Talent strategies use tech as backup for human plans

Lebo Tseladimitlwa, new HR senior director, DHL Express sub-Saharan Africa, joined DHL six weeks ago, but has been an HR professional for over 20 years. She says over the years, she has seen information technology significantly improving a number of areas of the HR practitioner’s work. “For example, when I am looking for specialised, senior skills, I do not even place an ad anymore. I turn to LinkedIn, where it is a simple matter to find professionals with the necessary skills sets and approach them directly.”

Social media has rapidly become the first port of call for companies seeking new staff, due to its vast reach, low cost and easy accessibility. It has also proved to be an excellent advertising and referrals mechanism, as well as a research tool for HR practitioners looking into the backgrounds of job candidates. Recruitment firm Robert Walters found in a study recently that 64% of companies use professional social media to inform hiring decisions, while one in two companies is prepared to search for information about candidates on personal social media sites. However, Tseladimitlwa believes Facebook is not the place to seek information about a candidate. “People can have very different approaches to their work and personal lives. This is especially true of young people. I would not judge people on what they place on their Facebook page, but I lean heavily on LinkedIn for background research,” she says. 

Facebook notes that with over 1.1-billion users, its platform is used by prospective staff members across all levels, and as such is an effective tool for advertising posts. It cites the recent success of Hard Rock Café, which converted Facebook fans into hires when opening a new location in Florence, Italy. The Florence venue page gathered over 6 100 fans in its first four days, with Hard Rock Café receiving 4 000 applicants in four weeks. Of these,120 people were hired.

Large enterprises such as DHL also use their own systems, such as DHL’s global MyTalentWorld, to advertise posts and accept applications. “The advantage of this is that employees and HR around the world can all access the system. Someone could be sitting in Europe and the US and could find talent and high potential candidates in Africa or vice-versa, so retaining key skills in the company,” says Tseladimitlwa.

Says Anisha Archary, HR director at Old Mutual Emerging Markets: “We have a two-tiered strategy when it comes to social media for recruitment. The first one is targeted at entry level or graduate level employees where we engage them through YouTube, videos, Facebook, and targeted online banners on the Top Employers Institute website, Careers South Africa, as well as the South African Graduate Employers Association website. The second strategy is for experienced hires, where we make use of LinkedIn and Facebook to immerse brand presence. We harness the power of online professional websites such as LinkedIn, xing.com and ecademy.com. We leverage social networking, blogs, forums and special interest groups to promote Old Mutual’s employer brand.”

Information sharing and staff surveys too have benefited immensely from software and online communications. Now memos and urgent notices and company newsletters can be shared, and collaboration between geographically dispersed teams can take place in real time at low cost, using instant messaging, intranets, video conferencing and collaboration platforms. 

“DHL has thousands of staff across 52 countries in Africa. When the company carried out staff surveys in the past, the surveys were paper-based and it took a great deal of time to collate and analyse the results. Now, using online questionnaires and analytics tools, we are able to monitor responses in real time, identify common issues, break down results by region and quickly share them with regional HR for action.”

Because the company is highly tech-focused, DHL has ensured that employees at every level have been trained in computer use and have access to connected PCs, says Tseladimitlwa. “The intranet and email are important communications tools for us, so we ensure that even blue collar workers have computer skills, connected access, and their own email address. This facilitates more effective communications across a broad geographical area.” 

 “Technology and talent development go hand in hand,” she notes. 

Archary agrees: “We are living in a digital era and therefore all organisations are faced with the challenge of having leading technology to support HR practices. Consumers transact through mobile devices and online platforms. Our future employee base prefers this method of communication too. Organisations are looking for most effective and cost effective ways to reach employees, and therefore the shift is evident in more businesses leveraging mobile connectivity and virtual working tools like video conferencing to minimise travel costs.”  But, she adds, technology must support and enable business decisions rather than replace the personal contact that people enjoy with each other. 

Archary says Old Mutual is constantly seeking ways to improve its HR platforms. “Our business has invested in a long-term IT strategy that enables different areas of the business. This investment includes a variety of options on how we can improve employee and manager self-service. We have implemented a single source strategy that combines HR and Finance processes in order to support the business as a true business partner.”

Improving work life

Under discussion at every CIO gathering is the question of enabling mobility in the enterprise. Companies around the world have come to terms with the fact that a mobile workforce is a more productive — and happier — workforce. In the “Bring Your Own Everything” era, employees want the freedom to access work-related applications and data from anywhere, on the device of their choice and they want to use the app of their choice too — including “consumer” apps such as Dropbox and Skype. Effectively harnessing the power of mobility and BYOx management tools allows enterprises to offer employees more flexible work arrangements and access to productivity apps they feel comfortable with. This is particularly important in attracting and retaining next generation employees, who have grown up with always-on access to a multitude of apps.

With professional development and a clear career path also crucial for job satisfaction, technology offers a multitude of development, learning and succession planning tools. Says Tseladimitlwa: “Remote learning is currently the trend, so we offer staff customised internal and e-learning as part of our comprehensive training programmes.” As is the case in many enterprises, DHL makes use of gamification to make its e-learning courseware more engaging for all levels of staff. 

Predicting patterns

Big data and predictive analytics tools have an increasingly important role to play in the work of the HR department. By processing vast volumes of disparate data, advanced analytics tools are increasingly used to reveal previously unseen trends and patterns. Already, analytics tools have proved highly successful in identifying human behavior patterns that indicate an increased risk of insurance or financial services fraud, or of a customer moving to a competitor. 

But there is also scope to use analytics to predict the likelihood of an employee leaving the company, becoming demotivated or even committing fraud. Early identification of the warning signs will allow HR to take proactive steps to avoid a problem. In the US, the department of veteran affairs has famously harnessed predictive analytics in its Durkheim Project in a bid to lower the suicide rate among military veterans. Based on demographics and personnel’s social media posts, among other data, the authorities are alerted to warning signs of a potential suicide.

This article is part of a larger supplement which can be found here.

The supplement has been made possible by the Mail & Guardian’s advertisers and the content has been vetted by the Top Employers Institute.