Transforming Talent Acquisition

As a talent-acquisition leader, it’s your job to take care of three constituencies: your organization’s hiring managers, the job candidates and, last but not least, the people who work within the TA function.

That was the recurring theme from two TA leaders who spoke about their roles in transforming the talent-acquisition function during two  separate sessions earlier this week at the ERE Conference in New Orleans: Tracie Montgomery, director of talent acquisition and diversity at firm Sedgwick, the nation’s largest third-party administrator; and Steve Knox, General Electric’s head of global talent acquisition, strategy and operations.

At GE, the Boston-based conglomerate’s efforts to recast its image from that of a stodgy industrial firm to a hotbed of digital innovation has, by necessity, included its talent acquisition function as it seeks to attract the software engineers and computer science majors who might otherwise never consider the company as a place to build a career.

“We’re closely partnering with our marketing department on our employee-value proposition,” said Knox.

GE has also has hired an “employee experience leader” to transform its recruiting experience into “a candidate-centric one,” said Knox. “We got some pushback from hiring managers on this, but we reminded them that it’s about the candidates.”

Candidate care is also a priority at Memphis-based Sedgwick, said Montgomery. “I tell my team: ‘Advocate for your candidate. Prep them to let them know who’ll they’ll be interviewing with, explain the career path for that position — it’s TA’s job to get that person ready.’ ”

Knox and his team have also been paying close attention to candidates after they’re hired to see how they’re performing, which marks a change from before, he said.

“We’re now holding TA accountable to how well the people we hired are doing,” he said, adding that determining quality of hire isn’t quite so straightforward now that GE has discontinued its performance ratings. The team relies on regular feedback from managers instead, said Knox.

GE has also replaced its 15-year old applicant-tracking system, which had been “customized by us to the point that it was no longer useful” with a new, mobile-enabled system; using tools such as LinkedIn Elevate to send out tailored content to candidates on a daily basis; using Tableau software to monitor metrics and putting in place GE’s first-ever dedicated sourcing team, said Knox.

Line managers at GE are also helping the company enliven its job descriptions with short videos in which they explain what they’re looking for in candidates, said Knox. This is helpful in attracting diverse candidates, which is a major priority for GE, he said.

“When female and minority candidates see someone who looks like them talking about GE, they tend to say ‘Hey, people like me can work there,'” said Knox.

After Montgomery joined Sedgwick in 2014, she created an internal “talent acquisition college” for Sedgwick’s recruiters to help them become talent advisors, not just recruiters .

“Recruiting is recruiting, but talent acquisition is consulting,” she said. “I had to get my team’s mindset from recruiting to talent acquisition.”

Montgomery put in place a team of three managers to ensure the TA function is hitting its goals in areas such as time-to-hire and regularly surveys hiring managers on their satisfaction with the TA function. Talent acquisition professionals on her team are expected to be able to forge and maintain strong relationships with candidates and hiring managers, she said. “Getting those relationships established is absolutely key.”

GE’s Knox is also focusing on helping his TA team enhance its skills. “It keeps me up at night, wondering how we keep our TA team motivated and developed,” he said. GE has established competencies for the TA team and is using assessments to determine where gaps lie, said Knox. Members of the TA team can also do self-assessments to find their own gaps and are provided with resources to fill them, he said.

“Our goal is to build a world-class TA function,” said Knox.