Gone are the days when you could rely solely on ‘post and pray’ and transactional recruitment to fill roles. Today’s candidates are a lot more discerning when it comes to choosing where they want to work, forcing organisations to focus much more closely on their recruitment strategies, including how they go about candidate engagement, their employer brand, their Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and the impact of social media.
“There’s a really strong need to start doing things differently to what recruitment traditionally was,” said Kevin Hough, Group Head of Resourcing at LV=.
“For us, it’s very much a journey. We are not there yet but we are definitely developing our team and taking them on this journey with us,” said Hough, whose resourcing team has responded to the increasing changes in the world of recruitment by making structural changes to its set up, ensuring greater resource pooling and strategic alignments across the Group, and working differently with the business.
Although the concept of “the world of recruitment changing” is not a new one, “it is something that all recruitment and resourcing teams need to start taking into account if they want to become true talent acquisition functions and business partners,” said Hough.
“At LV= we are really trying to transform ourselves from a reactive recruitment or resourcing team and to really take ourselves forward to become a talent acquisition function.”
Hough believes when you are a true talent acquisition function, it defines who you are, what you do and how you do it.
“The world has definitely moved away from that post and pray approach,” he said.
“Instead it’s more about understanding your employer brand. Understanding your unique value proposition (EVP). Why would someone come to work for LV= rather than another employer? What’s the real tagline that’s going to make someone think, I want to work for LV=?”
Aligning your resourcing needs to business needs
In order to really take the business to the next level and to help with its business strategy, you need to ensure your resourcing strategy and focus are aligned to the needs of the business, said Hough.
“You need to take into account the changing needs of the business and the different talent needs required to meet those needs. You therefore want to be doing much more proactive recruitment, talent pooling and candidate engagement initiatives. To do that you really need to be partnering with the business so as to fully understand what they are looking for.”
He said: “If we are serious about getting out there and reigniting our resourcing proposition and taking it to the next level then we need to keep on top of the business and to remain aware of what roles need recruiting before the need even comes up.”
Business planning was always going to be a challenge for most organisations, he added.
“But if we’re working and partnering close enough with our key stakeholders, we should start to understand what’s needed, and have more of those proactive conversations.”
In fact when any of his recruiters attend a role briefing with one of their hiring managers they will try to put three or four CVs in front of them first, he said.
“We’ll tell them these are the people you want to be interviewing,” he said.
Are they always receptive to it?
“Not always, but we are getting there, with some proven successes, ” Hough said.
“Hiring managers have not always traditionally been open to proactive recruitment preferring instead to raise a job when a need arises or to use an agency. However, we are now finding the tide is turning and I think this where the resourcing team is starting to see the value that we can bring when discussing top quality candidates (who are already engaged with the LV= brand) with hiring managers.
In fact this approach has resulted in some extremely successful hires.
“It’s almost like you don’t have to advertise when you take this approach and you get a great mix of candidates; not that we’ll ever stop advertising our roles,” added Hough.
Granted there will always be a need for reactive recruitment, when roles are raised that need to be filled. But by stepping up that proactive capability, the business will hopefully start to see the added value that the resourcing team is able to provide, he said.
Bringing LV= to life
Founded in 1843, Liverpool Victoria (which since May 2007 has traded as LV=) is one of the United Kingdom's largest insurance companies with over five million customers. It offers a range of products from car, home, pet, travel and life insurance to investment and retirement solutions. LV= is also the United Kingdom's largest friendly society, with 6,000 employees.
Like many financial services companies, and due to bad press, however, LV= struggles with candidates’ misperception that working for a financial services organisation may be boring.
“When actually underneath the surface there are some really exciting, transformative things happening. Not just at LV= but in the industry in general,” he said.
This is why recruiters need to be able to passionately bring the business to life when talking to candidates.
To do this, Hough believes recruiters not only have to be great marketers but they also need to have that ability to be really curious and to want to understand how the business is working; to really build deep relationships with the business area.
“Candidates today aren’t going to want to continue talking to you if you don’t understand what their role will involve.”
Understanding your business better by restructuring your recruitment team
In order to achieve this, Hough started to think about how the resourcing team could partner more closely with the business and to join some of their recruitment activity up.
“Like many organisations we have two or three core business areas: Life Business (life insurance, protection products etc), General Insurance Business, and our Head Office functions. What we traditionally had was a recruitment team that was focused on Life Business, a recruitment team that was focused on General Insurance and a recruitment team that looked at the head office functions.”
Although that set up initially seemed to work well, what Hough found was that there were very similar roles being recruited in different areas of the business.
“It just didn’t seem an effective way to be doing things. So we decided to trial one of our critical talent areas, which is actuarial, by pooling all of the resource together. As well as defining a clear strategy to shape the approach, this basically meant aligning a recruiter to focus on actuarial recruitment across the Group.”
