As the Millennials become the majority in the workforce this year, companies are adapting their recruitment strategies to hire this generation more effectively.
Jerene Ang looks at how hiring strategies have evolved and the challenges recruiters are facing as they seek out the desired skill sets.
With the nature of businesses and organisation structures becoming more complex, and the generational shift bringing in a new dominant generation to the workforce, to remain relevant in changing times, the recruitment landscape also has to continue to change.
It is predicted by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics that by this year, Millennials will make up the majority of the workforce. With each generation being slightly different from its predecessors, it is essential to note that recruitment strategies are being tweaked to cater to this generational shift.
Karen Tok, CEO of ScienTec Consulting in Asia, says: “To attract Millennials, it is critical to embrace their traits of high energy, tech-savviness, outspokenness, impatience for change and growth – and channel them into the right job functions.”
New trends in recruitment
Recruiters are embracing the new generation’s tech-savviness. According to LinkedIn’s 2015 edition of the Global Recruiting Trends Report, more of them are turning to social media to promote their talent brand.
Dion Groeneweg, Mercer’s region lead for HR transformation and workforce planning and analytics, is of the opinion the biggest disruptor today is, in fact, technology.
“The biggest change for organisations is in the way they interact with Millennials. The use of social media is on the rise and there are a lot of companies using LinkedIn to drive their recruitment. Some tech companies are building games to assess people’s capabilities in certain technical areas,” he says.
Shai Ganu, Mercer’s market business leader for talent consulting in Asia, agrees, adding that predictive hiring is catching on in companies.
“A trend we’re seeing at the progressive companies is predictive hiring – that is, looking at gamification concepts or social media presence to try and get a sense of whether the person would work out in the organisation.
“This also involves correlations and models about potential candidates, what behaviours and competencies they tend to exhibit, and different assessments to predict if they will be successful in your organisation.”
Other than these trends, Shalini Bhateja, Schneider Electric’s director of talent management for Asia Pacific and the Middle East, also points out that as organisations become more matrixed, there is an increase in the number of stakeholders in the recruitment process, especially when recruiting for more senior roles.
To attract Millennials, it is critical to embrace their traits of high energy, tech-savviness, outspokenness, impatience for change – and channel them into the right job functions.
– Karen Tok, CEO of ScienTec Consulting in Asia
“In that sort of matrixed set-up, I think what has majorly shifted in recruitment is the number of people and decision makers involved in the recruitment process,” she says.
“I think the stakeholders who are doing recruitment have gone up because people work with multiple stakeholders and then everybody needs to be consulted before someone is recruited for a mid to senior-level position.”
Challenges in recruitment
Witnessing these new trends is interesting, but so are the new challenges that have emerged.
According to Glassdoor’s Recruiting Outlook Survey, 48% of hiring decision makers feel there is a shortage of qualified candidates for open positions.
Bhateja agrees that it can be difficult to find someone with the right qualifications. Especially when hiring for senior roles, it is common to over-hire when one is trying to hire for the future and build a pipeline for tomorrow.
“In such cases the first challenge is to find the right profile. The second challenge is to convince them to be hired for the future,” she says.
Another challenge she points out is the ability to make the right decisions as well as to follow a structured process when hiring.
“A challenge which is always in recruitment is making the right decisions. This means we have to be very careful, there have to be assessments and a foolproof structured methodology drilled down to what actually is done,” she says.
Yet another challenge is to be sure of the competencies needed to successfully carry out a role as well as to know what type of candidate you want to hire.
“The other thing is that first, you have to be sure of what you are looking for. The second question is, how much of each aspect is needed to be effective in the role?
According to Glassdoor’s Recruiting Outlook Survey, 48% of hiring decision makers feel there is a shortage of qualified candidates for open positions.
“For example, you define some competencies that the person would need, but at that level, how much of that and what level of proficiency would be needed?
“I think that hiring is a very scientific process, so you have to prepare well before going into the hiring discussion. Sometimes I feel the preparation part doesn’t get done well.”
With a shift in workforce demographics, catering to the needs of each generation, and not just Gen Y, is another challenge faced by recruiters.
