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November 18, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

The 4 Trends Driving the Future of Recruitment

Every attempt to try and understand what’s on the agenda for CEOs, HRDs and businesses in general will arrive at the conclusion that finding and keeping people is our main priority. The way we attract and retain, engage and develop, reward and recognise are the key differentiators for businesses of all sizes and in all sectors.

As someone who has spent most of their career around recruitment and HR this comes as no surprise. It has always been like this. The goals may remain similar but the way we achieve them changes through a mix of technology, aspiration and economic and commercial pressures. Whilst most companies outwardly seem to be going about their recruitment and attraction as if it was business as usual, under the surface there are new factors driving the way they do it.


Our networks grow and grow. Every business is probably connected in some way to their next hire. Employees, contractors, alumni, previously unsuccessful applicants, clients, customers, collaborators, suppliers, Facebook fans and brand advocates all have networks. The answer to that hard-to-find skill may already be within the organisation. Everyone is a recruiter. From the barista brewing your coffee to the uber driver who got you home, everyone you interact with could lead to the next hire for wherever you work. The skills you need are in these extended networks somewhere, though most corporate recruiters will struggle to find them. Technology may eventually help as the strength of connections and reach of network become more visible and quantifiable, enabling more creative ways to target and reach out with the right message to the right people at the right time.


Connections are nothing without relationships. You may know people or have access to them, but will they reciprocate in a two way conversation? We need to get good at rejecting those who show interest in working for us and at exiting those who do work for us. We’re careful about the experiences we give customers and clients and the same must follow for applicants, candidates and alumni if we are to benefit from their referrals and connections. Remember that as roles evolve, and we hire for positions that didn’t exist a couple of years ago, then those we reject because they’re not right may increasingly be not right, right now. Workers will dip in and out of businesses, specialisations and projects so we may be hiring less for long term fit and more for contribution, adaptability and future potential. Recruiters, and some employees, will be judged by the strength and reach of their relationships, not by their number of connections. Recruiters will need to show influence in a competitive labour market.


Are you a good place to work? Are employees able to develop their careers and skills with you? Two questions uppermost in the mind of jobseekers as more information becomes publicly available about the type of employer you are. Your HR processes, the way you manage, lead, encourage, reward and recognise employees and contract workers is no longer a closed book. The salaries you pay and the opportunities you offer are now on sites like Glassdoor. We’re increasingly in a ratings economy with many more opportunities around the corner for businesses and their employees and flexible workers to be rated and ranked. Buying decisions are now based on reputation and the experiences of others, and employment decisions will follow.

Much advice and guidance is given to managers and leaders about making bad hiring decisions, with less going the other way – helping jobseekers to avoid making bad offer acceptances. The increasing visibility of the employment experience is an important development in redressing this balance.


Reputation is important and culture plays a big part in how it grows . Most poor employment experiences come from expectations not met and promises not materialising. The whole concept of organisational culture and employer brand has gained much traction but its not a marketing campaign nor a glossy brochure. Whatever the purpose, values or guiding principles of the organisation, the people who are thinking of working in or with the business want to know them. Not only the ‘way we do things round here’ but the why and how we do them that way. For recruiters this is becoming a key driver – whether job seekers ask about it or not its the culture they want to know about. Salary and rewards are important and in a tight market can be a differentiator, but without a culture that will help them and support them in doing their best work and being happy, enable them to grow and develop, then rewards will no longer be enough.

Talent attraction, attention and acquisition is changing. Are you ready?

October 19, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

10 Emerging HR Trends

A lot of the HR and Recruitment commentary I see focuses on skills shortages and hiring difficulties, with concerns over attraction, retention and development. This often overlooks some of the many nuanced changes and developments in a number of HR processes that impact the day-to-day employment experience, all encouraging a shift in mindset and behaviours. Technology is often at the heart of these, either enabling and facilitating, or encouraging much of the evolution.

