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Strategic conversations

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TI had the pleasure of sitting down with TIARA Talent Solutions Awards judge Alison Westwood, Head of Talent Acquisition at Zenith Vehicles. With the UK economy contracting and talks of the recession, Alison talked about how to effectively plan demand and manage internal mobility.

TI: What, in your opinion, has been the biggest changes/shift in the RPO space in the last 12 months?

AW: The expansion of the augmented RPO services. Offering quick, short-term solutions for corporate clients rather than just big scale solutions that are offered in response to total outsourcing and RFPs.

TI: How do you think the impending downturn will affect hiring volumes?

AW: I believe by the end of Q1 we will be seeing only key roles replaced, a lot less new roles and a rapid slowing of the recruitment volumes we have seen in the last 12 months.

 TI: How has technology supported TS teams during the massive increase in hiring volumes seen this year?

AW: I actually think technology has been less important with a key focus on personal contact to fill effectively. Technology is only ever an enabler; however, we have seen

more innovation in areas such as RPA/chat bots/AI etc. to allow for better and more personal engagement via tech.

 TI: Reed Talent Solutions won the Diversity and Inclusion Award at last year’s TIARA Talent Solutions Awards, for which you were a judge. Their workforce solution in partnership with NHS Blood & Transplant was designed and implemented to recruit diverse plasma donors. What about the entry stood out for you?

AW: This is a notoriously difficult sector in which to be effective in any way. So, to actually deal with such a large scale project and increase the ethnic diversity by 45% is outstanding. There are not many RPOs that would ‘bite off’ such a challenging campaign at such a difficult time for the care industry. I also know that NHSBT have previously suffered through adverse publicity in the area of diversity so I know how important this will have been to them. A really great result.

TI: What do you predict will happen to demand levels in 2023? The million-pound question.

AW: With my crystal ball I predict that demand levels for new roles will decrease pretty substantially by the end of Q1 2023. I still think that remote working has made applying for new roles easier for candidates so I think that a volume of ‘churn’ roles (The Great Resignation) will remain but at a lower rate than in 2022.

TI: What are the greatest challenges facing talent leaders in the coming year?

AW: a) Keeping their own teams to a reasonable size as recruitment levels drop. Many TA teams have been running ‘hot’ over the past year and companies may forget that quite quickly as they look to make cuts in roles that are seen as overheads. So smaller teams could well end up dealing with what are quite high numbers.

b) Keeping quality talent in their own organisation if salary increases/promotions are not available.

c) Dealing with a workforce that may have been overpromoted, taken into roles that are more demanding than the capability of those they recruited at the salary they recruited them for.

TI: In last year’s TIARA Talent Solutions Awards, there was much focus on DE&I across the board. What are you expecting to see in this year’s entries?

AW: Focus on how to retain talent and internal talent management/mapping. I think the focus on DE&I will remain but with some significant focus on younger generations/engagement. I also think there will be greater focus on well-being and different reward strategies coming into play.

TI: Let’s talk about internal mobility. The market is still experiencing mass skills shortages and employers often ‘miss’ their internal talent. How can RPOs facilitate internal mobility and be renumerated for it?

AW: There has to be a strategic conversation about how much the organisation genuinely buys into internal mobility. A lot of companies talk about it but don’t work out what that means. For example, these are some of the questions that should be asked and answered: Is it making career pathways clear? Is it allowing free access to all roles? Is it talent and succession mapping? Is it using talent for secondment opportunities and how does it get planned so that you are not robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Once you have that agreed you must get the client to understand that it takes time and is not a ‘free resource’. The only way is to show that there is real value in the service you provide. Providing workshops to encourage cross functional applications for roles; creation of talent and succession plans with organisations that maps across all areas of the company…it’s a tricky dynamic.

TI: How can data support successful demand planning?

AW: Demand planning has to start with demand. 1) Where are we now? 2) Where do we want to get to? and 3) What scenarios might affect that final outcome? For example, sales going down, costs going up, changes to technology…

Most organisations only work out 1, with a very short-term view on 2 and little thought on 3. You can overlay attrition and market forces data to help with how hard it might be, how much re-work or re-fill might be required, but without the organisation buying into 1, 2 and 3 above, the rest is pretty meaningless.

TI: Tell us why you value being a judge at the TIARAs and what sets it apart from other awards programmes?

AW: I love TALiNT! It always feels 100% authentic and I know that time is taken on the judging and it is not just the most popular organisation that wins.