Updated: Mar 31
“We need people who can thrive – not just survive!”
said Laureta Ahmeti, Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Charlotte Tilbury at our latest breakfast discussion.
We at HVO Search, brought together some of the most innovative HR and Talent Acquisition Directors of the moment, to discuss why a tailored hiring strategy is essential.
Different Talent Acquisition Strategies
I’m not going to lie – I’m a “how” person. If you tell me you need to hire a purple unicorn with gold stripes, my job is to challenge the requirements and then try to work out how to find the person as close to that as possible.
While hiring someone might seem like an easy, tick box exercise, the Talent Acquisition team at any company will tell you that their strategy and employer value proposition (EVP) is completely unique in order to get the right people through the door.
And by “right people” I don’t just mean people who are right for the role now. I mean the kind of people who are likely to be right for the role in 6-12 months time.
Someone who is capable of embracing new roles and responsibilities as required. And letting go of old ones. Senior individuals with ambitious KPIs who can innovate, grow, and challenge the status quo.
Do not underestimate the skill of the HR or Talent Acquisition Director therefore, working to meet these challenges and address the immediate priorities of the business, whilst being mindful of financial and people constraints.
As our HR audience was acutely aware, when it comes to talent acquisition, there is no generic off-the-shelf solution to securing the right candidate, first time.
The strategy is completely dependent on where the brand is on their journey, their size, infrastructure, stakeholders, customers, reputation and broader market challenges.
Broadly speaking however, there are typically three camps:
Scale up - increasing revenue without incurring significant costs, typically a young business
Growth - refers to increasing revenue and expansion as a result of investment and being in business
Turnaround – a well-known company that is looking to restructure/re-establish itself
Scale-up e.g. Beauty Pie
Historically people needing to wear ‘many hats’ are now needing to evolve into having more depth in knowledge in particular areas.
HR is taking accountability on hiring and wanting to drive more line responsibility and skill.
Still establishing values and developing culture.
Scope of roles is ever changing.
A challenge to get hiring managers to think about hiring for the future, as well as now.
Getting people to give up some of their responsibilities as the company grows.
To help managers articulate what they need, ask:
“1. What would you like to do more of if you had time?
2. What’s stopping you?
3. How much time do you spend doing x?
4. What can you give up to allow you to do this?”
said Victoria Foley, People Director at Beauty Pie.
Get hiring managers to own and be accountable for their hiring decisions.
Ensure the hiring manager understands it is their responsibility to embed the new hire.
Given the rapidly shifting landscape, review hire plans every 3 to 6 months as things evolve.
HVO Search Approach:
Our focus with scale-ups is typically to spend additional time helping them define what they want, what they need, and what they can afford.
Sometimes their expectations are unrealistic or at other times the hiring manager may need additional education around their role in the process.
When searching the market, the more detailed the brief, the more likely the chances of finding the needle in the haystack.
People from large corporates are unlikely to fit well into these more fluid, entrepreneurial environments.
Growth e.g. Farfetch, Lyst, Charlotte Tilbury
Continuing to scale whilst finding the time to hire critical leaders.
Finding people who can grow internally and keep up.
Often the hiring manager can’t articulate or doesn’t know what they need.
Rapidly acquiring businesses that have different cultures/processes/strategies.
Organising teams and culture when things move at such a fast pace.
Ask: what do you want to achieve by the end of the year? Work back from that when forming hire plan
70% of the variables that affect time to hire come back to the business. Urge hiring managers to own each vacancy. HR are there to facilitate what the hiring manager is trying to achieve, not to own the role.
Develop leadership thinking so that everyone is aware that you can hire the best people but if they don’t know how to lead the talent will get high early attrition.
“Determine who’s good for the company, good for growth, and good for the role” said Lucy Birchenough, Senior Talent Acquisition Manager at Farfetch.
When dealing with large volume of hires, prioritise to avoid paralysis and break the hireplan down into smaller sprints.
Educate hiring managers on the amount of work it takes to hire someone. You can do this by using data on: what’s happening, people spoken to, why people have been discounted.
If specific circumstances justify using an agency, lead the conversation with facts. For example, this is the challenge for this particular search, this is how much a cancelled search costs, attrition etc.
HVO Search Approach:
Growth brands typically have a much more developed idea of what they’re looking for and typically engage us when they don’t have the internal resources to dedicate to a particular search, or when they need to do a confidential search.
We’re usually more involved with the in-house talent team and respect that there is a balance to be struck between quality of hire and time-to-hire as these brands are running at a phenomenal pace.
We will also often do a market mapping exercise for proactive brands who want to know who’s out there BEFORE they have an immediate need.
Turnaround e.g. Arcadia
Rebuilding the brand and regaining a foothold in the market.
Reducing turnover of millennials.
Large organisations have different cultures for each brand. Understanding how to manage different cultures can be tricky.
Often, the hiring manager doesn’t have a job description to work with.
Need people who can “get on the bus” i.e. hire people who will help grow the business and aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.
Coach hiring managers to help them articulate what they need and manage expectations.
Use recruiters who understand the different cultures of each brand.
“Use stats to identify red flags and have quality conversations with hiring managers e.g. why has this role not been filled? Have we had the right brief?” said Hannah Dilks, Talent Acquisition Manager at Arcadia.
Be realistic about the likely tenure of new hires.
Push back on the hiring ‘wish list’ until you have a definitive list from all stakeholders.
Ensure you have a clear hierarchy.
HVO Search Approach:
Our primary role here is often as marketer/champion, we have to sell the brand first, and then the role to candidates who have read the negative press and need to be ‘sold’ on the future, and their role in turning things around.
Persistence is key here as many prospective candidates say “no” by default in the first instance.
Attention to detail is also important to earn trust in what’s being offered.
Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
Each brand is on a unique journey which brings individual hiring challenges
KPIs should reflect the priorities on that journey and will/should evolve over time
Ownership and engagement of the hiring manager is essential for success
The hire plan is not a 'wishlist' - rather it should directly reflect what's needed to move the business forward
Frances Dyson - VP People Operations, Lyst
Hannah Dilks - Talent Acquisition Manager, Arcadia
Laureta Ahmeti - Senior Talent Acquisition Partner, Charlotte Tilbury
Lucy Birchenough - Senior Manager Talent Acquisition, farfetch
Victoria Foley - People Director, Beauty Pie