During the last twelve months or so I’ve written about many new recruitment and HR trends in reports and on other sites. These are 10 in particular that I think important:

  • Performance Management becoming a richer, more agile process focusing on continual development and coaching rather than annual reviews and school report style grades and assessments; moving from measurement to improvement
  • Leadership Development not restricted to early identified high potentials or specific job titles but becoming open to all employees with aspiration who can display influence and performance; individuals take responsibility for their own development
  • Talent Management less about linear progression and job titles and more about lateral moves and the gaining of a diverse range of skills, experiences and knowledge; progression isn’t only an upwards trajectory
  • Rewards becoming less about legacy entitlements and more about offering a varied and holistic package of initiatives and offerings that suit a range of employee preferences
  • Engagement at last being seen not as an initiative that a company does but an outcome of treating people right; commitment and loyalty earned
  • Retention becoming an ongoing process of continuous attraction with organisations using many channels to try and differentiate the way they are perceived externally and the way their purpose and values are defined internally
  • Most organisations now recognising that they are digital businesses that need employees and collaborators with digital skills and a digital mindset
  • Reactive recruitment now identified as a problem; skills are short and people have more options – the hiring process can’t wait until someone resigns, or worse leaves, before starting; there is a need for an ‘always be recruiting’ mindset
  • Leaders beginning to talk more about hiring for attitude and culture and not purely on past performance or against a checklist of perceived duties and achievements
  • Your workforce is no longer only the people on your permanent payroll; there is a rich mix of temps, freelancers, consultants, interims and collaborators that contribute to business processes and outputs, and their needs and expectations also have to be satisfied; they are potential advocates or detractors, same as everyone else connected with the business

There is much going on around the organisation that is both shaping these trends and creating new expectations. Employees don’t want to be overwhelmed and overburdened. They want technology that works, and makes their life easier not harder, and communication that is clear and concise, not filled with buzzwords and jargon.

Our businesses are now more transparent than they’ve ever been. Information is available freely and publicly on what we do and say, what our employees, alumni, collaborators and customers say. Internal processes are often laid bare without us realising. Our people are looking for an organisational soul, something that can encourage a sense of belonging and identification. And pride.

Speed is the new normal and leaders need to be change agents. Top down, autocratic, individualistic managers are losing their key staff. Employees want inclusion and collaboration, transparency and authenticity. The emerging trends that I’ve already mentioned, plus many more that are still evolving, require leaders who are agile and collaborative, able to offer constructive and insightful feedback…and take it too. Their goals are becoming visible to everyone in their team and they need to develop and mentor their people. Talent management is fluid so managers can no longer expect to always hold on to best performers looking for development elsewhere in the organisation. They need to be talent producers not talent hoarders.

Recruitment is becoming more driven by connectivity, reputation and culture. Information on individual experiences of your recruitment process – from the length of time to acknowledge an application through the interview questions you ask to the packages you offer – is publicly available on sites like Glassdoor. Companies need to embrace it and own it.

Your next hire could be a customer or someone in their personal networks, or from the networks of employees, alumni, collaborators and partners. People who leave are a great source of referrals, and may have gained new skills elsewhere so could return. We need to get better at exiting people from the business. Too often they are poorly managed out. Performance discussions become about the person and not the performance.

Whilst a number of businesses, particularly in the SME market, will not have embraced many of these changes as yet, the chances are they will. The transparency I mentioned earlier, coupled with the availability of information and insight on all of these topics, means that workers in all companies have access to what other businesses are doing. And if they like what they see elsewhere, then the chances are they’ll expect it where they are…or else may go out and find it for themselves.

