Rock Star Talent Management: The Future of Recruitment?

At Radical Planet in Toronto last week there was a track session on the Future of Recruitment. I have attended the same track in truLondon and truDublin and all have been very different. In London we discussed how the agency pricing and service model had to change; in Dublin we considered the meaning of life, nurture vs nature and were inspired by the best track closing every delivered by CPL’s Peter Cosgrove.  So what was I expecting in Toronto?  Not this.
RadicalPlanet Toronto
Our track leader was Bank of Montreal’s VP of Talent Acquisition, Paul Hamilton, and he kicked us off by numbering everyone in the circle one to four. Next thing you know we were all sent to one of four corners as a newly formed crack, future recruitment team tasked with creating and pitching our Recruitment 2050 game-changing product to an X-Factor panel consisting of Geoff “Simon Cowell” Webb and Maha “Paula Abdul” Akiki.  Our only instructions and rules were that our innovation could not involve technology, we had 15 mins to come up with our idea, 4 mins to pitch it and everyone had to be involved.  Fun.

Our motley crew consisted of a spattering of Randstad agency recruiters, some corporate recruiters, social media consultants and a marketing guru (that’s you Leanne!).  Our first few ideas were unsurprisingly technologically driven and so had to be scrapped.  This was tougher then we thought.

Leanne Chase

Leanne Chase

The real problem is this; when trying to figure out what recruitment will look like in 40 years you need to figure out how it has changed in the last 40 years.  Once you strip technology out, it becomes increasingly obvious that little has changed since 1971.  Yes, we try to be more scientific in our interview and assessment processes, we’re more aware of our employer brand (or client’s employer brand if you’re in an agency), on-boarding is an actual job in some companies and outsourcing is bigger then ever but fundamentally it’s still a relationship game and gut instinct drives most decisions.

Talent is the theme of the decade in HR & Recruitment circles and there is little doubt that talent acquisition is vital to nearly every major business in the world these days. We are all apparently fighting a war for talent (or “someone else’s talent”, in the words of Bill Boorman) and the top tier candidates are being chased, courted and fought over in every discipline and industry.  In tandem with this, the traditional contingency pricing model within agencies is coming under attack and many recruitment businesses are scrambling to develop new revenue models and product offerings.  And so our pitch began to emerge from the darkness.

Talent ManagementThere exists three other industries where the fight for talent is key; professional sports, the music industry and the movie business.  In all three, the talent are represented by agents who charge their clients a % of income and “manage” the careers of their customers indefinitely, from team to team, album to arena and movie to reality TV show.  Ignoring the fact that it is currently illegal to charge job seekers a fee in most countries, we took a punt that things may change in the next 40 years and “Rock Star Talent Management” aka RSTM was born.  Our premise was simple: we are the largest talent management agency in the world with numerous business units responsible for representing the greatest professional talent from C-level execs to developers to accountants and back again.  If you’re an in-demand professional then we make sure you get the right career opportunities; we negotiate your remuneration, we get you in the door of your target employers and we have your back, for as long as you are in employment.  In return we take a cut of your lifetime earnings, something in the region of 25-30% (we’re that good!).  Our pitch involved a skit where Mark Zuckerberg is meeting his agent to seek a move from Facebook; he’s looking for a change from all this social media “BS” and wants to get into finance.  The phone rings, it’s the Head of HR in Bank of Montreal looking for a CTO.  Our agent proceeds to give the employer an overview of the talent on his books and starts pitching Mark for the job.  Outside his office is a long queue of professionals looking for better representation.  Business is brisk.

Ok, so it was only a skit and we all had great fun coming up with the concept and playing it out but why can’t the world of recruitment operate this way? If talent is truly king then why don’t they deserve to call the shots?  Agency recruiters say that the candidate always comes first but let’s be honest, it’s the employer that pays the fee so who wins out in the end?  If you want a promotion, you leave it to your agent to negotiate one; if you are tired of your job, your agent will find something better and you’ll be happy to pay the fee.  In-house recruiters would become relationship managers, forging bonds with the best talent agents in their industry and ensuring that they get first dibs on the best people.  Talent management wouldn’t be for everyone, traditional hiring would still continue but the rocks stars would be in control.

Interestingly, the three other pitches highlighted similar themes.  In one, top talent were being pitched at by hiring firms, all in the same room, and each was encourage to up their bid as their competitors pitched, auction style.  Another pitch involved event organisation for employers geared towards the personal interests of a particular target demographic (knitting events for developers??) to bring talent together in an indirect manner.  The first pitch focused on suitability testing from DNA (yes, they broke the technology caveat)!

Lots of fun, some wacky ideas but are any of these the future of recruitment?  Only time will tell.

PS, we won the contest and were each rewarded with a $25 Starbucks voucher from Paul in Bank of Montreal accompanied by his business card. Now that’s smart employer branding, old-skool!

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