I’ve been to quite a few recruitment and sourcing related conferences over recent years but this week saw something a bit more progressive, more technical perhaps, hit our shores. Trevor Vas and his merry band of talent futurists and thought leaders, better known in our industry for the annual Australasian Talent Conference, brought the first Strategic Workforce Planning Conference to New Zealand.
Not the usual recruitment conference populated with sharp-suited agency types, aloof internal types, and wild-eyed suppliers. No, this was was characterised by analytics geniuses, senior HR bods, mysterious futurists and delegates sporting titles overladen with words like “Organisational Development”, “Workforce Transformation” and “Strategic Innovation”. Quite the mix, and it was certainly a different flavour.
Having had a couple of days to allow the bright, shiny new ideas and thoughts to settle into the recruitment-shaped furrows in my head (and recover from a minor dalliance with Wellington’s impressive craft beer scene), here are the top five things I took away:
- Strategic Workforce Planning is a pretty new phenomenon in New Zealand. Nearly all the speakers were based overseas, and most of the delegates had no real-life examples from their own organisations to talk to.
- Calling it Strategic Workforce Planning in New Zealand probably won’t help HR get the topic taken seriously by NZ Executives. Something like “working out what people we need in the future so we’re not caught short” will probably go down better, and get the narrative started.
- Futurists get to say things like “your strategy is just the vehicle for your vision” and generate a universal nodding of sage approval.
- Understanding things like segmentation, big data, and analytics are essential to be taken seriously as a Workforce Planner.
- Succession planning in NZ is an established practice but only at the very top end of companies. Think about what the critical roles are in your organisation, and develop a contingency plan should the role need filling. Are critical roles always at the C-level? How about your iOS Developer? Or your Payroll Manager?
But there was one stark, glaring, in-your-face reality that stood out most of all for me: The lack of recruitment industry representation at the conference. Tip of the hat to Tane from Kiwibank, Rona from Fronde, Ali from Contact Energy, Sarah from IAG and Nicola from Drake (let’s hear it for the agencies…) but unless I’ve mistakenly missed someone – that was it. In a room of 50+ people. Less than 10%.
The only conclusion I can draw from this is that HR really aren’t keen to get Recruitment involved in the Workforce Planning conversation. Which seems odd when you consider how the minds of Recruiters work. Good recruiters are always sniffing out leads, networking, connecting, matching whether in the office or round the BBQ at the weekend. We can’t help ourselves. So surely, knowing what your organisation’s, or client’s, plans are for future hiring needs would be a valuable tool in the hands of good recruiters.
The reality is that in NZ most internal recruiters are reactive, bogged down with too many job reqs, too much admin, and the recruitment neurons are suffocated in order to handle the here and now. Agency side? Forget it. Most agencies get job reqs on from clients as a last resort, when all other avenues have failed. Hopefully the good ones will have the networks, the contacts, and the talent communities already in place to be able to be reactive in an effective way. But most aren’t, and that’s why you often see multiple agencies chucking the same ad up on SEEK at the same time, often shortly after their client has done the same.
This is how not to do Workforce Planning. Most recruiters, internal and agency, are keen to strategically partner with HR and Executives in order to avoid this kind of reactive recruitment. But for many, they’re a long, long way from achieving this exulted status.
If you’re a recruiter who is being included in the Workforce Planning narrative with an engaged client or organisation then well done. Very well done indeed. You’ve pretty well nailed it.