On today’s episode of the RecruitingDaily Podcast, William Tincup talks to Simon from Simply about his thoughts on what recruiters need most.
Some Conversation Highlights:
Listening time: 28 minutes
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This is RecruitingDaily’s Recruiting Live podcast where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three year old can understand it. Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You are now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
William Tincup (00:34):
Ladies and gentlemen, this is William Tincup and you’re listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Today we have Simon on from Simply and our discussion is what recruiters need most. This is going to be fun, fast, can’t wait. Simon, would you do us a favor and introduce yourself and Simply?
Simon Haines (00:52):
Hi William, it’s great to be here. Simon Haines, founder and CEO of Simply Get Results, we call ourselves Simply. Simply is a global skills intelligence platform used by HR and business leaders to ensure that your business and your workforce have the skills you need to deliver your strategy.
William Tincup (01:12):
So skills intelligence, real quick as we drill into that bit, just because I’ve talked to more and more folks about it. As it relates to recruiters, what skills are you finding that they need to have?
Simon Haines (01:29):
Well, do you know recruiters are heads of talent acquisition, their recruitment teams are users of our software. And our software is there to help take a skills-led view of the market and your workforce, and how to close your skills gaps. Do you know, don’t specialize in the skills that a recruiter needs [inaudible 00:01:52].
William Tincup (01:52):
Right, it’s more the talent.
Simon Haines (01:54):
Yeah, it’s all about the skills of the talent, all about the skills of the workforce as opposed to the skills the individual needs. Although what I would say to that point is that obviously we’re helping talent acquisition leads and recruitment teams use data and evidence and insight to do a few things to pinpoint exactly the skills they’re looking for. To challenge and have debate with their hiring managers around is that really what you’re looking for? To use evidence around the ability to recruit for skills that are being talked about, and to use that data and evidence to put themselves in a better position to recruit those skills that they need.
William Tincup (02:33):
Well and then ultimately be successful instead of it just being a wishlist of skills that may or may not be needed for the job, they can actually talk intelligently with data around what actually they’re seeing from a skills perspective. Okay.
Simon Haines (02:51):
Yeah. [inaudible 00:02:52].
William Tincup (02:53):
Let’s start with the basics because there’s going to be many things that recruiters need, but what do they need most? What are you finding right now? Let’s start us off.
Simon Haines (03:04):
Yeah look, I mean obviously the market right now, look we’re a global company and so we’re sitting here in London, you’re sitting in the US and we’re talking to people all around the world, so the markets vary from one place to another, but what do they have in common? We’ve got a skills crisis, right? We’ve got a talent-led marketplace, we’ve got a high degree of change and volatility, and we’ve got companies fighting really hard for often the same talent and skills. So what do recruiters need most in our opinion, is a way through that. They need some advantage. They need some advantage over the next guy.
And I can unpack some of the advantages that we help to provide recruiters, but they include data and insight and knowledge can be an advantage, really understanding what your competitors are up to and how your company differentiates from them. Really understanding supply and demand, and cost in the market. Really understanding what’s changing, because things are changing constantly so you’ve got to keep on top of that. So I guess we’re about providing a competitive advantage to recruiters really, because we think they need one right now.
William Tincup (04:17):
A hundred percent, and maybe forever, right?
Simon Haines (04:19):
William Tincup (04:20):
It doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down or go away. I know there’s regional volatility, and there’s layoffs here and there and of course, but I also look at that, the beginning of Covid where folks overreacted to some degree and made really, really deep cuts. And then all of a sudden six months later, it was back to the frenzy of 2019 and the war for talent, if you will. So I don’t see that… Again, the regional volatility and things that happen in the tech market, yep, got it. Totally understand, there’re definitely firms making layoffs, deep cuts. Totally get it.
And no disrespect to that but talent, you mentioned that we’re in a talent-driven or candidate-driven market. I don’t know if we’re ever not going to be, especially in certain areas. If we would’ve talked before ’19 and had this discussion, we would’ve talked about hourly talent in some way, I probably wouldn’t have thought about the war for talent in the same way with hourly talent. But because of Covid, because the pandemic essential or frontline workers, et cetera, it’s just as hard to find someone to deliver a pizza as it is a software engineer.
