t found a good match. So typically, they don’t come to me without a real big problem. So, the value in working with us in partnership is the constant and consistent dialogue – it’s feedback from the market.
I’ll give you an example.
I was working with a company in the industrial services space, and we found some inconsistencies with the scope of the role and capability of candidates they were looking at. And it is a very small market. You need to create the opportunity to discuss that feedback and say, this is what we found in the market.
And that’s, I guess, the great thing about having somebody in the market that can come back to you and say, maybe we need to relook at it so that you can succeed in the placement. And that means maybe changing the scope of the role, the salary or perhaps the location of the role. There are several elements you can consider.
The other thing I want to mention is that typically what happens in the traditional interview process is that they take their time to understand their experience in detail. But don’t redo the recruiter’s interview. Sure there are going to be elements that you would want a greater understanding of. But rather, leverage that first interview in a more productive manner – identify what you’re looking at in terms of capability and the candidate.
I always recommend a 40/60 split – 40% of the interview should focus on the candidate’s experience, while 60% of the interview should discuss the role. Take the time to talk about your company, this opportunity, and what you want to achieve. The minute that you do that, it’s a far more productive interview for you both to identify whether there’s enough in it to pursue that next step.
And from a candidate’s perspective, they should be able to say, with confidence, that they want the role because of X, Y and Z.
Q: How do you develop trust with senior or executive candidates? Is that different to your more generalist or high volume positions?
No. There’s definitely some intricacies that differentiate, but essentially my view is that every person needs to be respected.
And every candidate that you talk to needs to be understood because if you don’t understand the motivations for that candidate, what their career drivers are, what they are working towards, and where their value sits, you’re not going to be very accurate in placing them in a role where they can leverage their skills and abilities and grow professionally.
Whether the person’s just starting out or whether the person’s more experienced, obviously their dreams will be different. Their expertise will be different, so there will be differences in that.
But for me, it’s the same approach whether I’m recruiting for someone that’s only in their second year in the workplace of a CEO. And typically, their aspirations will be different because they’re at different places in their career lifecycle, but you need to take the time to understand that – that’s where the approach is the same.
The candidate journey is not just what the candidate experiences in the engagement with the company, but also with the recruiter – whether that recruiter has got a really good sense of who they are and what they want before they present them to an opportunity.
I think about the candidate journey from the minute that I get that role. It’s about respecting their time throughout the entire process. And that will also help build a fantastic network. Even if this is not the right role for that candidate, then the next time they are ready to move or that you have the right thing, they’ll take a call from you.
And it’s the same for the company, right?
If the candidate journey is great, your interview process is streamlined, and you’ve taken the time to share your business and be transparent in the interview process, then even if it’s not the right candidate today, they might be five years from now.
Q: What are some tips you have for employers or hiring managers regarding pre-screening high-value candidates?
If you’re working with a recruitment partner, prescreening will not be part of the company’s responsibility; it’s the recruiter’s responsibility.
During the pre-screening process, a recruiter will typically present the candidate with the things they’re looking to identify and discuss alignment with those aspects.
The first interview is the company’s responsibility. In terms of pre-screening, the biggest area to focus on would be identifying whether a candidate can be a good cultural fit. So it’s important to look for the soft skills, their personality and their attitude.
Well, with most senior roles, you’re not spending 30 minutes with a candidate. You should be spending between an hour and an hour and a half with a candidate.
You need to establish what the interaction looks like with the candidate – how enthusiastic they are and how much preparation they’ve done. For example, do they have a good understanding of your business? Their answer will reflect their career drivers and what you can expect before they go and see customers.
And then you want to understand their motivations – motivations for wanting to leave their current environment, wanting this role or what they are working towards. And through this conversation and dialogue, you can get a bit of an understanding of the person.
In addition to that, I would also do assessments. So whether it is Lumina or Myers-Briggs, or any assessment that the company feels comfortable with, it just gives you an extra bit of insight into personality.
Q: Suppose you’ve recruited for the client. If that’s the case, what comes next? What are some of the key actions companies can take to ensure this recruit is in the best position to succeed?
I love that you brought that up because, for me, that’s a big focus now – especially if you link it back to what we discussed earlier on about the trends in the market.
It’s retention-focused hiring.
So the only way that you can do that successfully is if you have a plan to set your new hire up for success? You can do that through cohesion and a thorough onboarding plan.
You need to give them information about your business, the people in the organisation, how you operate your market, your customers, your challenges, and allow an opportunity for that person to bring in their skills and abilities to overcome that.
