null Taming the circus: how to drive talent acquisition innovation


I recently took part in my first Innovation Circus. The excitement and appetite for the many opportunities to enhance the talent acquisition (TA) services was palpable. Yet, when Alex Fourlis @ Broadbean, who expertly chaired our Futurist panel discussion, closed with “What advice would you give others looking to drive innovation in their organisations?” He touched on the reality of where many are struggling, turning all this potential into action.

All this change is taking place against a background of increasing regulation and compliance concerns, the recent changes with GDPR being just one example of this. This makes the standard challenges of any change programme even more complex.

In response, to ensure immediate business impact from any recruitment innovation project I recommend a focus on three things:

1: Revisit your existing technology vendors before looking at new options

In our post GDPR world, our experience suggests that talent acquisition tools are all being subjected, rightly, to rigorous IT security audits and Data Protection reviews. As a result, adoption of new platforms has slowed down making pilots and trials much harder to achieve.

Therefore, rather than putting all your initial energy into planning how you can make a new exciting tool happen, you should first investigate what other changes are going on across the business, what are they trying to achieve and explore if there are any synergies. You should also talk to your existing suppliers about what new features, capabilities and functionalities are coming out. This could help you leverage momentum with already approved tools and providers.

For example, with the scale that comes from being one of the largest recruitment companies in the world comes budget and an ability to identify products that really drive value in the recruitment process. So when one of our clients were struggling to get their candidate CRM efforts off the ground, thanks to rigorous approval requirement, our investment in marketing automation to drive talent pool engagement not only helped them know where to focus efforts for best return for a speedier realisation of benefits, but meant that they could benefit from using our tools now to showcase best practice until they could build their own product out.

Key to our approach in TA innovation has been a laser sharp focus on avoiding distraction through a…

2: Focus on the moments that matter

We recently analysed a typical end to end TA function as part of a 6-sigma review and identified over 600 discrete tasks involved in talent acquisition. Focusing on all areas dilutes your focus and makes you ineffective, we’ve made sense of this by focusing in on the moments that matter as a way of maximising our impact for clients. Whether you are focusing on fixing a problem or enhancing the overall experience, a clear use case gives focus and concentrates efforts.

There are several examples of this that come to mind, one focused on better use of existing technology and an agile approach, and the other using new technology.

We all use career sites to drive candidate engagement and applications, but our experience is that the approach used is mainly instinctive and not data driven. We complete reviews using the Google Analytics platform to look at the user journeys and ensure that when we make changes designed to drive more applicants to the site, that they are actually following the journeys we planned and if not we can intervene quickly, put some A/B testing options into the site and then drive traffic down the most effective route based on data driven reviews. For a client in the NL we were able to increase their direct sourcing levels by adapting their site journeys, reducing the bounce rate and increasing the relevant applications by 400% in the space of 3 months by looking at retargeting of online profiles through analysing our successful hires and updating our lookalike targeting.

For another client the introduction of an online, real-time Q&A platform has driven good engagement and an increase in the relevance of applications by 200% by allowing candidates to ask questions online, whilst at work, and then complete their applications with more confidence later in the day.

When we step back and understand how we’ve been able to drive innovation within this increasing complex landscape, the most important change has been our ability to …

3: Adopt an agile, software mindset to improvement

And this applies to our own organisation and the clients we work with. I would say that this boils down to

• Losing the concept of perfect
• Focusing on the minimum viable product that delivers the change you seek
• Using sprints to deliver benefit quickly
• Trial A/B tests, move quickly and refine

Remember, no-one drives organisational change alone

Driving high impact changes into the TA practices of any organisation can be challenging, not everyone has the same appetite for change or the same ambition to stay ahead of the competition and as a result the pace of change can slow to a crawl- and this reduction in pace can make the difference between something happening or not.

Research has shown how to change is even more important than the change itself, and our ability to combine these three concepts has delivered some powerful momentum, and if you do the same then I have no doubt you will also see the benefits a more agile approach to innovation delivers.


Jon Mannall
EMEA Managing Director and Global Head of Sales, Solutions and Innovation, Hays Talent Solutions

Jonathan is the EMEA Managing Director and Global Head of Sales, Solution and Innovation for Hays Talent Solutions, having joined Hays in 2011. Previous roles held at Hays included Client Director, Service Delivery Director and Head of Sales for the UK. He is now responsible for leading the approach to engaging and securing new clients and to ensuring that the products and services offered by Hays Talent Solutions continue to meet the changing needs of our global, regional and local customers. For more information about Hays Talent Solutions, visit our website

Prior to joining Hays, and after completing his Masters in Philosophy and Management, Jon worked in the RPO and MSP sector for 10 years with a range of Financial Services, Public Sector, IT & Telecommunications, and Insurance clients in Sales and Operations Director roles.