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Ep 461: Talent Acquisition Realities


I’ve never known a more disruptive, uncertain and confusing time in talent acquisition. With so much complexity in the market, it can be challenging for TA talent to get a clear picture of what is happening outside of their own organisations.

My guest this week is Sven Elbert, Senior Analyst at Fosway Group. Fosway is Europes leading HR industry analyst and has recently published its Talent Acquisition Realities 2022 report, a piece of research that looks at the key challenges, trends and forces TA teams are currently dealing with. This is a must listen for anyone wanting an independent view of what is going on in the market.

In the interview, we discuss:

• Stand out findings from the research.

• The impacts of uncertainty on hiring

• Quality of hire

• What TA teams report they are most and least effective at

• How is DE&I working in practice?

• Current market changes

• Availability of skills

• The most in demand recruiting technologies

• Are tech stacks currently fit for purpose?

• Conducting the candidate experience orchestra

• Upskilling recruiters

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.

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Matt Alder (55s):
Hi there, this is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 461 over the Recruiting Future Podcast. I’ve never known a more disruptive, uncertain, and confusing time in talent acquisition. With so much complexity in the market, it’s challenging for TA leaders to get a clear picture of what’s happening outside of their own organizations. My guest this week is Sven Elbert, Senior Analyst at Fosway Group. Fosway is Europe’s leading HR industry analyst and has recently published its Talent Acquisition Realities 2022 report, a piece of research that looks at the key challenges, trends and forces TA teams are currently dealing with.

Matt Alder (1m 41s):
This is a must-listen for anyone who wants an independent view of what’s going on in the market. Hi, Sven, and welcome to the podcast.

Sven Elbert (1m 50s):
Hi Matt, thank you for having me on the show.

Matt Alder (1m 53s):
An absolute pleasure to have you here. Could you just introduce yourself and tell everyone what you do?

Sven Elbert (1m 59s):
I’m a Senior Analyst here at Fosway group. I look after talent acquisition. Fosway Group is Europe’s number one, industry Analyst, and we advise EMEA and international corporates on HR, HR strategy, HR technology, and help them to accelerate and derisk their buying decisions.

Matt Alder (2m 17s):
Fantastic stuff. Now, one of the things that I know that you do as part of your work is oversee research into various parts of the HR and talent market. And a few weeks ago, you published a really interesting bit of research called TA Realities 2022, which sort of really look to what’s going on in talent acquisition post-pandemic. Give us a bit of background to the research. How did you do it? Why did you do it? Just tell us a bit more about it.

Sven Elbert (2m 47s):
Yeah, sure. So Talent Acquisition Realities is one of our main research publications for talent acquisition. Historically, we have also and are still continuing to publish research into HR, the wider HR picture, and into learning. So those are wide studies and we are looking at the trends, looking a little bit at the past and at the realities of how it is for HR teams and the realities that they’re working in. These are annual studies and for Talent Acquisition Realities ’22, we’ve had about like 300 respondents, 70 percent of them were from EMEA, probably a little bit more weighted towards larger enterprises but also we were getting good input from mid-market and also the smaller end of the market from companies with less than a thousand employees.

Sven Elbert (3m 36s):
So it was actually quite a good, diverse set of feedback. And we like to play this back into the community to spark some discussion.

Matt Alder (3m 46s):
Obviously, it’s a very, to say the least, it’s a very dynamic time for talent acquisition at the moment in terms of what’s going on, what’s going on as companies have moved out the pandemic, what were the sort of the standout findings for you? What sort, of really stood out in the results?

Sven Elbert (4m 3s):
Yeah, so I think for one, obviously we’ve looked at maybe a little bit at the past and also looking a bit at the future. So if we start with looking at the past, then obviously when COVID first hit, we saw that a recruitment was really separated in Europe into two camps. So one group, it really exploded all the recruiting activities had gone up significantly. For the other group, we saw an implosion hiring had stopped. People were followed and basically, during the pandemic, both groups have upped their game, adopted new ways of sourcing, new ways of hiring, and also invested in new technologies.