October 16, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

HR and The Gig Economy

Nestled amongst a list of potential future C-Level roles in a recent Fast Company article was ‘Chief Freelance Relationship Officer’. Some groaned but this made perfect sense to me. According to the author:

“As companies continue to increase their dependence on freelance and contingent workers, many believe that the time will soon arise when an executive employee is tasked with maintaining and growing their partnerships and reputation within the freelance community”

This echoes something I wrote in a recent blog for JM Executive about HR and the employer brand:

“With growing numbers of interims and consultants working as contractors or freelancers for businesses it would be a mistake to assume that employer brand only relates to those who are permanently employed. Growing numbers of reviews on sites like Glassdoor come from people who have been contractors so the way that they are engaged and paid, with clear briefs and support where necessary, can also impact on how you are perceived as a place to work”

The recent Randstad Sourceright 2015 Talent Trends Report also identified the rise of the gig worker as an emerging trend. They reported 47% of HR leaders factoring in independent contractors as part of their talent acquisition strategy. Amongst their advice on how to manage these workers was the importance of engaging them:

“As an organisation utilising all types of labour, consider how your employer brand is perceived across your entire employee population. Remember to communicate your employee value proposition to all potential talent”

Whatever the reasons driving this shift, we’ve got more self-employed and freelancers working for organisations. Then there are also the gigsters, the casual help, the new wave of entrepreneurs and start-ups who fuel the sharing economy/collaborative economy/concierge economy or whatever we call it this week. All different types of workers with one thing in common – nobody employs them permanently yet their experiences of working within, or collaborating with, a business are becoming just as much of employer brand as that of regular employees.

This will grow. Increasing numbers of Uber style apps/platforms for employment are being launched and raising funds. Some are looking at general skills but a growing number are for very niche sectors. This ‘human cloud’ has recently been the subject of an in-depth FT piece. There are estimates of global spend through these platforms already over $3bn, though this could be understated as US leader Upwork estimates $1bn of payments through its site alone last year.

So once they are engaged to perform a duty, who has responsibility internally for the gigsters?

These kind of deals will often fall under the remit of procurement, though their drivers will often be cost and delivery deadlines.

For many companies it will be the hiring or project manager, who has a budget and specific delivery requirements.

The recruiter and HR person in me leads me to think that if the Chief Freelance Relationship Officer is a role whose time has come, then it should be part of HR. In fact it’s probably part and parcel of what HR does, not separate. Its a role about curating skills, satisfying requirements and needs through the best available hiring channel. Freelancers are part of the wider employer brand ecosystem, their experiences reflecting the type of business you are to work for. The work they produce is ultimately part of the overall business output. The data they have access to, and add to, is subject to the same company privacies and regulations as permanent employees. And their employment status, often unclear and uncertain, is one that HR needs to understand – particularly if pay rates come under scrutiny.

Whilst the whole flexible/outsourced workforce seems a growing phenomenon it’s not necessarily a new one. As far back as 2001 this research paper on the challenges for HR in managing the outsourced workforce was published with this remit:

  • For most of the twentieth century, the number of tasks and levels in large organizations grew incrementally, adding new job and career opportunities to full-time employees. In recent years this pattern has fundamentally changed.
  • Global developments, both technological and economic, have led to many organizations cutting back their operations, closing facilities or outsourcing non-core activities to specialist providers.
  • As we move further into the twenty-first century, we can realistically expect that the need for cost reduction, speed and flexibility will become even greater, leading organizations to reduce the number of full-time employees.
  • As labour markets are becoming tighter and supply-driven, finding qualified staff will become more difficult and companies will increasingly have to depend on temporary staff and other types of non-permanent employees to meet their staffing requirements

In the US, the Freelancers Union offers a strong voice, with their #FreelanceIsntFree campaign getting some traction. Meanwhile there is a vibrant online network of project workers ready to share their experiences. Just as the new platforms enable companies to rate their freelance workers, so those workers have the same opportunity to rate those who engage them. Whether by user reviews on a site such as Glassdoor or user ratings through an app there is a growing two way transparency – with pay rates and timeframes likely to be in firing line.

Is business, and HR, ready to operate in a ratings economy?

(image from

September 1, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

What’s the Future for Recruitment Agencies?