Despite feeling that Millennials are not that different from other generations, May Lo, group human resources director at Grace International, notes there are some traits of Millennials that set them apart.
“In my opinion, Millennials are generally not so different from the other generations. Things like job security and to be challenged at work, to work for a good company, applies across the generations.
“However, we also take note of certain traits of Millennials and we try to cater to those. Obviously, I don’t want to change the policies because of them. That doesn’t make sense because then it will mean that I’m just catering to one group of people, but we will acknowledge they have certain traits.”
Additionally, Groeneweg notes the onboarding process for Millennials can pose a challenge as this workforce generally has higher expectations.
“Millennials’ expectations are much higher, they expect everything to be ready and working from day one when they arrive at the office.
“But the onboarding process needs to start even before the first day at work. Companies need to prepare their touch-points to keep their candidates warm throughout the process, given that it can take up to two months from when they are selected to when they join.”
Godelieve van Dooren, Mercer’s market business leader for ASEAN for information solutions, agrees and adds: “These are not unreasonable requests as it’s what this generation is used to.”
She is also of the opinion organisations have to speed up their decision-making process in order not to lose the best candidates.
Hiring is a very scientific process, so you have to prepare well before going into the hiring discussion. Sometimes I feel the preparation part doesn’t get done well.
– Shalini Bhateja, Schneider Electric’s director of talent management for APME
“There’s also a lot of discussion around the number of rounds that candidates need to go through to get hired. I think there are too many!
“One of the larger internet companies has eight rounds of interviews before a candidate is hired. However, the best candidates might be snatched away by the competition in that time.”
van Dooren also feels that companies, especially those in competitive markets, have to be in contact with candidates throughout the recruitment process so as not to lose the connection with the candidate.
“Malaysia is madness when it comes to hiring. It is a very competitive market and you find that between rounds of interviews, companies complain about their candidates being snatched or even worse, people not showing up on their first day.
“That is why companies need to be in contact throughout because if the process is too long they will lose that connection.”
The sought-after skills
With so many new trends in recruiting, what are the skills companies seek that make it worth overcoming these challenges?
Lo points out she looks for technical skills.
“Because this is very operational-based, there will be skills that are a given – you must have the technical knowledge,” she says.
However, acknowledging that attracting candidates is not an easy feat, she says the company is willing to train candidates, bringing them to the next skill she looks for – adaptability.
“But having said that, even if you don’t have the technical knowledge, because we acknowledge that it is not easy to attract candidates, we are willing to train.
“We always prep the person joining – we say that if it’s a new industry, you need to have a change of mindset, you need to be adaptable because this is definitely not going to be what you are used to.”
One of the larger internet companies has eight rounds of interviews before a candidate is hired. However, the best candidates might be snatched away by the competition in that time.
– Godelieve van Dooren, Mercer’s market business leader for ASEAN for information solutions
Agreeing that adaptability is an essential skill in today’s world, Bhateja adds: “We are now in a VUCA environment and it’s very unpredictable. Business models are changing fast and to be successful in that kind of environment, the first thing you need is learning agility.”
In addition to that, she sums up three other important skills while recruiting – role fit, leadership fit and culture fit.
“These are three things to look at not just for the Millennial generation, but across generations. You absolutely have to look at all three.”
van Dooren also notes that more organisations are seeking candidates who have potential in the area of global mobility.
“Apart from great candidates with soft skills and technical skills, increasingly organisations say candidates need to have worked in different locations. So that is the ideal candidate in this connected, multicultural world.
“They want someone to lead a multicultural team, able to move around easily, not only within Asia itself, but also to communicate with the headquarters, which may have different cultural perspectives.”
Pointing out a good way for testing a candidate’s cultural fit, Groeneweg says: “One organisation I know about brings together people from all levels and makes the candidates present to them in order to test their skills. They usually get 20 minutes to solve a problem and 10 minutes to present the solution.”
A lot of this fit also relies on the candidate’s personality. With regards to recruiting based on personality, Bhateja observes there is an increase in the use of psychometric testing.
“Psychometric testing was previously used for development, but now it is also used for recruitment.
“Basically, there are various tools available in the market for personality assessment. Using those, a person will take a computer-generated test, which provides a report on their personality.”