Sven Elbert (4m 42s):
So 51 percent have gone through a major shift in what they do as a TA function. And they are now looking to keep the changes that they have made. But if we look at the today, then obviously the word uncertainty is written all over the corporate world at the moment. And we are seeing a new normal really at the moment arriving, some are heat waves, broken supply chains, inflation is going rampant, geopolitical challenges increase. So for recruiting teams, this means that they are feeling increasing pressure currently to demonstrate value to their stakeholders. We don’t know how it will pan out.

Sven Elbert (5m 24s):
Obviously, it’s a very dynamic situation like you say, but definitely, three-quarters of European organizations are now putting quality of hire at the top of their priority list. So really ensuring that the people investment is effective and sustainable. And, yeah, I mean, obviously for many time to hire diversity of still equal importance, but I think it’s really currently a lot about doing the right things at the moment, being effective in what you do, I guess.

Matt Alder (5m 59s):
And I suppose picking up on that because I think it’s always interesting for people listening, who’ll have a good sense of what’s going on in their own organization to hear how they might benchmark against, you know, other sort of TA functions. What was coming through as, you know, what were people saying that they were most and least effective at within, you know, the whole sort of sphere of talent acquisition?

Sven Elbert (6m 29s):
Yeah, we looked at that in particular as well, European organizations found themselves to be most effective at actually delivering the best cost per hire. This was a little bit surprising to me personally, but obviously, cost is obviously an important part. And we hear a lot about manager experience, candidate experience, and those have definitely been a focus for a long time. Many employers believe that they are quite effective in it. I think around 60 percent are now looking to invest more in improving candidate experience. It’s probably still not on the level where corporates want it to be or needed it to be.

Sven Elbert (7m 12s):
However, most talent acquisition strategies of European organizations have also been, if we look at the ineffectiveness or least effective, then it’s probably ineffective at delivering great talent pipeline. And organizations have said that they are also not really delivering a truly diverse candidate tool. So those are probably the areas for improvement that corporates are looking to spend more and invest more into. So particularly, candidate relationship management and also fair and unbiased diverse hiring practices is probably top of mind for many people at the moment,

Matt Alder (7m 50s):
Both things I wanna kind of dig into in a bit more depth, but let’s start with the diversity in hiring because this has been such a massive topic for, well, a long time, but particularly over the last couple of years. It’s something that everyone’s talking about, and I got the sense and this kind of research would confirm it, but it’s something that people are still finding a massive challenge. How is DEI working in practice?

Sven Elbert (8m 18s):
Yeah, Matt, I think it’s still piecemeal. So, I mean, obviously, we’ve seen a great spike in interest in the topic after the Black Lives Matter movement coming from the states over to Europe and our research shows that organizations are really at different stages when it comes to their overall maturity in DEI practices. There’s, I mean, huge differences in how they apply it across the different stages of the recruiting process and how rigorously they’re applied during these steps. So, for example, reviewing job ads for biased language is something that actually a majority of organizations are already doing today, always, or at least frequently.

Sven Elbert (9m 5s):
However, then the picture is a little bit not so positive when we look at how often they redact candidate profiles to reduce bias in their decisions. This is where 45 percent never or only seldomly redact these profiles. So for candidates that obviously has consequences that they cannot really believe in what organizations are doing. They need to see the hard evidence of this, not just nice rhetorics. So many organizations are recognizing this, are looking at the concept more holistically. They have actually done a lot of the groundwork.

Sven Elbert (9m 47s):
When you look at some of the presentations at conferences or a lot of the interviews we’ve done with corporates, then a lot of started to build in those foundations. However, now it’s really time to act on it, DEI-specific goals and objectives need to be set, and you need to really measure the progress and iterate on the actions to execute on it. I think that’s probably really the next step for many organizations.

