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No Room for Recruitment in Workforce Planning

By April 3, 20147 Comments

I’ve been to quite a few recruitment and sourcing related conferences over recent years but this week saw something a bit more progressive, more technical perhaps, hit our shores.  Trevor Vas and his merry band of talent futurists and thought leaders, better known in our industry for the annual Australasian Talent Conference, brought the first Strategic Workforce Planning Conference to New Zealand.

Not the usual recruitment conference populated with sharp-suited agency types, aloof internal types, and wild-eyed suppliers.  No, this was was characterised by analytics geniuses, senior HR bods, mysterious futurists and delegates sporting titles overladen with words like “Organisational Development”, “Workforce Transformation” and “Strategic Innovation”.  Quite the mix, and it was certainly a different flavour.

Having had a couple of days to allow the bright, shiny new ideas and thoughts to settle into the recruitment-shaped furrows in my head (and recover from a minor dalliance with Wellington’s impressive craft beer scene), here are the top five things I took away:

  1. Strategic Workforce Planning is a pretty new phenomenon in New Zealand.  Nearly all the speakers were based overseas, and most of the delegates had no real-life examples from their own organisations to talk to.
  2. Calling it Strategic Workforce Planning in New Zealand probably won’t help HR get the topic taken seriously by NZ Executives.  Something like “working out what people we need in the future so we’re not caught short” will probably go down better, and get the narrative started.
  3. Futurists get to say things like “your strategy is just the vehicle for your vision” and generate a universal nodding of sage approval.
  4. Understanding things like segmentation, big data, and analytics are essential to be taken seriously as a Workforce Planner.
  5. Succession planning in NZ is an established practice but only at the very top end of companies.  Think about what the critical roles are in your organisation, and develop a contingency plan should the role need filling.  Are critical roles always at the C-level?  How about your iOS Developer?  Or your Payroll Manager?

But there was one stark, glaring, in-your-face reality that stood out most of all for me:  The lack of recruitment industry representation at the conference.  Tip of the hat to Tane from Kiwibank, Rona from Fronde, Ali from Contact Energy, Sarah from IAG and Nicola from Drake (let’s hear it for the agencies…) but unless I’ve mistakenly missed someone – that was it.  In a room of 50+ people.  Less than 10%.

The only conclusion I can draw from this is that HR really aren’t keen to get Recruitment involved in the Workforce Planning conversation.  Which seems odd when you consider how the minds of Recruiters work.  Good recruiters are always sniffing out leads, networking, connecting, matching whether in the office or round the BBQ at the weekend.  We can’t help ourselves.  So surely, knowing what your organisation’s, or client’s, plans are for future hiring needs would be a valuable tool in the hands of good recruiters.

The reality is that in NZ most internal recruiters are reactive, bogged down with too many job reqs, too much admin, and the recruitment neurons are suffocated in order to handle the here and now.  Agency side?  Forget it.  Most agencies get job reqs on from clients as a last resort, when all other avenues have failed.  Hopefully the good ones will have the networks, the contacts, and the talent communities already in place to be able to be reactive in an effective way.  But most aren’t, and that’s why you often see multiple agencies chucking the same ad up on SEEK at the same time, often shortly after their client has done the same.

This is how not to do Workforce Planning.  Most recruiters, internal and agency, are keen to strategically partner with HR and Executives in order to avoid this kind of reactive recruitment.  But for many, they’re a long, long way from achieving this exulted status.

If you’re a recruiter who is being included in the Workforce Planning narrative with an engaged client or organisation then well done.  Very well done indeed.  You’ve pretty well nailed it.

Most haven’t.

Jonathan Rice

Director of New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice & Co, co-founder of freelance recruiter platform JOYN, and people-centric technology firm superHUMAN Software. Recruitment innovator, agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • Amanda says:

    I agree with everything that you’ve just said, but for one thing.

    I met a few consultants, some really awesome workforce analytics types, transformational managers, futurists and recruiters. But no ‘HR’ people.

    Perhaps they were all at the HR Directors conference which, from what I hear, Paul Jacobs was the stand-out act with his call to blow up HR.

    Isn’t looking at the future workforce crucial for the future of the HR profession?

    By the way, I LOVED this conference. Future thinkers, challengers, disrupters. I really hope they bring it back next year. Surely we can haul along more HR and recruitment peeps?

  • Tane says:

    Another excellent event put on by Trevor Vas and crew.

    The quote of the conference for me was that the future is already here- it’s just not evenly distributed. Hopefully by having more of these sorts of events we can help to ensure that some of that future gets distributed to NZ.

    Cheers Jonathan.

  • Waz says:

    Sorry not to have made it myself but I was pleased to have got some of our workforce planning people along. I really commend Trevor and Martin for bringing this particualr conference to NZ. We are already a long way behind our Aussie cousins, at least partly courtesy of federal Government mandating workforce planning some years back. There are some good models and practices developed and now maturing, which NZ organisations (public and private) can learn a lot from. This conference is a terrific way of resetting the horizon.

    I do question though why the HR profession hasn’t made more of this important contribution to business planning. Surely its one of the more measureable means of HR contributing to the business strategic planning function.

    For our recruitment team, we work closely with business groups who are planning, and recruitment plans are helping to quantize those efforts. But they are seperate functions with distinct outcomes. Definately room for both disciplines.

  • Thomas says:

    Hi JohnnyI have invented a Talent Identification tool that does not rely on keyrowds, job titles, industry sectors or even CVs.Imagine how hard it is for, for example, a nurse who is sick of nursing to find a job using any of the conventional system.Based on what we call the 10 minute interview our system removes from view, all of the vacancies, for which you have no chance of success, by a factor of 1:100,000. The remaining few are listed, not by confusing job title, but by the employers answer to the question name the one thing without which an applicant has no chance of success candidates can easily dismiss unsuitable vacancies and write a tailored CV for the relevant ones.With most of the job boards etc etc going down the specialist line the 60% of jobseekers are unlikely to be defined by a single job title and are probably unaware of many of the job titles for which they actually have the skills.Our tool works as an add-on to any existing system, and will provide an alternative search for anyone wanting a system to show me which jobs I could do rather than ask me which job I am looking for.I am a start-up I have had some very interesting meeting with one of the UK’s largest job boards and the HR departments of a few FTSE 100s but, at present they are all waiting for another big company to use it first .Very frustrating!Chris