Recruiting Enablement Blog



What it takes to be an In-house Recruitment Manager (Individual) finalist - tips & advice from the cream of the crop

Charles Hipps December 10, 2020

It’s fair to say that 2020 has been an unusual year that has forced recruiters to pivot and adapt more than ever before. Oleeo wanted to celebrate the amazing work of those who persevered through the uncertainty and has sponsored the In-house Recruitment Manager (Individual) category at the In-house Recruitment Awards 2020 (taking place virtually on 10 December). Congratulations to all the finalists:

Ben Hopewell, Bupa Care Services

Craig Morgans, IWG plc (previously The AA)

Danielle Foster, Essex County Council

Georgie O’Connor, Mondelez International

Paul Lawrenson, Expedia Group

Rachael Sinnott, Barchester Healthcare

Richa Ranawat, Avanade

We interviewed most of the finalists to learn more about how they have been agile through the year and gain their tips for 2021 as the year draws to a close. Keep an eye on the Oleeo blog for the full Q&A with each finalist.

Q1: 2020 has been an interesting year, tell us about your talent acquisition challenges and how you have been resolving these?

Georgie:2020 has undoubtedly been a challenging year for talent acquisition, we have experienced many hurdles - we needed to ensure interviews could still continue and new starters could still join us, which made for a fast shift to remote and virtual working and a heightened form of communication to both candidates in processes and new starters about to join. This was complicated by my TA team being responsible for Northern Europe, so we had multiple guidelines by country from government and public health advice to be adhering to. 

“We took an approach to keep each country moving at the same pace, with the same adaptations to the process and adapted the communications as necessary to be relevant per country.This resulted in us moving to virtual interviews & assessments, adapting our interview format and case studies to all be completed remotely, we upskilled our hiring managers and created “how to guides” to support them along with candidates in making the process as human & engaging as possible. We then went on to consider the hiring experience of new external candidates and what an isolated and distant experience this would be for them, we created a new Virtual On-Boarding platform, with the purpose of adding the human touch back to our new starters first experiences.”

Craig: “It certainly has been an interesting and challenging year. I moved both role and industry in early 2020, so I only really got through my induction period before the first lockdown. That doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a lot to do, but not having to recruit c4,500 hires alongside has allowed us time to focus on some real key deliverables. A lot of the challenges have related to the core foundations on how we support our Global Field Operations team, ensuring that we attract, assess and hire the best talent. So we’ve taken the opportunity to review and evaluate a number of key processes across our talent lifecycle that support this activity, inc. our channels to market, employee referral programme, candidate assessment, candidate & hiring manager feedback and the construction of meaningful MI dashboards – which in itself provided insight into some additional areas which needed focus.”

Richa: “Covid-19 has altered the talent acquisition landscape as we know it, with hiring activity hit hard, but the quality of a new hire remains a top priority for the majority of businesses. Our experience was very similar. However as an organisation at Avanade we chose to use this time to upskill ourselves. Through training programmes namely HR and Talent Acquisition Advance all of us across Talent Acquisition have been part of over 40 hours of training with Social Talent. This has helped us to all refresh and recharge ourselves as recruiters and come back stronger to deliver to aggressive demand targets. Since Diversity and Inclusion is the very core of Avanade, through these training programmes my team and I have taken on board Unconscious Bias Training for ourselves as well as for our hiring managers and interviewers too.

“The challenges we mainly faced were around engaging with candidates. The face-to-face meetings had to be paved away due to Covid. Whilst deploying the appropriate technology to engage candidates through virtual communication and interviews has been helpful. The team has implemented a number of virtual events, meet ups to keep up with engagement activities which are both useful and not very monotonous and providing a good preview into our beliefs at Avanade.”

Paul: “With multiple factors at play, 2020 has demanded agility, grit and resilience like never before. Expedia Group, like the whole travel industry, has been hit hard by the impact of COVID-19. Whilst hiring volumes have fallen, the TA team at Expedia Group have used 2020 to seize the opportunity to think and operate differently. We’ve completely re-structured from a decentralised model with brand-aligned TA teams (each brand such as, Brand Expedia, Egencia, Vrbo, etc had their own dedicated TA Team) to a centralized model, to enable the us to attract, source and hire the very best talent functionally across the Group. The reduced hiring volumes have actually enabled us to move swiftly to put this new operating model in place, and importantly, the new model was designed and implemented by our own talented TA team.”

Danielle: “We have been very lucky in that as an organisation we have continued to recruit at volume and have been fortunate enough to receive an increasingly high number of applications. A big change for us was the literal overnight switch to virtual recruitment. It wasn’t something we really did pre-COVID and with so much ‘in-train’ recruitment we couldn’t afford to stop recruiting, so we needed to re purpose and support our hiring managers and candidates very quickly.We simply didn’t have the time to incur delays so it was designed at pace and implemented within 48 hour of lockdown, something that would have never been possible pre-COVID.