Simon Haines (05:44):
This is it. This is our reality right now, that a few years ago we might have been talking about some really quite rare and front end, top end skills that companies still fight for, [inaudible 00:06:03] analytics and stuff, and those really rare brain powered skills might’ve been the ones that people talked about in terms of the war for talent. And they still do, absolutely, but as you say William, we’ve got a totally different spectrum, whether it’s the delivery driver, the front of house staff in a shop or a restaurant. There seems to be no limit to whether the talent constraint has hit, which provides a pretty broad challenge for companies and recruiters, right?
William Tincup (06:29):
It does. And getting back to skills and competitive advantage, you mentioned right at the beginning in terms of having frank conversations with hiring managers, how does that look with data? How does that actually play out for your clients?
Simon Haines (06:48):
Yeah look, I think the challenge that we hear from talent acquisition leads, recruiters, when they’re debating and discussing, or receiving a briefing from a hiring manager, is you’re taking two points of view into that conversation, the point of view of the hiring manager and the point of view of the recruiter. I think what’s really important is that those two points of view are respected and come together. The recruiter should have in their armory some data and some information and some insight, and some experience from the frontline that is relevant and valuable to that conversation.
The hiring manager may be driving their requests from thoughts about last year’s market or the year before that, or stuff that’s always worked. And because things are changing so quickly, that’s not really appropriate, so how do you equip the recruiter to have an informative and influential conversation with the hiring manager? A combination of data plus influencing skills, right? The recruiter is highly likely to have data that the hiring manager does not. And while none of us disrespect the experience and the information the hiring manager’s got, what we’re saying is, “Let’s put all of this on the table and let’s talk about it. Does my data help to challenge your assumptions? Does my data help to reinforce your assumptions?” I think one example of that right now, I don’t know if you’re hearing it called this, but people out looking for blue unicorns?
William Tincup (08:21):
Simon Haines (08:21):
Out looking out for a skill mix that just doesn’t exist. So one of the things that we’re doing is we’re making that really available to people. You type in the three to five skills that you care about most and we’ll tell you exactly what the supply of each of those skills looks like individually and collectively, and split that up around location and industry. And then if you are looking for a blue unicorn, we can come back and put a number attached to it. You know what? There are 35 of these people in the world, I think it’s a blue unicorn versus as there are 35,000 of them.
William Tincup (08:51):
A couple things around that. One is, is looking at skills as finite versus skills that have kind of a context to them or a texture to them that’s more breadth and depth. So something as simple, let’s say a Python development, one can put that on their resume or LinkedIn profile or whatever. And I mean, first of all it’s great, especially if you’re looking for a Python developer, it’s fantastic, but you don’t really know what that means, on some level. So a hiring manager will say, “This is a must-have, this is a must-have skill.” Recruiter says okay, “Okay, yeah, must-have skill,” but how do they discern that texture, if you will? How do they understand what do you… Okay check, they have to have some experience with Python, but how do they know, three dimensionally, what does that look like?
Simon Haines (09:47):
Look, I think the concept of a must-have skill is so important right now, and some of the layers of challenge that we might suggest are brought, is any role is a combination of skills, I can’t really think of any role that’s a mono skill, right? So a [inaudible 00:10:02] skills, and you put a label on the role or the need and that label is Python in this case. But firstly, how essential is Python? Is it one of three skills, five skills or 10 skills that are going to be used? Secondly, is it going to be used a lot or a little bit? And thirdly and fourthly, what’s the cost associated with that and what’s the supply and demand looking like around that?
Because if you take any role… And obviously Python is a coding skill, so let’s assume this is some form of coding role. If you take any role, some skills attract a premium that others don’t. Some skills are more rare than others are, so that challenge around importance, which was your original point there William, I think is absolutely key. Is this really a must-have skill or is this a skill that’s on the list? Because it could be the difference between success and failure to get someone through the door, the cost of that individual and so on. That must-have skill is a critical question, I agree.
William Tincup (11:04):
The supply and demand thing is fascinating to me, especially as skills, because of the pandemic, they’ve moved a little bit in terms of remote work for a lot of knowledge working jobs, at least. So how do we help them? If it’s Central London, got it, I think there’s only so many within this postal code or whatever. But if it’s the world, how do we help them understand if they’re hiring for remote, what the supply and demand is?
Simon Haines (11:40):
Yeah, I mean look, I’m sitting at a bit of an advantage at Simply Get Results with some spectacular global data that means I can really dial in and pinpoint some of that stuff. But I guess there are a few fundamental questions about remote, is it always remote or sometimes remote? Because that’s a huge difference, right?