Matt Alder (10m 12s):
Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. And it kind of really reflects what people have been saying when I’ve been talking to them on the podcast. Just to talk a little bit about sort of CRMs and technology in a second, but just before we do, what’s your sense of what is going on in the market now? What are you seeing in terms of, you know, other recruiting challenges that people might have, or, you know, a sense of direction in terms of focus right now?

Sven Elbert (10m 41s):
Yeah, so I think availability of skills is still a problem, at least in some parts of Europe or in some industries where they are really absolutely scarce. It’s really close to becoming the most significant business driver for many corporates at the moment. Interestingly, I mean, we don’t know how it will pan out, but definitely, it is top of mind. And so many organizations are also trying to upskill and reskill their staff, many recruiters have been pulled into internal mobility projects. There’s really also from a technology perspective, a new breed of internal career sites solutions out there that, you know, bring together probably the internal job opportunities next to internal project opportunities and gig work, but also then link into learning opportunities, mentoring, or coaching.

Sven Elbert (11m 36s):
So I think that is what organizations are maybe trying to mitigate, to source also from internal and try to upskill the staff. But definitely, I think the availability of skills is probably still top of mind for many organizations. Again, we need to see how that pans out across the next couple of months, but definitely, it’s a big challenge at the moment still.

Matt Alder (12m 5s):
And in terms of technology, you know, obviously still huge, huge focus on, you know, investment and the development and adoption of technology in talent acquisition. What are the kind of the most in demand areas when it comes to recruiting technology?

Sven Elbert (12m 23s):
Yeah, the TA tech market was always red hot still so investment has been increasing. Also, the investment in recruiter skills, by the way, has been increasing. I think that’s an interesting one maybe to discuss as well. But I mean, if we look at the tech piece, then obviously it’s around investment into the upper part of the funnel, predominantly it’s around employer branding, candidate traction, candidate engagement. So if we break that down onto a TA specialism level, then this means external career sites. I also touched already on the internal mobility story, candidate relationship management, as you mentioned, has historically been adopted by large corporates.

Sven Elbert (13m 6s):
We are seeing now it’s really starting to enter the midmarket, even the lower end of the mid-market because there’s also more automation. Candidates have the ability to self-segment themselves so this makes it easier for small organizations to adopt these kind of technologies. They need less resources in their recruitment team actually. So definitely that is getting a significant push. And then probably the other two things to mention is around employee referrals, obviously, quite an effective way of doing things, but we also see different levels of maturity there and then onboarding time to value, get people productive fast is probably the other area that is really high in demand, particularly also against obviously the backdrop of virtual onboarding and the challenges that has had people have looked at maybe investing more into the technology that underpins it.

Matt Alder (13m 57s):
I’ll come back to recruiter skillsets in a minute because I think that’s really interesting, particularly in the light of changing technology and changes approach and approaches and things like that. But just before we do, I wanted to kind of ask a little bit about technology and tech stack because obviously as an organization, you look across the whole of HR technology. And I think one of the interesting things for people to hear will be about whether the employers that you were speaking to felt that their TA technology was fit for purpose and also how they might view where it fits into the kind of the broader HR technologies that they use.

Sven Elbert (14m 41s):
Yeah. So I think there is no one-size-fits-all talent acquisition strategy, tech strategy that organizations are taking. We are seeing a diverse mix of strategies that companies are employing. The predominant one at the moment is probably having a single talent acquisition suite, which covers like the entire breadth of the full talent acquisition process. But also equally, organizations are using a talent acquisition module in a broader suite that can be an HCM suite or a talent suite. And we really find talking to corporates’ different strategies, work for different types of organizations, but each one can be successful.