However, she notes that that cannot be solely relied on to ascertain a candidate’s fit and it has to be used in conjunction with other tools of assessment.
“You have to match it up with the structured interviews that have been done, and putting the two together, you can use that for recruitment and many organisations are doing that today.”
She suggests a good time to use psychometric testing is in the middle of a series of interviews.
“For example, you might typically have six interviews for any role. After the first short-list, and after the second or third interview, we can introduce a psychometric assessment.
“There will be areas that will help the next set of interviewers to pick up from the questions and clarify areas in the report and, hence, you are able to judge the person better.
“I think that’s something good to do when making critical recruitment decisions.”
When it comes to recruiting based on personality, here’s another frequently asked question – active recruiting or passive recruiting?
In Lo’s opinion, it is a mixture of both with active recruitment being a little easier.
Her reason being: “The person is already looking so they will know what to expect. Technically, personality doesn’t come in as much there because they already have the skill sets and they know what to expect.”
Department heads are able to compare an external candidate against an internal candidate, meaning an existing staff who you might want to promote for career progression.
– May Lo, group human resources director at Grace International
She notes that passive recruiting may be more challenging as the person may not be willing to move from their job.
She says to attract a passive candidate, “HR needs to know the job description well because only then can you tell that person, ‘these are your job demands and duties and these are your skills’ and then identify the skill gaps that they would receive training in. Only then can you point out what they will gain from joining us”.
Adding that, “if the person does not have the knowledge of this job or industry, we can only rely on personality because if they are able to change and adapt their mindset, then it can work”.
Bhateja agrees that both passive and active recruiting are effective depending on the role. However, she feels that neither are the best recruitment method. In her opinion, the best method is proactive recruitment.
“Even if you don’t have a role open, as a business leader, I’m not saying only HR, but also as a business leader, you should know people outside the company so that if a role opens, these could be some people who we could approach.
“I think that passive and active, people would use it as and when needed. The more important one is proactive recruitment, what we call talent mapping.
“You should have mapped the market and know who are the people in the market who could fit into these roles if needed. I think that is most effective.”
Another query that comes to mind is whether to engage an agency or do it in-house.
To this question, Lo answers: “We do it in-house firstly because the department heads have more ownership.
“On top of that, they are able to then compare an external candidate against what we would call an internal candidate, meaning an existing staff who you might want to promote for career progression and career growth.”
Bhateja says that at Schneider Electric, it uses a mix of both in-house recruiting and engaging recruitment agencies and notes that each has its own pros and cons.
“I think for in-house, the positive thing is that the people doing the recruitment understand the company better and are able to explain about the company.
“But the problem with in-house is scale. How much can you scale? How many resources will you have? What kind of expertise do you have?
“If you look at recruitment agencies, they can scale their experts, the downside is that you pay them a lot and they might or might not be able to understand your business.”
The future of recruiting
After discussing the different trends, challenges and ways of recruitment in the VUCA environment today, we can be sure there will be more new trends to come in the near future.
One of the trends is the shift to mobile, as expected by respondents of the Glassdoor Recruiting Outlook Survey, where in the next one to two years, an average of 26% of job applicants will come through mobile devices.
Feeling the same way, Groeneweg says: “I think it’s about being mobile-friendly. Gen X and Gen Y want to be able to apply for a job on their smartphones. They don’t want to fill up big forms, instead they want something quick and fast. It’s the mobile-first generation.”
Gen X and Gen Y want to be able to apply for a job on their smartphones. They don’t want to fill up big forms, instead they want something quick and fast.
– Dion Groeneweg, Mercer’s region lead for HR transformation and workforce planning and analytics
According to Ganu, another trend is “thinking about your talent pool a bit more differently”.
“That includes things like referrals and secondments,” he says.
This means to let employees accept offers to work for competitors instead of fighting them, allowing employees to gain more experiences and skills which would be an asset should they come back to the company.
“It’s also good to have a structured alumni network because that tends to be a pool that might come back and if they don’t come back, then at least they are likely to recommend who to hire,” he says.
van Dooren agrees and adds: “We call them boomerangs. If you throw a boomerang well, which means if you’re a good employer, they will come back.”