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Ep 544: Transforming TA Teams


Earlier in the summer, I collaborated with the SmartRecruiters team to interview four fantastic practitioners who spoke on The Hiring Without Boundaries stage at RecFest in London. We recorded the conversations backstage at the event, and this is the second of three podcast episodes where I will be sharing them.

It’s an unprecedented time of disruption in talent acquisition. Economics, demographics and technology are driving seismic shifts in how companies think about hiring. With the pace of change continuing to increase, the most successful TA functions will be the ones that adapt the quickest.

My second RecFest guests are Lindsey Stone, Group Head of Talent Attraction & Resourcing at Greene King and Eric Houwen, Head of Talent Acquisition & Employer Branding at Deloitte in The Netherlands. Although they work for two very different types of business, there are a lot of interesting commonalities in Eric and Lindsey’s approach to TA transformation.

In the interview, we discuss:

• The forces driving change in TA

• Employability and Social Mobility

• Shifting workforces

• Evolving talent acquisition

• What skills does a TA team now need?

• Developing a consultative approach

• Positioning TA to drive value for the business

• The role of technology

• How do you take your people with you?

• What will the role of the recruiter be in 10 years?

Listen to this podcast on Apple Podcasts.


Matt: Support for this podcast is provided by SmartRecruiters. SmartRecruiters enables Hiring Without Boundaries by freeing talent acquisition teams from legacy applicant tracking software. SmartRecruiters’ next-generation platform serves as a hiring operating system for over 4,000 customers like Bosch, LinkedIn, Skechers, and Visa. Companies with business-critical hiring needs turn to SmartRecruiters for best-of-breed functionality, world-class support, and a robust ecosystem of third-party applications and service providers. To find out more, go to That’s 

[Recruiting Future theme] 

Matt: Hi there. This is Matt Alder. Welcome to Episode 543 of The Recruiting Future podcast. Earlier in the summer, I collaborated with the SmartRecruiters team to interview four fantastic practitioners who spoke on the Hiring Without Boundaries stage at RecFest in London. We recorded the conversations backstage at the event, and this is the second of three podcast episodes where I will be sharing them.
It’s an unprecedented time of disruption in talent acquisition. Economics, demographics, and technology are driving seismic shifts in how companies think about hiring. With the pace of change continuing to increase, the most successful TA functions will be the ones that adapt the quickest. My second RecFest guests are Lindsey Stone, Group Head of Talent Attraction and Resourcing at Greene King and Eric Houwen, Head of Talent Acquisition and Employer branding at Deloitte in the Netherlands. Although they work for two very different types of business, there’s lots of interesting commonalities in Eric and Lindsey’s approach to TA transformation. 

So, hi, Lindsey. Hi, Eric. Welcome to the podcast. We’re still at RecFest. The sun has come out. My last interview, I thought it was going to rain. We’re sitting backstage in the very nice greenroom, chilling out, and all that kind of stuff. Could you both just please introduce yourselves and tell us what you do? 

Lindsey: Absolutely. Thanks, Matt. It’s great to be here. Actually, it’s lovely to have a quite impromptu chat with you both. I’m Lindsey, I’m the Head of Talent Attraction at Greene King. My role spans across traditional talent acquisition, operational recruitment, and what you class as your employer branding function as well. 

Eric: Thanks for having me, also, Matt. I’m Eric Houwen. I’m the Head of Talent Acquisition for Deloitte in the Netherlands. When I came here just a couple of hours ago, I was quite in awe of what’s going on here. This has a size that we haven’t seen in anything in recruitment events in the Netherlands ever before. So, I’m very, very impressed. 

Matt: Yeah. No, it’s absolutely vast. It’s very difficult to portray that on a podcast. But I haven’t actually left this corner of the field yet. [laughs] There’s so much to see. So, first question. It’s a very dynamic time for talent acquisition at the moment. You both obviously work for very different sorts of businesses. So, I’m sure there’ll be differences, but also, probably a lot of similarities in what’s happening. So, first question to both of you. From your perspective, what are the forces that are driving change in talent acquisition at the moment? 

