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AustralAsian Talent Conference 2008 Recap

Posted on April 27, 2008
Filed Under AustralAsian Talent Conference, Events | Comments Off on AustralAsian Talent Conference 2008 Recap

Dave Mendoza, Master Cybersleuth, JobMachine, Inc.

First in a series of retrospective coverage on ATC 2008

“Get serious about metrics and proactive sourcing, recruiters told at industry conference”

Recently, Shally and I had the good fortune of meeting fellow peers at the AustralAsian Conference in Sydney (April 13th-16th, 2008) as both presenters and panelists.

Shally Steckerl wowed each audience and, as his protege, I will likewise state emphatically how impressed I was that he withstood 8 to 10 hour days on his feet giving workshops at various venues and presentations – all the while, never missing his stride giving cutting edge sourcing techniques with a rare combination of self reflection, humor, and desire to share. I sat in on one of them and have seen many given our relations, however I can honestly state I learn something new and laugh everytime … Shally my friends, is becoming a Guru with well honed comedic skills that only add to everyone’s attentiveness. Our good friend Martin Warren mentioned this per an event prior to my arrival, and with my own eyes I can attest Martin has an observant eye.

I had the pleasure of co-presenting with Kevin Wheeler on the various implications, methods, and future of “Blogging for Talent” in addition to contributing to a panel discussion on “Social Media: How is Technology Impacting Recruitment?”. The day to day ritual of meeting global leaders in their areas of expertise was humbling and it was an exceptional opportunity to ask questions and share answers to contribute to he ongoing dialog on issues which effect our industry today and into the future.

I was exceptionally impressed with the star power of speakers and the substance of the agenda. I can sincerely state, the program overall, was by far, the best of any staffing conference I have attended this year, or any to date. Interesting that an American went to Australia to make such an observation and yes, a bold statement to be sure, but in truth, rarely has a conference developed such relevance to prevailing issues in the War for Talent, both in the present and in terms of its collective outlook of the future as the AustralAsian Talent Conference. The event’s founders Trevor, Horace, and Kevin did a magnificent job. Special accolades are likewise reserved for Kate Bruener and Andrew for logistical endeavors employed throughout and leading up to the event, which was by any standard a huge undertaking from across the world.

The overriding theme of the conference, “Corporate recruiters must get serious about developing credible metrics, explore proactive sourcing methods and drive their company’s employer branding if they are to succeed in the future,” delegates were told by an assortment of global staffing experts with each sharing their own personal observations and challenges as stakeholders in the war for talent.

The event, held at the Hilton Sydney, brought together corporate and agency recruiters from Australia, New Zealand and the US, to discuss the trends and challenges for the industry as it faces an ever-tightening labor market.

One of the hot topics was the concept of proactive sourcing versus traditional recruitment.

The message was clear that they are intrinsically different, and in fact are separate roles in many US organizations. Asked about how to go about setting up such a function, Rob McIntosh, US Sourcing Lead for Deloitte Services said, “If you want your company to try proactive sourcing you need to get the leadership team on board, demonstrate the critical need for it (or the cost of not doing it), and also set and manage expectations about it, and how it differs from recruitment.”

Another key theme was the importance of metrics to prove the value of the recruitment function.

Several speakers talked about the need to do more with less, how to get the budget you need, and how to increase efficiency so you can take your sourcing methods to the next level.

Compelling data changes peoples’ behavior, according to Rob McIntosh; by demonstrating the savings to be made by having a robust talent pipeline, he has won the ear of senior management. Carol Mahoney, VP Talent Acquisition & Mobility at Yahoo! also focused on the importance of accountability, explaining that “providing clear, regular information builds trust in what you’re doing.”

Faye Luxton, Recruitment Manager, ASB Group of Companies, agrees that having built trust, her team is now invited to work on complex and senior roles that in the past would have gone to external agencies. Sylvia Vorhauser, General Manager of Client Portfolio Management at PageUp People, asked what organizations are actually doing with the data they collect, such as engagement surveys or performance reviews – “is it really being used strategically for talent management?” she wondered.

The use of technology in sourcing and connecting with talent pipelines was also a popular topic for discussion, especially the use of social networking sites such as Facebook.

Rob McIntosh pointed out that while such sites are currently the source of just 2 per cent of their hires, this will continue growing.

In a lively panel discussion, Peter Bray, Managing Director of digital agency Clear Blue Day, argued that technology was useful, but personal relationships and face to face contact couldn’t be replaced. Danielle Murdolo, Senior Account Executive, Buchan Consulting, pointed out that any digital recruitment strategy must be aligned with the organization’s existing branding and marketing strategies to be effective and enhance the employer brand proposition. My response within the panel took a more libertine approach with the broader context of “its not who you know, but who knows you” and what we can contribute in forming new rather than maintenance of a preexisting, digital ‘rolodex’ relationship to evolve into a more deliberative strategy of fostering new relationships with our passive talentpool. In addition I asked the panel how can we leverage our networks to “pass it forward” within our industry to make a difference in our profession?

This sentiment was echoed in a presentation by conference founder and President of Global Learning Services, Kevin Wheeler, where he emphasized the importance of authenticity. “Your career website must be interactive, immediate and intelligent. Don’t try and pretend your organization is something that it’s not – it’s better to admit ‘yes, we are this way, but here’s what we are doing about it’, rather than deny it,” he said.

The challenge of attracting and high performers was also a key theme, as well as the impact of employer branding and marketing.
Jeremy Tipper, Director Business Development at Alexander Mann, revealed the results of a new study conducted by his organization which found that productivity, proactivity, engagement and cultural fit were all seen by corporate leaders as high performer qualities. But in attracting these people, the organizational brand was seen as the most important element. However, Mr Tipper believes this could be a misconception: “the employer brand and the employee value proposition are the most compelling factors for attracting talent,” he said.

Jane Davis, Head of the Talent Team at The Warehouse, supported this and demonstrated how centralizing recruitment, using technology and creating an employer brand campaign, has yielded fantastic results for the retailer. Not only has their approach created a talent pool of 21,000 people, it has reduced new hire failure rate by 80 per cent, ad spend by 68 per cent, agency spend by 69 per cent and cost per hire by 78 per cent.

Conference Co-founder and Co-ordinator, Trevor Vas, said the ATC, now in its second year, was a great success.

“Delegates demonstrated a real thirst for knowledge and ideas on innovative talent attraction and retention strategies, particularly on the topic of using new technology. It was pleasing to see the room buzzing with interest, questions and a high level of engagement,”
Mr Vas commented.

“We’re already thinking about how to make next year an even greater learning experience and plan to maintain the same high calibre of both national and international speakers, which makes all the difference,” he said.

My own personal observation of the Australian staffing market was genuine heartfelt passion in driving their corporate and third party strategies and technologies to align with movements in the United States and beyond, however, that said, I found more similarities than differences in culture as compared to colleagues in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, and Netherlands. The entrepreneurial individualism we take for granted in the United States is a passionate reality among those I was fortunate enough to befriend. The shared curiosity of each other’s driving force for change and workforce development was genuine, the shortage in skilled labor is as disconcerting to both sides of the world, and the demographic data suggests a challenge yet to be overcome.

The excellent and broad audience participation and questions posed were equal to, if not exceeding those I have personally witnessed in the American Staffing conference circuit.


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