Five talent rules to ditch

4 minute read

We all work to certain rules when it comes to talent acquisition and engagement. But many of these rules are outdated and irrelevant in today’s fast-changing work environment. It’s time to ditch the script, says Adelle Harrington from KellyOCG

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Sian Harrington

Ditch the talent rules

Are you getting the business results you want? If, like many organisations, the answer is no, then it may be time to rethink your legacy approach to talent. The way people want to work has significantly changed and it’s no longer enough to follow the structured or imagined rules you have always worked to. Employers today need to understand new market dynamics to determine when to buy, build or borrow talent. To help with this, Adelle Harrington, principal consultant, talent advisory services at KellyOCG, questions five typical talent ‘rules’ and offers some suggestions for what employers can do instead:

Talent rule 1Rule 1: Only permanent talent deserves rewards

The gig economy is booming. It's doubled in size over the last three years in the UK and now equates to 4.7 million people. However, according to EY 58% of independent workers say permanent workers are treated better and 26% of contingent workers are ambivalent or disconnected from their employer’s business objectives.

“If all of our contingent workforce disappeared today, we really would be struggling,” says Harrington. “So, we need to start showing them a bit more love. How do we make them feel more part of the business so that it's not a ‘them versus us’ attitude?”

She suggests a number of ways employers can do better here. First, recognise contribution. It can be as easy as a ‘thank you’ or recognition for their contribution at a meeting. Second, reward with incentives. This could be by building completion incentives into contract terms or connecting incentives to deliverables in the contract. Third, provide recommendations and testimonials. As Harrington says: “Contractors or contingent workers tend to go from one place to another, so to have a fantastic testimonial that shows how well they did can really help them.”

Finally, make independent workers feel part of the team. These workers could be in your business for some time, perhaps even becoming permanent at some stage.

Talent rule 2

Rule 2: The CV is an essential part of the recruitment process 

“Resumes are terrible. They don’t capture the whole person. At best they tell you what someone has done in the past and not what they’re capable of doing in the future” – Laszlo Bock, former head of HR, Google.

Did you know the CV dates back to 1482 and is credited to Leonardo Da Vinci, the famous painter and sculptor? He was the first person to write down his skills and attributes in a resume format and here we are today, 537 years later, still using the format, albeit mostly online now.

“A good CV may only be proof of being able to write a good CV,” says Harrington. “You could be brilliant at writing a CV and absolutely useless at the job when you get in there. Or not great at writing a CV but would have been perfect for the role.”

Research shows that 59% of recruiters will reject a candidate because of poor grammar or a spelling error, 31% for an unprofessional font and 75% of CVs never get read by a human but by Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) looking for keywords.

A post CV world would focus on building a better candidate journey (don’t have a recruitment process when people are going through seven or eight interviews, suggests Harrington); would focus on skills needed for the role and how to ascertain in advance (how about including a hackathon in your assessment process?); would ditch the CV altogether, perhaps trying new approaches such as Twitter’s #OneTweetCV where you present yourself in just 280 characters; or perhaps gamifying your recruitment process.

Talent rule 3Rule 3: Talent strategy should be tailored to key demographics 

The use of demographics in recruitment has been around for years and is unlikely to go away anytime soon, especially in light of the diversity and inclusion agenda. However, your talent strategy should not be totally tailored to demographics. After all, a white female of 30 in one city does not have the same motivations and needs as a white 30-year-old female in another, so what does the demographic tell you about the person applying for the job?

“It doesn't give you what's underneath the person and what they really want to aspire to be. In the past we focused on demographics but going forward, let's look at what the talent wants and needs on the inside,” says Harrington.

Kelly has done research in this area, focusing on psychographic rather than demographic questions. In other words, attitude towards work: what is their motivation, what do they want to get out of work, what are they aspiring to do? Kelly found nine unique tribes that shared common attributes, enabling it to think about what tribe was most relevant to a particular role.

“Some people are energised by change. Perfect for a change-focused environment but not if it isn’t. Some thrive on constant feedback. If we know that we can aim to give them feedback more regularly, whereas if we don't know that, we might not. And that could really frustrate them. Some people are purely working just for financial reasons, they're not really career motivated. If you know that when interviewing them, it will help. You're not trying to sell something different to what they are looking for."

Talent rule 4

Rule 4. The best talent will find us 

It used to be like that as an employer, if you had a big sexy brand people would want to work for you. Now you can't rely only on your brand. If you want to become a most wanted employer, you need to think differently.

“Employers have always focused on building a very strong branding for the permanent workforce. But now we're starting to see an influx of contingent workers and different generations coming into the workplace, that brand doesn't necessarily fit any more and employers haven't tweaked it enough to be able to attract people in,” says Harrington. “You need to understand how the talent wants to come to work.”

Some 60% of people feel 9-5 doesn’t work for them. Some want much more flexibility, some want to work part time hours and some want to cram long hours into the front of the week and have a longer weekend. What is your competition doing to attract talent?

Keep things simple. Six in 10 job seekers quit in the middle of filling out online job applications because they are too lengthy or complex. Think about your journey again.

Talent rule 5

Rule 5: Never be the first to embrace new ideas or technology

According to Deloitte, 83% of early adopters of artificial intelligence have already achieved moderate or substantial benefits from their work with these technologies. “Standing still is not really something that we can do anymore when it comes to technology and AI and bringing in new innovative ideas,” says Harrington.

Technology can be used across the talent journey, not just in attraction but also engagement and communication once in the organisation. What is important is to make sure the c-suite is fully on board and your use of talent technology is in line with business goals. Plus, it ensures diversity of thought and experience is also top of your mind when considering what technology to use and how to use it.


Adelle Harrington (pictured below) is principal consultant, Talent Advisory Services, at KellyOCG, a leading global advisor of talent supply chain strategies and workforce solutions. It aligns talent strategy to business goals to define what’s next for the future of work, enabling its clients to ditch the script on the old way of thinking. KellyOCG is a partner of the Business Culture Awards

Adelle Harrington KellyOCG

Published 19 September 2019
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