Australasian Talent Conference – Day 2 Report

Report from the trenches, day two at the ATC. As the adage goes – day 1 was a cake, day 2 the icing. A really fruitful day, highlights as follows:

1) Alumni strategy: Some of the best recruitment advice of the day came from a person who probably have very little to do with real-life recruitment. An academic by trade, Dr Ian Williamson, Associate profession Melbourne business school, eloquently weaved engaging stories on talent acquisition and management; “the war for talent is over…talent won’ he quipped boldly. A true soldier of his trade, Dr Ian digs deep into the causes and effects of talent acquisition with a particular rigour on ‘retention’. A subject expert on ‘social capital’, his take on harnessing an alumni community should be engraved in stone and a copy sent to all HR/recruitment departments. How someone with in-depth insights on our industry remains largely anonymous to the wider community is a mystery to me. I think we will hear a lot more from Dr Ian Williamson, and that is a good thing for the rest of us (footnote: Heard from Michael that Dr Ian Williamson might be involved in our project)

2) Recruitment @ Google (there, that word again): Recently voted the best place to work in Australia, it seems Google can’t do anything wrong, except the YouTube video link in Sue Polo’s presentation went dead, twice (oh, the irony). In her engaging style, Sue took the crowd into a fascinating journey on how recruitment is done at the #1 employment brand in the world. We are reminded that Google’s EVP is much more than ‘free food’, that selection process had been made simpler with the number of interviews reduced from 16 to 8, and that 40% of talent comes from referrals. Google credited their successes to a rigorous focus on ‘talent pipelines’, but admitted to being a lucky company whose employment brand grew organically. A company which thrives on numbers (news just came in Google became the first company worth $100 billion), Sue dispatched figures after fascinating figures on recruitment and the work culture.  (Footnote: Later at lunch, Sue dropped by and clarified that potential staff should be prepared for only five interviews. Google ‘Sue polo’ for more information).

3) Deloitte and sourcing excellence: James Elliott and his achievements at Deloitte represents all that is right with sourcing, when done well. I had a front-row view into every intricate details of Deloitte’s innovative approach to sourcing, down to the actual Boolean search strings. I was surprised by the amount of data Deloitte gave away. Listening to James, it’s not difficult to imagine how talent wars would be fought in the near future. James leads an army of sidekicks armed to the teeth with social media tools, and ready to do battle. No channels or potential source is ignored; every new tool is explored; no sourcing idea is too wild. I sat there pondering the wide gap between those who get it and those who doesn’t. Make no mistake, regardless of the recession, progressive companies are treating talent acquisition with a war footing, and the likes of James are in the trenches, with sleeves rolled up and ready to do battle.(Footnote: I briefly met James; his moves are worth monitoring @jamesielliott)

4) The future of talent: Pulling together developments in the sciences, geo-politics, social studies and various other fields, Kevin Wheeler weaves together a compelling narration around ‘the future of talent’.  I met Kevin briefly, a man of mild manners his presentation is the opposite. Rich in data (72% of CEOs think talent is critical), infused with new insights (‘Gen Y values will be mainstream values’ & ‘shamrock organisations are the way forward’) and peppered with bold predictions (‘I don’t want a job, I want experience’) Kevin’s presentation took us on a wild ride. Reminding us that ‘change is the only constant’,  his theme resonates well with the turbulent times we are currently in and likely to encounter in the future. Kevin’s encore presentation confirmed his reputation as a visionary; a fitting end to what has been a very fruitful event.

Other Observations & Discussions:
5) Sourcing channels of yesteryears.
There was very little mention of job boards. Have they lost favour as a sourcing tool? Or is it because Job boards are part of the recruiting furniture and have nothing more to prove? The only mention was in instances where they do not work well; blame almost always pointed at the generalist sites. On the other hand social media, and Twitter in particular, generated a lot of interest. In fact, the coup of the day went to PageUp. Surprisingly Twitter savvy, given most of their staff only recently joined the bandwagon. PageUp spent 80% of their allotted time talking about Twitter and got the audience to participate in a tweet fest. By the time they talked about the virtues of their product, they have already captured the full-attention of the audience. Smart move.

Interesting conversation with an HR manager of a major institution, who tells me that they still advertise significantly on print media, mainly because they have an obligation to the community at large. The reasoning – when newspapers are littered with job classifieds, it gives a sense of well being to the community. It seems print’s demise has been temporarily halted by people’s tendency to hold on to familiar things and old perceptions.

6) Talent Management Software: Indeed, talent management software providers hogged the limelight. Taleo, NGA, PageUp, SilkRoad and Kanexa were represented. Kanexa intrigues me. A global giant with a modest presence in Australia (20 staff isn’t really modest, but globally Kanexa is 1400 strong). Jeff Wigney leads the Australian operations. One cannot look at Kanexa complete set of solutions and not remain impressed by the range of solutions they offer. Overall, advances in talent management tools are really impressive. Click here for a list of other providers (page 28)

7) Staff Assessment: Let’s face it ‘assessment’ isn’t exactly a sexy subject when the rest of the world is preoccupied with the latest fad like Twitter and social media. But the science and practice behind assessment is real and a worthy investment for many organisations (I’ll be speaking to Dr Charles Handler from Rocket Hire very soon on Talent Talk). Ever a fan of research reports, I had a look at Previsor’s approach. They have some compelling data on the role of assessment in recruitment. Will dig deeper in the coming days.