At the recent RecFest conference, Roopesh from Workday opened a session exploring the relationship between agency and in-house recruiters by leading the attendees in a raucous sing-a-long of the Only Fools and Horses theme. It went down so well that they sang it a second time. Clearly for this group the image of recruitment consultants as fast talking market traders hit the spot. This was underlined by a slide showing some of the things that agency recruiters say during sales calls…

“I’m an expert in your market”
“I have a superb candidate from a previous search”
“Our standard Terms are 25% but I can agree to 12% just this once”
“Give me your most hard to fill vacancy”

So far so Delboy, but it wasn’t all pantomime villainy. There was agreement that in-house recruiters can learn things from their agency suppliers – sales and closing skills, focus and pushing back on hiring managers amongst them.

Earlier in the year I took part in a round table event where around 20 owners of small recruitment agencies were talking about their frustrations with in-house recruiters. They saw them mostly as failed recruitment consultants who weren’t commercial enough to realise the value of partnering with specialist agencies, and were scared of sales and targets and wanted an easy life. My role in this gathering was as one of two specialists with knowledge of both areas so I attempted to counter this view.

The real eye opener for me was that their major bugbear with in-house recruiters was over how they handled unsolicited emailed CV submissions. Yes, in 2015, all in the name of business development, agencies are still emailing companies with which they have no relationship, nor knowledge of their current recruitment requirements, attaching candidate CVs displaying full name and contact details. It seems that in-house recruiters ignore them, or worse still contact the candidate to let them know that their CVs have been sent in unsolicited.

I wasn’t happy with the stereotyping from either side. Whatever the rights and wrongs of each approach, there appears a clear undercurrent of disconnect between in-house and agency. Even amongst the successful supplier relationships there is still an element of mistrust.

These are interesting times for staffing agencies. There are skill shortages and talent is hard to find. Yet most are working harder for shrinking returns. Some sectors are thriving but the overall picture is one of tighter margins and harder to fill briefs. The number of permanent placements has fallen from almost 800,000 in 2006/07 to around 630,000 in 2013/14, despite the increase of people working in wider economy.

Trainees often join the recruitment industry in 2015 on basic salaries lower than those offered in 2005. Bonuses then were saved towards an investment in property or purchase of a car yet, anecdotally, now they help to pay the rent. Clients are changing the way they approach performance management, rewards and leadership development. Can the agency sales model similarly develop? Are we hiring the consultants that our clients would choose?

The days of being an intermediary between the client and the channels are gone. Agencies are now a channel again…and an expensive one.

Increasing automation and job polarisation could threaten the bread and butter business of clerical temp work. Clients are becoming competitors, whether through setting up their own internal function or offering their employees as a short term solution to others. There could soon be an app for outsourced managed workforces. Meanwhile the gig economy is connecting those who need a skill with those who are available and have that skill. Recruitment agencies are rarely facilitators of freelance gigs.

Everyone is connected. Clients are probably already connected to their next hire but may not yet understand where the connection is or how to leverage it. Permanent agencies need to look again at their own offerings and ask where they really add value. What if the introduction was free? What would they charge for then?

Much of the advice given to agency recruiters about the skills they need to develop – sourcing, analysis, content creation, storytelling, relationship building – usually pre-supposes that the business model remains unchanged, that vacancies need to be found and filled. But what if the business opportunities are not so obvious? Strategies need to evolve and respond to changing dynamics and preferences in employment models and talent acquisition.

Over the next few weeks I will be looking further into the current recruitment landscape and trying to understand the challenges that the industry faces, the impact they may have and how agencies might need to adapt.

Let me know what you think their challenges are?

August 7, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

The fattening of the rush hour

Mervyn Dinnen:

Really interesting post and mirrors some of my recent experiences.

For many, work is still a place you go, not just a thing you do…

Originally posted on Flip Chart Fairy Tales:

Five years ago I asked whether people were starting work earlier. Based on my own observations and anecdotes from others, it seemed to me that roads and railways were packed with commuters at times of the morning when they used to be almost deserted.