“I have also seen and feel a real anxiety from our candidate population, many of whom have experienced significant changes in their professional and personal lives and find themselves looking for work unexpectedly. We have tried and we hope succeeded in making their recruitment experience a positive one even in the face of such change.”

Rachael: “With the unpredictability of Covid-19 and its effects on the care sector, knowing where and when our services will be impacted and responding to the changes in our workforce and staffing levels has been unprecedented this year. More than ever, our services have needed to be well supported by us at all hours of the day. As a recruitment team, although there is a need for efficiency in our response, it was imperative that we sourced candidates who would maintain the standards we expect for our residents, patients and service users.  Being well-staffed throughout this period has been hugely important to ensure the safety and well-being of those we care for has never been compromised, despite the pressures and challenges faced.

“The strong relationship we have developed with the General Managers and stakeholders in our homes and hospitals, has allowed us to take a solution based approach, resolving challenges quickly and responsively during a period when time has not been something we’ve had in abundance. Remaining flexible to work around General Managers availability, whilst taking into account the pressures they are facing has been one of our priorities. Strong communication within our own team and working collaboratively with the Operations Teams has allowed us to focus on the main areas/locations that have desperately needed our focus and support. In addition, transparency with our candidates, about the pressures and expectations on them at a time like this, has also been vital and has allowed us to provide an efficient and effective service to both our candidates and our stakeholders/services.” 

Q2: What would you say are your biggest accomplishments this year?

Rachael: “This year has been a year like no other. With that in mind, it hasn’t been all about the figures/numbers when it comes to measuring our accomplishments/successes. The bigger picture has been providing a streamlined service that has worked cohesively with our Hiring Managers, aiming to limit the additional pressure they have been under this year due to the pandemic.  As a team, this is an area I feel we have not only delivered, but excelled in.

“We have been able to avoid the need to lean heavily on temporary and permanent agency staffing as a solution. This is something both myself and the team can take pride in as we have seen our temp agency usage drop significantly this year, at a time when it may have been understandable to have increased due to the challenges faced across our services. We have been able to provide a service that has allowed us to almost eradicate permanent agency usage, not only saving the business money but also ensuring our Hiring Managers and stakeholders can be confident in our sourcing and delivery of candidates.”

Danielle: “I would say the opportunity we had as a resourcing team to directly support the ECC COVID response. The quick repurposing to virtual has seen us as an authority conduct over 4000 virtual interviews and onboard over 400 new external starters, many of whom have never psychically met their team to this day. This has seen such determination from services across ECC especially Technology Services  who not only migrated us to a virtual way of working within days but have supported the complexities of setting up new starters virtually with all they need.

“In addition resourcing re-purposed themselves in April to re-deploy ECC staff who had been stood down form their roles to support our covid response, we actually re-deployed over 300 employees in to critical services, not least the Essex Wellbeing Service, a new service which has been central to ECC supporting our residents in this difficult time.Lastly resourcing supported the staffing of the Essex track and trace service, again at pace in an area we had no previous experience in. Our response to COVID has been widely complimented and it's actually lovely to know in some small way we were able to support our ECC colleagues in the wonderful work they have done.”

Paul: “Beyond re-organising our TA function, the biggest accomplishments include our investment in Early Careers: pivoting our internship program to being virtual and at the same time building the business case for a programmatic offering and increasing the volumes of early careers to build the base of the organisation has been a great accomplishment. We’ve energised our executive leadership team to champion the importance of early talent and to put resources behind it.

“We also built a Hiring Excellence program: with the goal of raising the talent bar - we’ve reviewed our global hiring practice, enhancing our processes, introduced quality of hire measures and established business “talent champions” who play a critical role in ensuring every hire we make will contribute to the performance of Expedia Group as a whole. And we implemented business aligned talent acquisition plans.

“For the first time we’ve partnered with our business leadership and people teams to define the TA priorities that will best enable our business strategy. This has given TA a seat at the leadership table, whether that’s bringing market insight to inform strategic business decisions, defining the skills and capabilities we need in the future, or engaging leaders and employees in becoming brand ambassadors and talent scouts for the company.”

Richa: “We worked to turn all of our business stakeholders into brand ambassadors, we completely rethought the way we engage with our candidates – and put their experience into the core of our recruitment processes, upskilled as a team, we worked to create a more organic, recruiting team where ideas and leadership come from all levels, we were able to tie Diversity and Inclusion all together and took great pride in achieving 42% Diversity in Fiscal Year 20 (Aug 19- Sept 20) hires, and currently tracking at 46%”

Craig: “We’ve recruited some very talented individuals – adding to a strong team which now has a very diverse skill set and can drive the talent acquisition agenda forward. They’re all amazing to work with and I can’t wait until we can get back into the office and spend a bit more time together. And the biggest single piece of work which we’ve delivered as a team this year has been the development of our Global EVP. On this 4-month journey we immersed ourselves into our business to fully understand what it’s like to work at IWG.