That individual’s role was to drive engagement with passive candidates, liaise with the line managers and partner with agencies in order to execute the recruitment strategy for that critical talent area, he said.
The effectiveness of the trial could clearly be seen, most noticeably through increasing the direct hire ratio vs agency hires across Actuarial recruitment.
“But we were also getting really engaged candidates for the future and the business was increasingly understanding the roles they had to play to continue to drive the approach.”
Based on the success of the trial, Hough completely restructured the resourcing team six months ago.
“Having demonstrated what can happen if you pool resource together, coupled by the business’ changing needs, we decided to really change things. Today we’re almost set up like an agency and rather than having someone look after each of the business areas, we look after functions. For example we now have a Group Finance function, an IT and Change function, a Group Marketing function etc.”
This is because a lot of the roles recruited across the three business areas shared lots of similarities and so it made more sense for individual recruiters to take complete ownership of those roles.
“For example you have a broker business in the General Insurance area and then you have independent financial advisors in the Life Business area and of course while these individuals might not fit into either area, the whole concept of what they are doing is similar,” Hough said.
The team still has the same number of people as it did six months ago. It has simply been restructured with a refocus on what those individuals concentrate on, he added.
“The great thing is it now gives them a really strong focus to really want to need to understand their business function. It also makes them an expert in that function.”
The result: LV= have got better, closer management of the agency preferred supplier list, because their recruiters absolutely understand their go-to partner. The agencies also understand more about LV= and the respective talent area. The recruiters have become experts at managing their function and it has given them a chance to develop a much deeper understanding of why candidates would want to join a particular function, which in turn allows them to have more intelligent conversations with candidates and line managers, alike.
Change in recruiting direction
“What we’ve tried to do is to really help the team focus on what their job role is becoming. So there’s more time spent on talent pooling and searching for passive candidate on LinkedIn or other databases rather than just writing job adverts.”
He added: “It will take a while to evolve towards materialising into a fully functioning talent acquisition team. My whole push is to try and get as much out of the team as possible, so that they can have more time having those proactive, recruiting conversations.”
Currently the LV= resourcing team deliver circa 1,900 permanent and fixed-term roles a year of which 50 per cent are external hires and 50 per cent are internal hires. As part of the resourcing team’s transformation, they are also responsible for delivering temps and contractors across the business for each of their functions. However across customer service recruitment, LV= prefers to hire permanent staff to ensure we meet LV=’s customer service proposition, said Hough.
“Contractor roles tend to be for real niche specialist roles and mainly in the IT community. Temps tend to be admin based but also potentially when the call centres are busy we may have some temps to assist us there.”
Moreover, 96 per cent of all permanent hires are done directly, he said.
“We are very proud of that and are not looking to take it to 100 per cent. However it does demonstrate that we’ve already got the capability of being able to recruit directly,” he said.
Hough said the 96 per cent rate had been in place for about five years. In fact up until 2007 the whole of HR including the recruitment team was outsourced with 86 per cent of the recruitment done via agencies.
“So we’ve demonstrated a huge turnaround in terms of recruitment delivery over the years and we have to work hard to keep it at that,” he said.
The team itself is made up of 19 individuals including a mix of ex-agency and in-house recruiters, as well as individuals who have never done recruitment before.
“I think that’s a wonderful mix because everyone helps each other and everyone brings a different piece to the party.”
Less transactional recruitment, more focus on passive candidates and engagement
Hough recognises his team have got really high recruitment volumes and that it can be very hard not to go the post and pray route, particularly when a role is raised and needs to be filled immediately.
“Clearly we know we can provide much better quality hire candidates if we’ve got the time to source and really look for someone, who’s potentially not looking for another job. By knowing those niche and critical roles in the business and spending more time on sourcing the right candidates we can really reduce that time-to-offer and can also get some really great people in front of the business.”
As part of the new strategy, Hough said he was placing much for focus on passive candidates and talent pooling.
“The team are expected to spend more time on finding passive candidates, engaging with them and building talent pools.”
Hough said any change was a real cultural shift for an organisation’s way of working, even when you start to demonstrate the change actually works better.
“I remember the days, maybe two years ago, when we were fighting to get the team to spend some time on LinkedIn and other direct sourcing tools. Now you can’t get them off them.”
Career website or social media?
The LV= careers website is always going to be a critical hub for us to attract talent, said Hough.
In fact the organisation is launching a new careers site early in 2016 which has been built from a candidate perspective and will be much simpler and more fluid to use when searching for jobs.
“The new website focuses very heavily on what candidates actually want. For example, the front page is very clear and crisp and is really going to transform what candidates see when they look in. Rather than searching through the careers website for jobs everything will be very easy to find and search,” he said.
However, social media has without a doubt become much more effective for resourcing, he said.