Sven Elbert (15m 28s):
So there’s probably a trend that maybe some of the cloud HR suites need a little bit more augmentation through some specialist providers, perhaps on candidate experience, on candidate relationship management, those kind of topics. But I mean, coming back to the question around fit for purpose, there’s a significant number of corporates that think that their TA technology stack is not fit for the modern workforce. And the investment that they’re driving is really into those TA processes with a higher level of dissatisfaction. So some of the ones that we have already spoken about like onboarding referrals and also the upper part of the funnel are probably the ones to mention here.

Matt Alder (16m 16s):
Yeah, that’s really interesting, but also I’m thinking not surprising, but it does illustrate just how long a journey in terms of technology that a lot of employers need to go on and how the reality doesn’t always reflect some of the hype in the market, does it?

Sven Elbert (16m 35s):
Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, changing system is a multi-year project if you want to roll it out globally in a large corporate. It’s definitely something that you don’t do, you know, like just like this. There’s many who have actually invested in TA technology across the pandemic, and those obviously have felt the benefits of it. Definitely, I think it’s also changing the way, you know, the recruiters’ skillsets that are needed to operate these platforms. There’s more automation. Now possible interview management, for example, if you look at what was possible maybe two, three years ago and compare it to today, that has– I mean, it’s completely different planet and a completely different story.

Sven Elbert (17m 25s):
So that obviously has an impact on how recruiters work with the technology as well.

Matt Alder (17m 32s):
Yeah. And I suppose that would, you know, make sort of a great final question in terms of recruiters’ skillset. I mean, how is the sort of required skillset for recruiter changing and what do employers need to address this? Or how are employers addressing this?

Sven Elbert (17m 50s):
Yeah, so we do see that collaborative and shared service work patterns continue to increase. So at the start of a process, obviously, it’s aligning between recruiters and hiring managers. This is absolutely needed for efficient and effective sourcing. Again, time to value doing the right things. So organizations really need to continue to align around responsibilities and handover points and service level agreements with all the stakeholders involved. Candidate experience nowadays is an orchestrated effort and recruiters need to be able to conduct this orchestra. So I think that is maybe a little bit of the what it comes down to in terms of their skillset.

Sven Elbert (18m 32s):
They are no more conductor of an orchestra, less maybe someone who is, you know, scheduling interviews. This is also helping, technology’s also helping to free up recruiters’ time so that they can actually spend more time with candidates. This is where they have the most impact. So anything around this automation, I mentioned interview management, so we will need less skill or less staff to schedule and reschedule those interviews. We will need less people to help us with job postings because that is getting faster, more automated, more programmatic.

Sven Elbert (19m 16s):
So these are maybe two areas where we need less skill of. And then if we look at what we need more of, it’s probably around people automating those candidate communications, candidate campaigns. So models source, marketing kind of recruitment, marketing kind of skills, and also career sites are getting much more personalized now. So that obviously means we need more content, better content, and also that needs to be orchestrated. So these are obviously some of the things that a lot of the recruiters will see in terms of the skill demand, changing skill demand, and how it’s evolving.

Matt Alder (19m 55s):
Sven, thank you very much for talking to me.

Sven Elbert (19m 57s):
It was a pleasure. Thank you, Matt, for having me.

Matt Alder (19m 60s):
My thanks to Sven. You can subscribe to this podcast in Apple Podcasts, on Spotify, or via your podcasting app of choice. Please also follow the show on Instagram. You can find us by searching for Recruiting Future. You can search all the past episodes at On that site, you can also subscribe to the mailing list to get the inside track about everything that’s coming up on the show. Thanks very much for listening. I’ll be back next time and I hope you’ll join me.

Chad and Cheese Podcast (20m 60s):
Do you love news about LinkedIn, Indeed, Google and just about every other recruitment tech company out there? Hell, yeah. I’m Chad. I’m Cheese. We’re The Chad and Cheese Podcast. All the latest recruiting news and insights are on our show, dripping in snark and attitude. Subscribe today, wherever you listen to your podcasts. We out.

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