“Our work has included interviewing senior leaders across the globe, running employee focus groups covering twelve of our main markets, undertaking extensive competitor analysis and market insight & finally, gaining feedback from >5,000 candidates from across 38 countries. This robust EVP development will play a vital role in ensuring we are positioned with creative thought, great branding and a focus on key audiences and job families moving forward. Plus, we now have clear and robust monthly data and insight. This is key to providing the team with the narrative behind the operational delivery and where we can improve both our processes and candidate experience.”

Georgie: “The biggest key achievements of this year include building our content and attraction strategy for Northern Europe, shifting our approach to showcase our employees experience throughout the pandemic and how we have been supporting and engaging with them as an employer, this included a number of posts, videos and articles on various social media channels.It means we have been able to navigate the necessary changes from a hiring perspective on our processes and building mitigation plans in preparation for Brexit, a huge piece of work and project team have been involved in delivering this for Mondelez to ensure we are ready and we have the plans in place attract and hire talent from 2021 onwards.

“Additionally, ensuring we kept our hiring processes human in a virtual environment, adapting our interview and onboarding processes to be fit for purpose but also engaging and supportive and transitioning to a new global HR platform were achievements. I was responsible for leading the NE TA team through this change, which included integrating two teams, training on new ways of working, people manager training and communication and a lot of analysis in the preparation stages – were great change projects to be a part of. We shifted our Glassdoor score from 3.8 to 4.2 in the UK, featured in Target Jobs Top 300 UK graduate employers, beating 2019 rank of 69, coming in at 48 in 2020 and launched a partnership with Vercida as well as a school partnerships program and a new Employer Brand Proposition in Northern Europe, with an internal & external launch.”

Q3: What advice would you offer others for 2021 and the slow return to normal that we are hearing about?

Georgie: “My advice for 2021, if we’ve learnt anything from 2020 is to remain agile in how you adapt to change, don’t be afraid to test and learn in this environment as you may be surprised by what you can achieve.Lead with purpose, always consider the desired outcome of what you’re trying to achieve to understand if it’s meaningful and worthwhile, especially in times of uncertainty. Finally, don’t stop or turn off your other key priorities or goals, if they were important before COVID they will likely be important after COVID and you don’t want to fall behind.”

Craig: “That’s a difficult one.. Everyone’s situation will be different.. But one of the best pieces of advice I was given early in my career was ‘don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone, it’s where you learn’. And as we move into 2021 I like to think that sometimes a wrong turn can actually end up leading you onto a better path - but don’t be afraid to break the mould, take control and create your own.”

Richa: “Become career advisors for your candidates and not just recruiters – be honest with the work challenges and opportunities so you don’t set them up to fail as 2020 has been a very hard year emotionally on many. Empathy has to be at the highest – so do work on ridding one's biases as it is time to become a lot more human than we ever were. And mostly to take care of each other and our teams. As work pressures will mount so take a moment to ask each other how we are doing as it may be a little longer till we see each other physically in a near normal scenario.”

Paul: “I’d suggest taking the time to reflect on what we’ve learnt through 2020, and think about how this can be applied forward for success in 2021. Let's think through how we can leverage our ability to work remotely and flexibly to attract more diverse talent, how we think about wellness as a core part of our value proposition and how that enables performance, and how we align resources to business problems in a more agile way through internal mobility. I’ve also learnt the importance of ruthless prioritization, that when we strip down the TA agenda to what is most important to enable business outcomes, we can make real progress swiftly.”

Danielle: “Firstly we should all stay safe and look after our mental wellbeing, it feels more important than ever. I would also say next year will be a real opportunity for resourcing professionals. We’ve shown you can recruit virtually successfully and there are time and efficiency benefits in doing so. We can also onboard virtually and staff can become effective in this way. We don’t need to commute at 9am and 5pm and we don’t need to pay train or parking fees to deliver to outcomes, but we also miss each other and the office. I think 2021 will change the way we recruit and I really hope it does, such opportunity has been realised from such change and I hope people don't lose the sense of possibility that it has bought.”

Rachael: “2020 has taken us all by surprise and if it has taught us anything it is to prepare for the unexpected.  Ensuring your team remains positive, proactive and solution based is invaluable to providing an excellent service. With the potential return to normal, it is important to continue on with the positives we have all come to value more in 2020 – the working together approach, consideration and understanding of challenges colleagues are facing, while looking for the most efficient, effective solutions to meet your recruitment needs. 

“Regular communication with your team, candidates and Hiring Managers alike, is key to being as well prepared as possible if hit by a crisis.We have streamlined processes to enhance and fast-track turnaround during the pandemic and many of these new or improved methods have been a success. My advice would be to reflect upon the progress that has been made as a result of these improvements and take them forward as permanent changes to working life and recruiting. The challenges that we all faced so unexpectedly, have seen such a proactive response, not just here at Barchester but across the whole sector. This is something to be very proud of and take forward as normality slowly resumes.”

Thanks to the finalists who agreed to talk to Oleeo and Good Luck to you all!

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