William Tincup (12:00):
It’s a huge difference, yeah.
Simon Haines (12:02):
That’s really quite significant. Time zone. We do see people in one hemisphere serving another, but boy, are they working strange hours so time zone’s really meaningful. Of course remote, if it’s super distant, like geographically over hundreds or thousands of miles, then that can bring a significant difference in the cost associated with a person just by their physical location. So you’re starting to look at triangulating a few things here that I’ve just listed, the degree of the remoteness, the distance, the time zone, the cost associated with that. So at the macro scale, those are some of the questions you’re asking.
Probably in more urban environments it’s more a question of how far will I have to commute and how often? And I don’t know what you’re seeing, but certainly all the big corporations that we’re working with right now, they’re still figuring out their answers to that question.
William Tincup (12:58):
A hundred percent, hundred percent.
Simon Haines (13:00):
Most of them are compromising on two days a week because that’s kind of a middle number between zero and five days a week, but I don’t see a whole lot of logic beyond that at the moment.
William Tincup (13:12):
It’s funny, I was at a conference that was last week and I was talking to people at [inaudible 00:13:18] and also JP Morgan and everyone’s got a different take on hybrid or some type of hybrid model. I asked one of them, I said, “Listen, because of your stance,” I think it was Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays, so Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays you had to be in the office but outside of that, you could be anywhere. You could come into the office so it was flexible in the sense of, if you want to come to the office, the office is open, we’re not going to shut you out, but you don’t have to. Different from that is on those other three days, yes you actually have to be in the office. So I asked them, “I said, well have you lost…” Both of these were global heads of talent acquisition, so I said, “Have you lost people? This strategy or this bid, have you lost people?” And one of them looked at me and said, “I’ve lost my entire data science team.”
And I’m like, “Well wouldn’t that be enough data to this [inaudible 00:14:21] and revisit the strategy? Your entire data science…” I mean that’s not easy people to recruit, A, but B, the entire team quit just because of that decision. Are you seeing some of the same stuff?
Simon Haines (14:38):
Look, totally, and I think over the last three years we’ve had, I don’t know how many millions of people hired into roles during lockdown where the default was this is remote because it has to be right. Then suddenly… Well not suddenly, but we all lived through it, there was reopening and then there’s this call back to the office, whether it’s a little or a lot, or something else. And people have made decisions, haven’t they? They’ve made decisions about where they live and how their childcare operates and all of those things, from the contract that they signed day one, under lockdown.
So yeah, I imagine there’s an awful lot of renegotiation going on out there. It’s anecdotal, but I certainly know lots of conversations about the desire of the candidate to be this type of remote or that type of remote, and that’s kind of deal break at the point of making an offer. We all know the stories about the ratio of offers to acceptances and people who’ve accepted but don’t turn up day one, or turn up day one but don’t make it to the end of the week. So pretty volatile stuff out there and an awful lot of that, I think is driven from where do I have to work, as much as anything else, right?
William Tincup (15:51):
Yeah. I want to go back to the way that you were describing skills because in my mind I was thinking about Legos, for some reason. And it’s like you said you combine one skill with another skill, that’s one thing. You just combined it with one, with two or three other skills, that’s another thing that impacts both the supply and demand of that but also what those things cost, potentially. So the question is, is do y’all look at either now or in the future, looking at compensation in terms of being able to render back to the client, “Okay, that singular Lego block skill is this, we combine that with this other thing.” Now, both here’s how many of those are, just the supply and demand is really, really cool, but also what the cost of those things are? You know what I’m saying? Like the actual giving them insight into, I would say compensation data?
Simon Haines (16:49):
Yeah, well look, we’ve been talking to some of the big, global salary benchmarking companies and they’re starting to ask the question about skill-based pay, from what has been role-based pay and we all know about job leveling, all of those good things. And there’s industries around those, and what big corporation doesn’t employ one of those providers to answer some of those questions? But yeah, in the middle of that, people are starting to ask about skill-based pay. And again, the analysis that we’ve done is ongoing but there are absolutely premiums associated with different skills within a role, and different supply and demand as we talked about. So it’s quite a conundrum, but I think it’s a really important one.
