Bringing recruitment in-house

Colin Cottell reports from the In-House Recruitment Expo at London’s Olympia in February

The director of talent & engagement at News UK, who along with her team built a successful internal recruitment agency inside the company, told an audience that anyone attempting to do the same thing “should never lose sight of what you want to achieve”.

“Otherwise,” warned Laura Pettitt, “anyone starting off […] risks being diverted off course.”

The four-year process to create an in-house agency to fill News UK’s technology roles was a success, Pettitt told the audience. For instance, the in-house agency filled 98% of roles, with 21% of them filled by women. However, Pettitt acknowledged, she and her team had to overcome a number of challenges along the way.

Various steps of the journey included collecting and analysing data initially without an applicant tracking system (ATS), changing relationships with recruitment agencies, establishing News UK’s employee value proposition and building communities in which the organisation could reveal itself, “warts and all”.

Reviewing News UK’s preferred supplier list (PSL) of recruitment agencies, many of whom had longstanding relationships with the organisation, with some filling numerous contractor roles, had been challenging.

To deliver the most business-centric solutions, Pettitt said: “We spent time with the business, and asked them ‘Who do you like?’, ‘Why do you like them?’ and ‘What makes them compelling against these other people?’.”

This information-gathering phase was followed by a six-month trial, which resulted in trimming to five the number of agencies on the PSL. 

The process of asking colleagues for their views on agencies highlighted the importance of gaining the trust of the business when undertaking such a change, she said.

While data and the focus on diversity were important factors that had led to the internal agency’s success, “none of this would have happened without trust”, Pettitt said.


Trial tech as if you were a candidate

Recruiters should “go beyond the hype” by putting themselves in the shoes of candidates before choosing recruitment technology, according to an expert on innovative technology in the sector.

Tom Lakin, senior innovation manager at Resource Solutions, told an In-house Recruitment Expo audience that to understand whether it was the right technology for their organisation, “they really needed to live and breathe it as a candidate”.

He added: “I am amazed that how few people don’t view it as a candidate.”

Lakin said: “Understand what the problem you are trying to solve is, and ask yourself, does it solve a genuine human need? All tech should do this; that’s the point of it.”

He went on to warn recruiters of the dangers of choosing free versions of technology, which in return for being free invariably allows the vendor to contact your candidates. “If the tech is free, you are the product,” he said.


Raising the hiring standard

If an organisation is to attract the best talent, in-house recruitment teams have a vital role to play in bringing the performance of average hiring managers up to the standard of the best, according to the UK head of resourcing at National Express. 

Andy Long told an audience: “Above-average talent tends to go to the best and most engaged hiring managers; the rest tends to go to average hiring managers.” Consequently, Long said in-house teams needed to work closely with those average hiring managers to ensure all were as involved and engaged as possible.

Rather than just accepting a job description and a role profile from a hiring manager, Long said his team worked closely with hiring managers from the start. 

“We focus a lot of attention on sitting down with a hiring manager and finding out what they want, so we won’t do any external work until we have had a sit-down meeting with the hiring manager,” he said. 

Asked by Recruiter whether the performance of hiring managers could be improved by this approach, Long said: “Absolutely. Where we have had some really good success with hiring managers, it is because we spent that time [with them].” 

Image credit | iStock

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