You also need to lay the foundation so that they can see that you’re actually invested in their success.
For me, a post onboarding plan along with a well-thought-out talent management plan will help you establish how you can retain the talent in your business.
Q: What are some things that you've seen work well? Because obviously, retention is more cost-effective than recruiting every 12 months.
The first thing that comes to mind is demand that your line leaders are accountable for spotting, developing and retaining talent. That immediate hiring manager can see the most visibility on the candidate, including what they are capable of and where their areas of development are.
It’s also important to have constant conversations about what they enjoy about the role, where they think there is room to grow and how they think their role can expand.
You need to facilitate an environment where candidates will feel comfortable putting their hand up for a particular project or telling you that they are looking at expanding their skills and abilities on the leadership side.
Have those development opportunities available so that you have people capable of potentially moving into other areas of your business.
While it’s important to have solid talent policies in place, they also need to have an element of agility to review and identify where you may be missing the boat.
Q: Can you talk more about the role of performance management to not only ensure employee fit but to keep this eye on talent development?
If you’re on top of what they’re doing well, you’re also going to be on top of what they’re not doing well. That way, you can identify ways where you can develop those capabilities.
Companies sometimes keep people in a role for a year without real performance. The challenge with that is it’s disheartening for the company because they feel like they’re investing everything in this candidate.
On the other hand, it’s also disheartening for the candidate because they feel like they’re not up to speed.
So that’s why it’s super important to have conversations constantly. And if a person is a good fit for your business, see if you can find another place for them in your organisation. If you see that a person is not in the right place right now, do something else with their talent.
By having transparent and clear conversations, you can identify what’s missing in that person’s ability to take that next step up or be more successful at what they’re doing.
Q: Despite your efforts, sometimes it just doesn't work out. So that leads us to one of our last points, which is around exit management, off-boarding, but specifically for this high-value talent pool. What does that look like? How important is this part of the process?
There’s a couple of aspects to this, and they’re very much dependent on the specific situations. But I think if you are thorough in your interview process and have partnered with somebody who understands the market, your ability to attract the right talent immediately increases.
The idea is always to establish how to be more effective at the recruitment process to be in a better position post-hire.
But, like you said, hiring for longevity doesn’t always work out. So there’s a couple of things that companies can do to manage this effectively.
Firstly, have very clear objectives in place so that everybody knows what they’re working towards. If a candidate joins without clear expectations, they’re always going to feel like they’re missing the boat, when actually, it’s just a case of lack of communication. So, put your expectations out there and understand how you measure to show success.
Secondly, if it still does not work out, react sooner rather than later. You need to manage your expectations around how long a person needs to be in the role to show their value. If somebody is not doing well in their role and they’re not happy, everybody else in contact with them will be affected by that.
So, there’s a couple of reasons why you need to react sooner rather than later. And if you do, be very clear about what has and hasn’t been met in terms of expectations.
The other thing that you can do is exit interviews. When things don’t work out, it’s never one-sided. There are always elements from both parties that influence that outcome.
Getting a really good understanding of the candidate’s experience and journey, what they felt, and their perspective of what has and hasn’t worked out will allow you to reflect and redirect the next time you’re going to do that same hire. And that will allow you to get it right the next time and be more effective at holding onto that person.
- What was your first job? I was a nanny for three years overseas. And then, my first corporate role was as an admin assistant position in a shipping and logistics company.
- What’s something interesting that is not on your CV? I’m a lifelong learner. I am continuously up-skilling. I’m doing courses left, right, and centre as much as I can, as often as I can, even when I’m very busy. And I’m an addictive reader when it comes to crime novels.
- What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self? You don’t have to have it all figured out because when we’re 18, we just don’t know enough about ourselves sometimes. We’ve got all of these pressures and influences. So just give yourself a break, take a breather and make a call, but know that it may not always end up where you started.
- What book is a must-read? Good to Great by Jim Collins – it gives us a great perspective of companies that made it, the companies that made the leap and been extremely successful, and companies that didn’t. In the research, they considered over 1000 companies. In the end, they ended up with 10. And it talks about their leadership self and the Hedgehog Concept- helping companies define their purpose and how to leverage that to become great. It also gives just great information on how to figure this out.
- What’s a job for the future that doesn’t exist today? I don’t know specific titles, but I think it would have to be something to do with AI. I think just on the ethical side of AI, we’re in uncharted territory, and I definitely see some jobs around those aspects.