At the same time, individuals are saying, “Hey look, I want to develop my career, I want to earn more money, I want to move on. What skills do I need to develop to take the next step?” Which is a really great question to be asking, isn’t it? You’ve got to be able to answer it. You’ve got to be able to say, “The next step looks like this. It’s these skills and it’s going to take you in this direction for this amount of money.” I think this question of skill-based pay and all the broader implications of that is going to continue, and we’re hoping we can be part of providing some really useful data at the heart of that.
William Tincup (18:07):
Do you think that there are certain… First of all, I love skill-based pay, because it gets us away from location-based payer or even role-based pay, which I think helps us with historic pay inequities. If we’re just paying for skills, then you can get out of some of those typical biases that we’ve had, hiring biases, et cetera, from years old. It’s just you’re paying for skills, which I think is just, I think a wonderful way of thinking of it. Are there certain industries or certain areas that you see that take this on first, and say, “You know what, we’re going to get rid of role-based pay and look at skills,” and just we’re going to hire the skills, period, end of story?
Simon Haines (18:50):
Well one of the things we’ve been doing this year is starting to understand and benchmark where companies are on their skills-led journey, if you don’t mind that expression. Because more and more-
William Tincup (19:01):
No, that’s cool.
Simon Haines (19:02):
More and more companies are saying, “Look, we need to change our conversation from people and roles down into people and roles and skills.” And some are even saying, “Actually, do you know what? The skill is the key unit of work.” And actually it’s not so much that any industry is leading in that space. What we’re seeing so far is that there is a huge range of maturity, from not doing anything to really quite advanced, and everything in between. Some of the companies that are breaking ground there are not surprising because they’re large, extremely well-funded, high tech companies. And banks have the cash and the ability to invest in breaking new ground.
But I’ve stopped there in terms of industries and trends because it’s not like the tech industry or the financial services industry is absolutely nailing the answer to a skills-led organization, but some of them are. And then you’ve got other organizations in a smattering of industries who are doing the same. What do they have in common? Look, bold leaders at the heart of those conversations. In general companies that are big enough and well-funded enough to embrace innovation, and to know that being successful next year and the year after that involves some experiments and trying some new things. And I think probably a rising tide of common understanding and acceptance, that skills, the skills-led organization, taking a skills lens on work in the workforce is the right thing to do and it brings value. I think there’s more and more evidence that there is serious value to be gained from taking that lens across your workforce.
William Tincup (20:42):
I love the phrase skills-based journey, I might use that in the future. Because what it reminds me of is skills literacy, is getting everyone to understand not only where they’re at in their journey, but also where they’re at, and understanding what skills are actually required as opposed to desired, if you will. Do you think it’s important that organizations do a deep dive or understand the taxonomy of skills?
Simon Haines (21:12):
I do. I was at a conference last week, it was a workforce planning conference, but there was an awful lot of talk about skills and capabilities. And about, is it a framework or a taxonomy or a [inaudible 00:21:24]? I don’t care, but it’s a way of [inaudible 00:21:27].
William Tincup (21:27):
It can be either, you can make a chart, who cares?
Simon Haines (21:31):
William Tincup (21:34):
Simon Haines (21:36):
[inaudible 00:21:36]. This is about should you get organized around your skills? Should you have a way of categorizing? And of course you should. In fact, I was talking to someone this week that was advocating making that sort of thing a bit more open source, not trying to have your own proprietary skills taxonomy because then that’s going to be out of date next year and then you’re going to have to pay to update it. Why can we not share more of this stuff? We’re starting to look at what are the industry flavors of skills taxonomies, because again, IT have taxonomies and financial services have taxonomies and so on. So there’s a lot of data out there, there’s a lot of different taxonomies, but one way or another, companies are needing to ask the question, “How do we get organized around skills? What’s our language? How do we break strategy into capabilities, into skills? How do we attach that to roles and people and work, and how do we help people make progress around those? So yeah look, one way or another, you have to get organized around it, whatever you call it.
William Tincup (22:38):
When we say what recruiters need most, which was the title of the show, it’s a deeper understanding of the skills that are required from the hiring manager, and which is dialogue, right? So back and forth of understanding, and an agreement upon what’s actually required in this job.
Simon Haines (23:00):
Yeah look, I mean, I’ll be honest because the question was so big, what do recruiters need most?
William Tincup (23:05):
Right, right, right, and we could spend four or five hours. Less Rex.
