RecFest 2019: Turning Up the Heat on Talent

Sam Smith reflects on rising temperatures and big ideas at RecFest 2019.

June 27, 2019

When I say RecFest 2019 was hot, I mean it in every possible way. As London baked in 26 degrees under cloudless skies, our Unplugged tent felt, at times, more sauna than stage. But the heat wasn’t contained to the weather. Everywhere I looked I saw passion, passion for what we do, passion for people, passion for making every part of talent better. And that’s just awesome. Recfest 2019 was a brilliant place to be, not a suit in sight and people having fun, playing games, drinking cold beer, and talking about issues in a real and honest way. I believe that what we do every day, the decisions we make, they matter – they matter to thousands of people around the world who get up and go to work. Having events like this, where we get the opportunity to share ideas and talk about how we can do things better is both valuable and incredibly meaningful.

I was very lucky to moderate a couple of great panel discussions at RecFest with some heavy hitters of the talent world. The first was a Should Recruiters Still Rely on Job Boards in 2019? where panellists dug into the relevance (or not) of job boards today. I was then joined on stage for #DitchTheScript: Become a Force for Change in Talent Management by Simon Rutter, Global Internal Communications Director, Sage; Gemma Lines, Global Head of Growth, Learning and Recruitment, MS Amlin; and Neal Krisko, Transformational Talent Acquisition Leader.

Here are some of my key takeaways from our very lively discussion!

Who looks after contingent talent?

Our panel started with what should be a simple question, but it’s one that definitely doesn’t have a simple answer. Gemma described this in a very eloquent way, saying, “HR really don't pay enough attention to contingent talent and procurement pay attention to the wrong things.” I think there is a huge amount of truth in this, HR often see contingent talent as ‘not their problem’ while procurement can be so focused on cost savings and percentages that they miss the big picture. The world is changing, more and more people are working independently, and we can’t afford to write contingent talent off as ‘other’. We have to engage with these people, motivate them, reward them and every part of the talent function has a role to play.

Why are we so bad at comms?

If it’s one thing people in talent love to do, it’s talk, so why are comms such a sticking point for us? We have to improve how we talk to candidates and employees and learn to balance tech with the need for an authentic voice. Personally, I’d also like to consign the use of stock photos to the scrap heap and start representing people in real ways. Neal shared some of his experiences of poor communication in the hiring process and it’s an area that many organisations could improve on. Simon Rutter spoke about making the communications team part of key talent decisions and perhaps that is the key to driving real change.

Is the CV dead yet?

This is a question that we seem to be asking more and more but the truth is that the CV is still hanging on because we don’t have anything great to replace it with. Gemma spoke about how the tech industry is getting this right with the way they recruit developers through things like hackathons, but we are lacking a way to translate this into other industries. It’s crucial that we do start to develop ways to see skills without all of the baggage that a CV brings. It’s a key hurdle in the drive to remove unconscious bias from the hiring process.

I believe we have to shift how we recruit on its axis. We have to engage with the talent community in a different way and understand how they want to go to work. We have to be bold and get brave with it. It’s only by being brave that we will get to where we want to be. RecFest 2019 showed there is a huge appetite for this way of thinking – for real change – so, what are we waiting for?

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