“We have a presence on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor and Instagram,” he said.
“We’ve had some tremendous hires from LinkedIn, and Facebook has been fantastic for engaging people before they’ve joined by showing them how great it is to actually work here in an authentic and transparent manner.”
Instagram is another popular site, particularly with younger users.
“It’s really interesting because we’ve only recently launched our Instagram account in the last three months. What we’ve found is that whilst Facebook is really effective, we know that some of the Millennials and younger people aren’t potentially going on Facebook as much because their parents are on there.”
Glassdoor is yet another social media site LV= is taking seriously.
“We were actually voted by the Financial Times on Glassdoor as the number one insurer to come and work for,” he said.
“But again it takes work to respond to all the positive and negative reviews.”
Nevertheless it is time worth spending, he added.
“Glassdoor is evolving very, very quickly and it‘s something that we want to spend a bit more time on. Although a lot of other UK companies are not yet on Glassdoor, the conversations are happening whether you choose to engage or not. It’s just like TripAdvisor. I think feedback is a gift. Candidates will also go on there and see the reality of it anyway. In fact, we’re seeing more and more candidates who are telling us that they checked us out on Glassdoor before coming to interview. And I think more and more people will start to do that.”
Coping with bad press
Hough admitted that LV= is not perfect and that some of the negative reviews on Glassdoor are painful to read.
“But it’s really helpful for us as a business to look at and focus on which areas we need to improve and/or change.”
This is another reason why the majority of this year has been spent working on LV= Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and then working with the resourcing team so that they too can understand what it means and why people would want to work with LV= so that they can sell it to the candidates, said Hough.
The importance of Employer Brand and EVP
“You need to continually evolve your employer brand and EVP. So we’re literally in the third iteration of refreshing our employer brand again. This is part of the reason we are launching a brand new careers website at the end of this year.”
As part of the initiative, Hough and his team undertook a lot of research into why people might want to come and join the organisation. What they have found is that it’s not about offering people more money but actually demonstrating that LV= is a great place to work.
“But you constantly need to be looking at your audience and understanding it to achieve this. So I know for example that we’ve got more female followers on our Facebook page and more male followers on our Twitter account.”
By knowing this, Hough said he is able to look at his audiences differently and to think about how he wants to engage with them.
“We spend a lot of time thinking about how to engage with our candidates and about diversity. And I think it’s something that you have to focus on all of the time. Especially where your employer brand is concerned. I have seen so many organisations launch a huge Employer Brand project and then forget about it. This is not the way to go. You have to continuously be developing it, and continuously looking at how it is working because your candidates are always watching.”
Better training and coaching
Hough said although he had refocused the resourcing team in terms of the business areas it was important to continually work and partner with the business and to ensure the team was being developed.
“So it’s giving them the right skills and tools to do the job but also coaching them.”
Therefore, the plan is to spend more time coaching his team how to build great relationships, how to better partner with the business, how to proactively talk to candidates, how to search on LinkedIn or Google etc.
“I think this is where the world is changing. You need to be a qualified recruiter clearly, but the rest of those skills are also important as the world changes.”
Hough said he has started running internal workshops to illustrate how LinkedIn can work for everyone.
“We have sessions where we sit down with the business and ask them who they know, who is in their network and then from that we start building some of those talent pools.”
The resourcing team also has a number of training sessions spread out throughout the year. These sessions not only look at their personal development but also some of the more technical aspects of their role.
“This year we focused a lot on using LinkedIn and getting the most out of it. Next year we’ll be looking at relationship building and talent pool building. It’s really important that we give our guys the development and the tools they need.”
Employee referrals and Ace cards
Hough said he was also keen on educating LV= employees about using their own network for the good of the organisation, which was a win-win for both LV= and the employee.
For instance, one of the resourcing team’s latest initiatives involves ‘Ace cards’ which are aimed at targeting candidates for volume recruitment roles at LV=, he said.
“Not all our team leaders who hire and customer service representatives have business cards. So what we have created is almost like an Ace playing card, which uses a green heart as the Ace. Basically, how it works is, every time they receive fantastic customer service in a shop or in a restaurant, they can give those individuals one of these Ace cards. Which does one of two things: Firstly it puts their email address in there, so if the person decides to apply for a job with us they can have a referral, but the more important thing is it’s a great way of engaging that individual with our brand. So even if people aren’t looking to move, it’s a really great message for us to say we really think you’re great.”
The Ace initiative has already proved successful with a good response rate from candidates looking for their next role, he added.
Hough concluded by saying his resourcing team was not quite where he wanted to be yet, but that it was getting there.
“We’re on a journey. But I’m really, really clear that it’s the right way for us to go. And I’ve talked to other organisations that have global recruitment teams, and even they are starting to think about recruiting this way.”