Talent Acquisition: New research into the current state of play and outlook for 2021 (Part 1)

By Ben King, Client Experience Director, Acendre

If you work in Talent Acquisition (TA), you are no doubt familiar with some of the challenges and curveballs thrown by the year that was. Many saw ballooning numbers of candidate applications but at the same time a shrinking number of open roles. Combine this with the mass move to remote working for employees and candidates, and this year has proven to be one that has tested us all.

To explore these themes further, and understand the current and future state of play, Acendre was excited to commission a new report into how this year has impacted TA teams. We partnered with ATC events & media who interviewed 133 TA professionals across Australasia, with findings then discussed at a webinar with TA leaders Lauren Maher (Australian Unity) and Paul Martin (RMIT) Jo Vohland (ATC) and I. In part one of a two-part series, we will summarise some of the key current state findings. For the full webinar recording click here.

Impacts on the team and workplace

Despite extremely challenging economic conditions, 83% of talent functions surveyed either remained the same size or grew in size in 2020. This is an interesting outcome when compared to past responses in major economic crises. Paul Martin said, “The difference between this year and what occurred during the GFC has been quite stark. We are putting it down to being an HR-led response. HR seems to be taking the lead more so than finance would have done in the past”.

Thankfully, organisational leaders largely favoured alternative measures to redundancy during 2020. There was a more creative approach taken to help talent teams survive the crisis, such as secondments, paid leave or reduced wages on reduced hours.

Remote working and rapid expansion of talent sources

The nature of ‘time’ and ‘place’ of work changes seen during 2020 had impacts not just for TA employees, but also for the candidate pool. One study participant commented, “We are flexi-permeating, which means employees are trying to figure out what works best for them, their teams and the company”. Also, with the ability to source new employees from any location, the potential talent pool has completely opened up. Lauren Maher said, “What I’ve really enjoyed is questioning the hiring manager as to where the role needs to be located. Our talent pools are really expanding”.

Wellbeing and support at the forefront

In uncertain times, the challenge of maintaining the wellbeing of recruitment teams became the major priority, as seen in the chart below. It was pleasing to see that 91% of internal recruiters stated that their employer increased their level of care and interest in their personal health and wellbeing during 2020.

Source: 2020 State of Talent Acquisition Report, By ATC Events & Media and Acendre

Emphasis on candidate care

Leading with empathy, 91% of the talent acquisition respondents reported that candidate experience was maintained or improved in 2020. As one study participant said, “Understanding that we are in a challenging market, experiencing recession and COVID, we really dialled up candidate care. This has been in conversations, candidate communication templates and bespoke unsuccessful emails with practical tips and support. We call it high care, high touch, high partner”.

A digital hiring environment has also created the opportunity for a faster turnaround of candidate feedback. Lauren Maher said, “One thing I’ve noticed is the speed of instant feedback back to candidates after an interview, it’s been faster than ever”.

Technology and future focus areas for TA

These are just some of the findings from the report, which I think is a must-read for anyone in a TA or HR function. In part two of this series, I’ll cover the current state and outlook for the technology that supports talent acquisition and what survey respondents felt needs to be done better moving into 2021. We know that technology and data has the potential to transform the talent acquisition function, so we’ll explore this in more detail.

You can download the report here.

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