Simon Haines (23:14):
You know what, William? I’m sitting here talking to the expert that is you, and out in your audience we have people that live and breathe this and are experts in this space. So I didn’t come in here with the arrogance of saying, “Hey, here’s the answer everybody.” But I think where our debate today has taken me, is what do recruiters absolutely need, is they need an advantage. It’s a heck of a competitive world out there right now. They’re fighting for skills and talent, whatever type it might be, and any advantage they can have is hopefully useful.
So my rhetorical question is, is knowledge about skills, is a skills-led approach, is data around skills, does that give you an advantage? Because if it does, fantastic, that’s what you need. And of course my argument and my experience, and what my customers tell me and what the market tells me is, “Yeah, do you know what? Having an understanding about skills and ability to get a grip on skills and some data and evidence around it, that’s going to give you an advantage so why don’t you tap into it?”
William Tincup (24:09):
You know what’s interesting is, as you mentioned, you mentioned advantage earlier and it reminds me of a question I often get where people are like, “Who’s doing this the best?” I get this, you probably get this as well. Who’s doing this the best? I’m like, “You’re never going to know, because if they’re doing it the best, they’re not telling other people, because it’s become a competitive advantage.” Like if it’s Nike or if it’s BP, or pick your favorite whatever brand, they’re not out on a conference circuit, they’re not doing webinars, they’re not doing this stuff because it’s become a true competitive advantage. Why would they go and tell everyone else how they’re doing it? First of all, tear that apart, I don’t mind.
Simon Haines (24:55):
[inaudible 00:24:54] I think that there is value in keeping your secret sauce to yourself, [inaudible 00:25:02]. So yes, genuine competitive advantage is the sort of stuff you might write a patent about or you’re just so good at it that you need to keep it secret and keep it locked [inaudible 00:25:13]. Yeah, of course you should keep that to yourself.
William Tincup (25:15):
Yeah, that’s the recipe for Coca-Cola, got it.
Simon Haines (25:19):
You’re going to keep that to yourself. Beyond that, look, I think there is a lot of… Whether it’s active sharing or it’s leakage of information, or the fact that everything’s got a digital trail these days, we’re all exposed to stuff that’s going on around us, and so who’s doing this stuff best? Who’s doing the skills journey best? I do see a few different approaches actually, that there’s a school of thought that is deeply technical and data-driven, where you basically build the biggest lake of information you possibly can and attach AI to it and hope that needles will fly out of haystacks and you’re going to get some great intelligence and learning. I’m being a little bit facetious because I [inaudible 00:25:57].
William Tincup (25:57):
No, no, no, no, I got the tongue in cheek.
Simon Haines (26:00):
This is [inaudible 00:26:00] stuff, but that [inaudible 00:26:01] trend. But some people think that way and act that way, and therefore you’re going to get your answer by crunching data. I think other organizations and people are taking a prioritized approach, which I’m in favor of, which is, “Hey look, can we start by asking what problems we’re trying to solve? And can we start by asking which ones we might be able to solve most quickly and easily? And can we do that? Then can we look beyond that to what the next steps are going to be?” So a more iterative approach to get from where they are now to being better about skills one step at a time. And the thing about an iterative approach is, look, in the corporate world, which is where I spend most of my time, things didn’t used to be iterative and they didn’t used to be agile. There used to be a plan and the plan would get followed until it ended, and then everyone would sit down and write [inaudible 00:26:50].
William Tincup (26:49):
Whether or not it worked or not.
Simon Haines (26:52):
Oh absolutely. Oh [inaudible 00:26:53] that’s another conversation, but it feels like agility and iteration and experimentation have landed, even though no one asked for them necessarily, They’ve landed, there here. The corporate world is experimenting and one of the things we absolutely see is, it comes back to those leaders. Who are those companies, whatever they’re industry? And who are those people in those companies that are winning? They are absolutely ones that are experimenting because they realize that no one has the perfect answer. They realize that things are changing so fast, that they realize they’re going to have to make a few mistakes, but they need to get on and make them and learn from them. So I guess there’s something in there about who’s best at this. Maybe it’s the experimenter, maybe it’s the bold innovator, something like that.
William Tincup (27:34):
History favors the bold, turns out. So Simon, we’re going to have to do a part two of this, or maybe even make it into a series because this is just too good. Thank you so much for your time today and your wisdom.
Simon Haines (27:46):
Well, thank you so much for having me. I don’t claim any of it to be wisdom, but it’s been [inaudible 00:27:51].
William Tincup (27:53):
Ladies and gentlemen, that’s an example of British humor. Thanks everyone for listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast, until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.