Eric: Well, I think first and foremost, the business is driving change on one hand and the limitations of the labor market are driving it on the other hand. So, you see a lot of changes in business in Deloitte, where there’s so many more international projects, large technology transformation projects that’s coming our way, a lot of what we call MDM. It’s about leveraging all of the knowledge and the different specialties that we have in Deloitte for one client.
So, what we can do, because of our size, is service a client in so many aspects altogether, and that’s a really good and quite unique proposition. So, that’s changing on the business side with a large demand for specialty technology skills and capabilities. And on the other side, it’s the labor market and the changing workforce that’s definitely a driver for change, in my opinion. 

Matt: Absolutely.

Lindsey: Yeah, I’d agree with Eric. I’ll build on that a little bit for our industry, actually, because we’ve got a couple of things in our talent landscape working in the hospitality world that are really challenging. It’s one of the reasons I took my job. I thought it might be easier to have the ear of the board, as I say. But the reality is very different. So, we have definitely a shortage of workers within our kitchen chef industry. That’s a perpetuating problem that most of our competitors are trying to deal with in different ways through looking externally after Brexit for sponsorship or having to try and think about career pathways to really get people trained up quickly. So, we launched something called a chef academy from our employability and apprenticeship teams to try and get that talent in.
The other problem is after COVID, having individuals making different career decisions. So, we lost a lot of talent that were furloughed and had to find a different route through for what was next for them, and that meant that people have made different decisions. So, we’ve had some, I think, lifestyle changes for candidate behavior that we probably didn’t really expect. 

Matt: Just to drill on that a bit because I think with both of you, there’s some interesting talent challenges that are changing things for you. So, particularly with Greene King, because I’ve had James on the podcast before talking about the things you’re doing around employability and social mobility. Give us a quick overview of that because I think it’s a really interesting approach to solving the issues that you have. 

Lindsey: So, our concept that we lean into on our strategy is a candidate as a consumer. It’s a really old concept that everyone talks about. But in our industry, it’s absolutely critical for success so that we can make sure that if we say in our business strategy, we pour happiness into lives, we really do through our teams, through how we recruit, and how we drive candidate experience. The way we’ve set up the function that James looks after, which is talent attraction and employer branding, is to think about who and how do we want to be known externally. 
I really believe that from a pub industry perspective, we’re really starting to drive some shift in inclusion and diversity initiatives in our Greene King for good initiatives on how we make sure people get a fresh start at careers. That’s the part that we’ve had to change perception of because the decisions candidates are making in joining this industry isn’t as natural as it might have been before. So, I say we need to be more than a pub industry, more than a hospitality industry. 
Matt: Eric, I suppose, again, zeroing in on changing aspects of talent, one of the things from your presentation that we just watched, you were talking about the way that the workforce was shifting and it wasn’t all about permanent hires anymore. Tell us a little bit about that in terms of how that landscape is changing. 

Eric: Yeah, no problem. Looking at the history of Deloitte, and I think the history of recruiting in the Netherlands, maybe even wider than that, as a talent acquisition team, we always used to be focused on our permanent workforce, because 95% of our workforce was a permanent workforce and only a very small part was possibly contingent. What we’ve seen happening over these last so many years is that it’s not just contingent staff that’s rising. A lot of people in the Netherlands become contractors, start working for their own, move away from the traditional labor relations with their employers, and start working as contractors, and so on and so forth. That’s one.
The other one, as with the international character of Deloitte, we tap into talent pools in other countries and build delivery centers there on skills and capabilities that are asked by the numbers by our clients. So, that’s changing rapidly. Currently, I think our permanent segment of our workforce is around, I don’t know, 70%, 75% maybe. But this is declining. So, in a couple of years’ time, this may only be 50% or less.

Matt: Wow.

Eric: What I just argued is that we need to reposition ourselves as a talent acquisition team to stay relevant, not just for the permanent workforce, but for the other worker types as well. Basically, stay relevant for the business and stay relevant for the organization.

Matt: So, lots of challenges, even the way that we think about talent is changing for both of your businesses. What’s the impact on the talent acquisition team? How are you having to evolve the way that your team works, you might as well?

Eric: Well, as I already just said, we’re quite at the beginning of that journey. So, in our scope now is permanent and contingent staff. The delivery centers as we are a member firm and there’s partners in our organization that are very entrepreneurial. So, the rise of these delivery centers came because of this entrepreneurship of partners. It was, at the beginning, all over the place. So, now it’s being consolidated more and more and that gives us the opportunity also to step in and to play a pivotal role in deliberately bringing our workforce from this position to that. 

Matt: Lindsey?