Thanks to an article in the Economist, retweeted in the context of yesterday’s Tube strike, I now have some data to back up my hunch. Since 2001, the number of people using the Underground has increased and so has the length of the rush hour. It’s more like a rush three hours now. As passenger numbers have increased at peak times, the number of  people leaving early or delaying their journeys has also risen. In just over ten years, the volumes have shifted at each end by about half to three-quarters of an hour, so 6.15am now looks like 6.45am used to.


This example from the article reflects many…

View original 396 more words

April 10, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

Getting to Grips With HR Analytics

If there’s one topic that has both dominated and divided the on-going conversations around HR over the last year or two, then its data. Specifically big data and what to do with it. We constantly seem to be told that HR doesn’t have the capability or know-how to properly leverage the opportunities that all these extra insights offer us. When I wrote about the topic last year I found a range of perceptions and misconceptions – from the size of the data to the complexity of technology, solution focus to looking beyond the quantitative – that cloud the conversations in detail and jargon.

Keen to understand more I went along to the recent HR & Workforce Analytics Innovation Summit and heard a range of speakers – from Coca Cola, Aviva, Nestle, Metropolitan Police, Unilever, Serious Fraud Office to name a few – share case studies and insights about how they had used analytics to drive business value and achieve results.

Here are some of the thing that stood out for me.

Getting the right people.

With a background as a recruiter I’m always looking at how we can get the hiring right. Certainly talent acquisition and performance are two areas with much to gain from deeper insights, and where there is already a lot of data available.

As with any specialist area it starts with scoping what you really need – “an HR analytics team needs to understand data and present it in a way that engages the business – they don’t need a background in HR

We can have a tendency to compile a long shopping list of attributes, skills and experience that we want and then complain that we can’t find it. The key for analyst roles is to understand what you really need. Don’t look for a list of technology and software skills, but for someone who can understand problems and tell stories. Analysts are hot property at the moment so not easy to find – many presenters came not from an HR background but from one involving maths, statistics and analysis. HR generalists can get bogged down with data and detail whilst analysts can’t always present or tell stories so the best teams will blend a range of skills.

Once there is data and analysis then someone needs to be able to bring it to life, tell a compelling story that will engage stakeholders. More than one speaker observed that stakeholder management is a very hard skill to locate when recruiting in this area.

The concept of storytelling came through loud and clear during most presentations and is one that resonates with me, given the day job. How many HRDs look for separate people? Those to work with the data and those who will present the results? And how many look at the people they already have in their teams who could develop into a role like this with some help and training. One suggestion was to ‘steal’ someone from another business area – maybe the capability is already within the business, just not HR.

The key attributes were described by fellow event blogger David D’Souza as “The 4 N’s – Nosiness, Numeracy, Narrative, Networking“. But also remember that analysts need a career and personal development plan just like everyone else – they need scope to hone their skills.

Quick wins, simple wins, ask questions.

The clear message was to understand exactly what you want, and to be patient and realistic, starting with basics. Many teams have little or no budget, but however small it is there will need to be some budget to either hire or train the right person.

Think big, start slowly, and get in at the top! When you start make sure you meet the CEO and FD. Let them know what’s happening. Coca Cola’s Vanessa Varney told us “Get the basics right. Don’t rush to do the ‘sexy stuff’. Laying robust foundations is a must and can reap just as much reward“. She also stressed the need to get buy-in from leadership and the rest of HR and warned not to underestimate the cultural impact of embedding a data-mindset within the HR team.

The simplest way to then start is to find out what problems that business has that need answers, and that means asking questions not offering metrics. As Andrew Gamlyn said “the business don’t want metrics, they need answers to questions. Educate the business in a mindset of asking for answers to business questions instead of metrics from HR“. Understanding the real issues is key else you’ll just be defending data. One example involved data showing that the best performers were those whose previous job title matched their new ones – but was this a real measure of capability or really just a measure of recruiter or hiring manager behaviour?

