During our 2023 Spark Live event, we had the privilege of hosting Josh Bersin, CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, and his colleague, Janet Mertens, Senior Vice President of Research, for a fireside chat on “Breaking the Boundaries of Recruitment: A Systemic Approach to Talent Lifecycle Management”.
Josh and Janet are experts in the areas of HR and recruitment, and they shared some amazing insights about how today’s organizations can truly take a holistic approach to recruitment and talent management.
Read on to learn how the role of Talent Acquisition (TA) is evolving, and how your Talent function can enable your organization to handle any challenge.
The Great Transformation
Josh and Janet began the discussion by addressing the idea of “The Great Resignation”, which has evolved into “The Great Transformation”. Janet said that in 2021, 50 million people quit their jobs in the US alone. In 2022, an additional 50 million Americans resigned. This was fueled by several factors – the pandemic and baby boomer retirements – which has created a “perfect storm” in the world of talent.
Josh pointed out that two reasons people are quitting are for better pay and more flexibility. Skills have also fueled a lot of change. Josh shared that employees are aware that there are “salary increasing skills” and “salary decreasing skills”, and workers are intentionally choosing which skills they develop – setting themselves up to earn more in the future.
Another factor in “The Great Transformation” has been mental health and burnout, as Janet pointed out. The number of people who are battling mental health issues and burnout is rising, so many people have opted to change jobs (or careers) to improve their work/life balance or overall wellbeing.
The Four R Model: recruitment, retention, redeployment and redevelopment
Josh mentioned that in the current market, companies that focus on recruitment alone, will struggle to find (and keep) the talent they need. Businesses that are setting the pace are focusing on what Bersin calls “The Four Rs”: recruitment, retention, redeployment and redevelopment.
Janet pointed out that organizations can’t simply hire their way out of a skills shortage. It’s crucial that companies break out of the boundaries of recruitment. In the traditional sense, recruiting has been a silo in the HR function, but that’s no longer a sustainable model. As Janet pointed out, HR is interconnected now, and the TA function must play a role in every aspect – recruiting talent, retaining employees, redeploying talent across the organization, and redeveloping individuals to address skills gaps.
Josh also said there is room for upskilling in TA. Some companies are starting to think of recruiters as “talent advisors”, meaning they have the ability to advise hiring managers and help them redesign a job opening to make sure it’s actually what they want and need, before they try to fill it.
AI will encourage upskilling of recruiters and will help sustain this kind of workflow. It’s important to remember that to successfully use this “Four Rs Model”, you must first have dynamic data and a common skills language across the HR function, in order to have those conversations.
Are companies ready for AI in HR?
Josh shared that there are two core dimensions of AI in recruiting: it makes recruiting better, easier, less biased and more productive, and then there is the other dimension, which is large language models (LLMs). An LLM can look at the organization as a whole and analyze problems in the workforce. For instance, if a company has a retention issue in one part of the business, AI can correlate the relevant points that are related to that, and can help determine what could be causing it. With this knowledge, business leaders can make necessary changes.
Janet said that many companies are still uncertain about what AI is (or isn’t), and that’s a struggle for many business leaders. And while some companies have embraced AI in TA, others are barely scratching the surface in their recruiting process, but they haven’t yet explored the other use cases such as identifying and filling skills gaps with internal mobility and career pathing.
Josh spoke about how, although there is a lot of talk about “skills”, really what it boils down to is that HR needs to learn how to eliminate irrelevant decision factors on who to hire, promote, or give a pay raise to, and instead focus on real skills and job performance. While factors such as performance and skills seem qualitative in nature, Josh noted that AI looks at these points as quantitative data, and makes statistically generated decisions on who to hire, who to promote or who to reskill based on inferences around their skills.
The most common questions around skills
Janet said the most common question they get at The Josh Bersin Company is: how can I become skills-first? There’s a clear appetite for it, and AI plays a critical role here – especially when you think about “power skills” as Janet called them. These are skills that are difficult to measure, like empathy, flexibility and collaboration. These skills are highly important in the workplace and, with the right AI-driven tool, Talent teams can effectively identify, track, and hire for those skills.
Another common question Janet and Josh get is: how do I know what skills I have internally? This is where a total Talent Lifecycle Management platform can help. With this type of integrated tool, businesses can easily identify the right candidates – internal or external – by assessing the skills they have, and their potential to learn new skills.
External hiring vs. internal hiring
Josh said that when a company decides that a role is designated to be an external hire, they are automatically deciding that it will be a difficult hire. The candidates don’t know the organization or the culture and, as a hiring manager, you really don’t know what you're getting. Plus, you will likely be spending a lot of money on advertising and onboarding.
While many external hires end up performing well in their roles, with internal hires, candidates already know the organization and the culture, and the company knows the candidates as well. Josh and Janet both said that companies who have successful internal mobility programs tend to be higher performing companies, yet very few businesses are actually doing it.
Janet quoted research where around 70% of companies say they post jobs internally, but only 25% do anything beyond that. So internal mobility is a huge opportunity that businesses can take advantage of.
Given the tight labor market, new technology, and opportunities: what’s going on in talent management?
Janet said one thing is clear: talent acquisition can no longer exist in a silo. The talent management function now encompasses mobility, learning and development, workforce planning, and more. And you have to have the right data and tools to enable this type of holistic approach.
The data that is shared across the organization is what sets companies apart, and businesses that are still operating in silos will likely struggle to keep up. Josh mentioned that talent management was very different 10 years ago. He referenced the old “pre-hire to retire” process that many companies relied on. He said talent management is not a process anymore – it’s a system. Instead of following a linear path from pre-hire to retirement, companies are embracing talent mobility, and they are upskilling and reskilling their employees.
Janet added that talent management no longer needs to be a linear process, because many journeys look quite different. Employees might stay with a company for a while and then leave, upskill, and then they may go back to a previous company as an alumni, or they come back as a gig worker. There are so many more options when you look at talent management as a dynamic system, instead of a rigid process.
Another talent management challenge Josh spoke about is pay equity. Certain skills are highly in-demand at the moment. If a business hires an external candidate for a role and offers them a 50% increase on their salary because they need their skills, does that mean that, if an internal candidate is promoted into the same role, that they will be given the same increase? This is a complicated issue, and many companies are unsure on how to answer that question.
What does the future of TA look like in a nutshell?
Janet asked Josh to close the discussion by sharing what his biggest prediction is regarding the future of TA. Josh said that TA always comes out on top as the most important practice in HR, because if you don’t bring the right people into the company, you can’t easily fix that.
Josh said that TA as a whole is undersold when it comes to the strategic importance to all other business decisions that are being made. His parting wisdom? Don’t underestimate your Talent team and the value they bring to your organization.