Lindsey: So, for me, I think because we’re a year and a half into our three-year strategy and roadmap, we’re having to really try and show the business what great can look like. And that’s because lots of organizations will be built on [unintelligible [00:10:36]. You don’t need to put investment and money into employer branding or recruitment marketing and we’re starting to see some really good outputs of that now. So, the team have been able to start shifting some more proactive recruitment. We’ve got a capability building project program running for them that’s all about giving them access to knowledge, peer networking, and skills, and training to make that step change. 

So, even something like this at RecFest today, the 30 of the team here today, we’ve brought them here today to be curious and learn, because we recognize that we don’t all have the answers and we can be around like-minded experts and take something from them of how we build our future set up in our organization. 

Matt: What kind of skills do they need to develop? 

Lindsey: So, our two focus areas are around business partnering. So, really shifting to business partnering through consultation advice, and not just service pleasing, and starting to really challenge the norm because in our industry, we recognize we want to get more diversity into our workforce. But you can’t have that if you want speed and you want CVs and you want to use the same agency you’ve used before. So, we’re having to give our teams tools to understand what does higher value work look like, what’s the space you need to spend your time in? Traditional metrics are hard to put in place, because if you base it on time to fill or cost per hire, you get drawn into the old ways of working. 

Matt: Yeah. Eric, same question to you. Really, in terms of sort of skills and capabilities you’re having to develop within the team, what’s the focus on? 

Eric: Yeah. So, the focus is on, in an abstract way, being more strategical, which means being capable of having the right conversation with the business. From what I’ve learned over the last years, it requires a different skill set and a different capability set to have that conversation. Currently, recruiters in my team, I’d kill for them. They’re really good. They’re very good at what they do and they’re very good in terms of the skills and capabilities that they are required to bring to the table. 
But when it comes to this change, I think it’s that different that it’s more about having the right conversation, having the communication skills, the data skills, the understanding of the business, and the understanding of the market that goes way deeper than we need now, and have the conversation about not just where our labor demand is today or tomorrow, but also a month, a year, two years, three years from now. That’s a huge difference. That is something that our recruiters are not capable of at the moment, and I doubt all of them will be because the DNA is so different. 

Matt: Yeah, absolutely. I suppose following on from that in terms of both of your vision of how TA can be positioned to drive value for the business in a way that maybe it hasn’t done in the past, where do you think TA can go with that? 

Eric: Well, maybe even by understanding the business better than they understand themselves in the sense that understand the business that well, that we understand what skills and capabilities are needed in order to drive the business, in order to grow the business. I think there’s a huge opportunity there also because what I see in the business itself that, of course, there’s people that understand it really well, but I think the majority still doesn’t or only does to a certain degree. That’s a huge opportunity for us. So, that’s one side of the equation, and the other side and that’s our monopoly domain basically where we have the understanding, and need to have the very deep understanding of the labor market that we’re tapping into. 

Matt: Absolutely. Same question to Lindsey. Really, where do you see TA driving value for the organization? 

Lindsey: So, our sweet spot is definitely in the customer consumer area. So, the TA strategy that we built is pinned really clearly to our business purpose to pour happiness into lives. There’s a couple of pillars on there. There’s one that is a people pillar, that’s an obvious fit. The second is customer first. So, we talk about in our strategy both of those drivers. And then where we connect and convince people that it’s the right strategy to drive change in the organization rather than in TA is actually focused on how do we drive revenue. So, how does customer or candidate experience bring in the right brand reputation for us as such a large hospitality organization? Then, the second in the people pillar is actually learning to see where your connections are. So, where inclusion and diversity and talent acquisition collide. For us, that’s in an inclusive hiring work stream and then we’re delivering to a broader D&I agenda. 

Matt: So, one of the big disruptive forces at the moment is technology. So, how does technology fit into what you do? How does it drive it? Where does it sit? 

Lindsey: So, I think, for me, you’ve got to be really aware of where we’re going as a world. I think there’s some stats out there that talk about the population will be 75% digital by 2025. I find it a really interesting stat, because my daughter, five-year-old Freya is like super better at skills on an iPad than me. 

Matt: [laughs] 

Lindsey: I think technology enables everything we do. It’s how you connect it’s. The touch points to conversations for candidates, and that’s regardless of whether they’re applying or just considering or just trying to learn a bit more about the organization, it’s not going to go away. So, it’s an absolute enabler and critical. 