8 ) RPOs & Recruitment firms: In a way the conference was notable for the absence of the professional recruitment community. Hudson Managed Services showed up. I think RPOs in general have very compelling business models, especially relevant for tough economic times. It’s a mystery that non, barring Hudson, of the twenty or so RPO providers in Australia showed up.  That recruitment firms aren’t out in force to listen to Rob Collins compelling data about contingency workforce (This demographic may well be the saviour of the staffing industry) is regrettable. It would have helped most firms to explore why the likes of Deloitte are likely to slash agency fees/budget in the near future. By the day, it is becoming easier for candidates and employers to connect and find each other. For staffing firms, assuming, in a post-recession environment, business will be as usual would be a big mistake.

9) Australia vs. US ( and the rest of the world)
It’s an often heard expression in our community – “Australia is two to three years behind the US & UK”. Well, it is not really, and it’s the Americans themselves saying it so. Dr Charles Handler actually said in his presentation that Australia is ahead of the US in the assessment field. Gerry went further, he is of the opinion Australians are fast adopters and thinks the overall skills in the recruitment industry is of high quality. In November 2007, I attended the annual NAAB conference in Las Vegas and in comparison, I tend to agree – Australia is not exactly too behind the times. In fact in the age of Twitter the tools and tactics of our trade are almost universal.

10) A word about the sponsors: I was glad to see a significant number of vendors at the conference. It turns out, and not by accident, that everyone who showed up is supremely confident about the value they bring to the table, and more importantly positive about the future. It is uplifting to be in the presence of ebullient, positive and confident people/companies in times such as now. Do check them out, I have a hunch that most of them are going to be around for a while.

  • Taleo (Global talent management solution providers)  – Contact Lynne Salmon (lsalmon @
  • CXC global (Provide contractor management services) – Contact Ben Evans (ben.evans @ cxcglobal dot com au)
  • Previsor (staff assessment and testing provider) – Contact Georgie Duckworth (gduckworth @ previsor com au)
  • NGA (HR software provider based in Melbourne) – Contact Adam Nowoweiski (adam nowoweiski @ nga. net)
  • PageUp (Talent management solution) – Contact Jane Harrison (janeh @ pageuppeople com )
  • PeoplePulse (Online survey and feedback provider) – Contact Paul Quinn (paul @ quinntessential com au)
  • Hudson (Recruitment managed service provider) – Contact Keith Warren (keith warren @ hudson com)
  • Silkroad (talent managment software) – Contact Nicholas Roi (nicholasroi @ silkroad com)
  • HCMS (Offer management consulting services to build better recruitment processes) – Contact David Bell (david @ hcms com au)
  • Kenexa (Offer a complete suite of talent related services & products) – Contact Jeff Wigney ( jeff wigney @ kenexa com au)
  • Fusion (Gradudate management solutions) – Contact David Cvetkovski (David Cvetkovski @ fusiongms com au )

HR/recruitment people you should follow: It was really good to see  fellow bloggers, industry peers, recruiters, HR professionals, techies, pioneers (Again, I had the opportunity to break bread with Gerry Crispin, twice. Over breakfast, and at lunch, Gerry sheds light into his more than two decades of work asking hard questions and chasing quality data. Will try to get an interview in the near future), visionaries and all other breeds that only a conference like this can bring together. A few I know with a Twitter account, it’s worth following them: @mspecht @rossclennett @rigesyounan @kwheeler @jamesielliott @GerryCrispin @Trevorpvas @NaomiSimson @martinwarren

That pretty sums up the 2nd day at the ATC. Over the next few days, I’ll brood over some of the new things I’ve learnt and revisit them in detail. Meanwhile, what do you think about conferences/events in our industry, in general? Do you think they serve a purpose? Would you pay to attend? Is there a better alternative?

3 replies
  1. Mayflower07
    Mayflower07 says:

    I share your comments about day 2 at the ATC being a fruitful one. I too enjoyed Dr Williamson’s insights into ‘social capital’ and how it has the potential to be so valuable to organisations when exiting staff from the business. Incredibly the focus has always been on the loss of human capital & the effects it has and yet just looking at it from a different viewpoint can potentially yield so much! You have to admire a company like Deloitte who are so willing to put themselves out there. James was a very engaging presenter and offered some fantastic information on what progressive companies are doing. I wasn’t as enamoured by the Google presentation and thought they are very fortunate to have such a well-known brand that is attractive enough for applicants to ‘endure’ their recruitment process. Not sure many companies could get away with this. At times I thought Google sounded a bit like a cult! However, they remain an incredibly innovative company, often leading the way in areas of employee engagement and retention. My only question is, given how engaged the employees are what kind of issues do the HR generalists have to deal with, I wonder? And of course Kevin Wheeler – ever the visonary!

  2. Phillip
    Phillip says:

    Hi Kathi,

    Interesting question you raised – what issues would HR generalists tackle in workplaces where employees are highly engaged. Companies like Zappos, who have a highly engaged workforce, obsess on getting their ‘culture’ right, and from the look of it, it’s an ongoing task.

    One thing is for sure, no one can rest on their laurels, not even Google. See this . Here’s another pointer on what issues Google might have to deal with

    It’s interesting that Sue mentioned their increasing focus on developing ‘talent pipelines’. Perhaps, to counter increasing attrition rates?



    (p.s: Kathi, it’s a shame our path didn’t crossed at the ATC. I thought there should be more time alloted for networking. The breaks are just too short to meet and have meaningful discussion with more than one person)

  3. Mayflower07
    Mayflower07 says:

    Thanks for the links – interesting reading. They provide a more balanced picture I think? And yes, the breaks are too short.


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