There is HR data everywhere in the organisation” said Hendrik Feddersenunderstand how the business operates. Then engage with users, tell stories, use graphics

And collaborate.

One of the most tweeted soundbites of the day was from Vanessa Varney “IT and HR must collaborate. There’s no way around it“. Although you need to lay ground rules as well. I chaired a panel that included Vanessa and Sally Dillon from Aviva, who took responsibility for FTEs from finance saying “You look after the £££, we own the FTEs“.

The quickest wins often seem to come from straightforward employee metrics. Absence, sickness, resignations and links to overtime, workplace pressure or even length of tenure of managers, the ‘people game-changers’ are all areas that provide valuable insights to the business – if the managers don’t like the data then they can fix the problem.

During Sally Dillon’s presentation she described the HR analytics role as “kill complexity, never rest, care more, create legacy” and reminded us that “we own definition, methodology and tools – we don’t own the data, the business leaders own the data“…

…whilst Vanessa Varney’s summary provided a useful round-up of many attendees’ takeaways…

April 8, 2015 / Mervyn Dinnen

Whose Employer Brand is it Anyway?

Back in December I went to the Employer Brand Management Conference, which I previewed in this post.

I have written about employer brand quite a few times for HR and recruitment audiences – its a hot topic that many practitioners seem to want to know more about – so it was surprising at that event to find in over 120 attendees there was no-one from either discipline. Maybe the word ‘brand’ signifies marketing and comms to some HR folk, but there is little doubt that they shouldn’t be ignoring it.

The number one priority for most HRDs is the attraction, retention and engagement of the employees and skills they need – the way you are perceived as an employer, the way you reach out to new hires, the way you manage and lead, the vision and purpose, all of this is in the large melting pot of what we call Employer Brand.

Is it a case of everyone thinking that someone has responsibility for employer brand but in reality nobody takes it? Recent research from Universum sheds some light on this.


60% of CEOs think that they own it and only 32% think its HR. Which is in contrast to those in the talent acquisition sector, with 58% of HR execs and 57% of recruiters thinking its HR’s responsibility. Marketing execs are even more confused with 39% saying HR, 40% the CEO, and 27% themselves.

Whoever has internal responsibility, they seem in little doubt that the immediate main objective is to fulfil short term recruitment needs and the longer term main objective is to secure long term recruitment needs.

Of course the reality is that if anyone ‘owns’ it then it’s the employees, as it’s their experiences that are most visible to outsiders. How their employment experience is impacted by development opportunities, reward, performance management, inclusive management and a positive hiring experience is where HR come in to play. And if HR are doing their job and creating a great working environment, then they should also want to know how that is being communicated. The art is to let employees be the storytellers through encouragement, not control.

However some of employer brand is inextricably linked to general brand perception. Employer branding didn’t start with the internet, and just as Google, Apple and Facebook are brands that newer entrants to the job market would like to work for, so companies such as Virgin, M&S, John Lewis, BBC and numerous consulting firms and advertising agencies have been aspirational employers in the past. Often these preferences are based on general brand awareness, not the employment experience.

Is it the wider implications of branding and brand messages that maybe HR and recruiters struggle with?

On April 21st I’ll be heading off to blog and tweet from the European Brand Conference in London, which again is being run by Transform Magazine. There are a number of presentations around branding – perceptions, reputation, tone, experiential – with sessions specifically looking at employer branding too. There is a diverse range of companies speaking, including Cancer Research UK, BT, Oxfam, Eurostar, Orange, Fairtrade, Oxford University and Starbucks.

If you want to hear more then there are a small number of tickets available and blog readers can get a 10% discount the code TRANSCONF10 when booking here.

So if you’re thinking of dipping a toe in the branding conversation then come and join me, I’m sure the water’s just fine.


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