Eric: Yeah, enabler is my word, my core word, in this sense as well. When I started at Deloitte five years ago almost– This is where we started building the foundation that we built further on today. And at the time, for making one hire, we had to enter data into our system 250 or more times-

Matt: Wow. 

Eric: -across six nonintegrated applications, right?

Matt: Yeah.

Eric: When I saw that, I thought, “Okay, this is what we’re going to fix first.” This what eventually ended up in us adopting smart recruiters as an ATS and integrate some of the systems around it in order to get it down to, I don’t know, somewhere around 50 or so, which was a huge step forward, because if administration is up to 50% of your time as a recruiter, what value are you going to bring, right? None. So, we had to diminish that first. So, that’s what technology meant for me, first and foremost. 
On the other hand, technology is also something and then data technology specifically that gives us the insights in the labor market, that helps us analyze what’s going on, helps us understand and figure out the trends and advise our business on it. 

Matt: I’m going to steal one of the questions that someone asked you, Eric, in the presentation earlier, which was, huge transformations, we’re talking about the different skills that TA teams need, different positioning within the company. How do you take your people with you? How do you make sure that everyone’s along the same journey? 

Eric: First of all, by understanding myself what’s going on, take the stage and try to envision for my team what’s going on, bring that across and have my team understand that there’s a need for change for them as well. And then facilitate that by developing learning journeys around it by doing things differently around data, asking different things of the team than we did before in order also to trigger new thinking, new behavior. That’s a lengthy and that’s a difficult process. That’s what we call it the trusted advisor journey. We’re developing that year on year as well, but I think that’s the essence of getting somewhere in that sense. 

Matt: And Lindsey, same question to you. How’d you take your people with you?

Lindsey: So, for me, I think it’s really important that you have everything you do powered by the team around you. In Greene King, that’s meant that I’ve had to give the teams, the voice, and also had to give them an opportunity to co-create a strategy with us. We had a team of experts sat out in the different divisions, and we pulled them together as resourcing leads to start to think about, “Okay, where do we want to be in three years’ time? Here’s the problems we’re seeing right now, how can we solve them?” Really tested ourselves to be a little bit different on, “Let’s not just do the same. What can we do differently?”
I think that gave them empowerment. It gave them a bit of freedom and creativity, and they realized, “It’s not just Lindsey’s vision. It’s our vision. We’re in it together.” The power that gives you from motivation is really infectious then, because they will naturally go out and they do. They share updates with their stakeholders, they shift the perception of who we are by saying, “Here’s a strategy, and you can feel it.” They believe in it, so they want to tell more about it. 

Matt: So, final question for both of you. Obviously, the impossible question, because let’s finish with an impossible question. So, let’s look out 10 years into the future. What do you think the role of a recruiter will be in 10 years’ time, if indeed there is such a thing as a recruiter in 10 years’ time? 
Lindsey: So, I have a personal conundrum that I always try to solve in every company I’m in. I always try to think about how do you really collide properly with talent management and talent acquisition? I do think lots of companies do it well, but I wouldn’t say it’s collaborative function. They’re still silos reporting normally into a broader talent role. That, for me, is where I think the future is. I think if we get the technology to strip out as much of the admin processes that Eric mentioned, and even some of the insights and data points are more fast and accurate, then we’ll be able to spend more time in the space of– 
Actually, if somebody’s hired into a role, we’re hiring them for this role today knowing that they’re also going to move in a year’s time for the next role, that’s where I’d love to predict it. I keep trying to find the skills, what do we do? How do we get there? Don’t have that answer, but that’s my prediction. 

Matt: Eric, your thoughts? 

Eric: Oh, apart from what you’re just saying now, I would be so bold to say I don’t think the recruiter will have changed that much over 10 years. What I do think is that, we will and that’s what I’m working on now, so I hope that’s going to be true to build a layer on our teams that is having that strategical, tactical focus. But we will still need a hiring machine underneath to get the talent in that we need. That will not change. Of course, there will be new technologies, sourcing technologies, ATS technologies more about internal mobility and so on and so forth, but there will always be a recruiter that’s matching labor demand with the labor ask and be pivotal in the process between hiring manager and candidate. 

Matt: Eric, Lindsey, thank you very much for joining me. 

Eric: You’re welcome. 

Lindsey: You’re welcome. 

Matt: My thanks to Lindsey and Eric. 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 our monthly newsletter, Recruiting Future Feast, and 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. 

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