Mike Foster of Advanced RPO Discusses How COVID Reshaped Recruitment

by Guest

The COVID pandemic has changed talent acquisition (TA). TA professionals and consultants have been on the front lines of all the changes. The Recruitment Process Outsourcing Association (RPOA) is talking to prominent RPO leaders to learn about the recent changes in the TA space. 

In this third segment of the series, RPOA talked with Mike Foster of Advanced RPO. Here’s an edited version of the interview.

RPOA: Is COVID the main culprit in the talent shortage?

Not at all. According to Foster, today’s skill shortage has been fomenting since 2015 when the job market really began to see acute skill shortages in specialized skill areas, such as cybersecurity, biotech, and skilled manufacturing. However, COVID exposed how razor-thin talent margins are today. “During the pandemic, many companies laid-off workers or froze hiring. Now, as companies work to rebuild their workforces, the talent shortage that they might have ignored a few years ago or weren’t convinced of, is hitting them twice as hard today. They can’t fill jobs, and that’s hurting productivity. Turnover is up and candidates are hard to find and even harder to hire,” said Foster.

How has COVID affected the RPO-client relationship?

Foster has seen RPO-client relationships strengthen and expand with the challenges of COVID. “Clients are starting to go deeper into our solutions capabilities, expanding beyond recruiting results and talent quality,” said Foster. He explained that more clients are asking for support in areas like employer branding, talent engagement and employee retention, looking for expertise across the full employment life cycle. 

As businesses work to add more personal engagement and human touch to the employment life cycle, they are tapping into the broad workforce management expertise of RPO partners. “Despite hiring thousands of people for clients this year, Advanced RPO has been able to maintain direct human contact with those candidates through the recruiting process. Few in-house recruiting and HR teams could replicate the talent engagement and connection engine of an RPO provider,” said Foster.

One final note from Foster on clients is that scalability has become a key value driver for RPO clients. The need to rapidly hire and onboard talent has never been greater. Many businesses are turning over more of their recruiting needs to RPO experts in order to keep pace with the continuous demand.

How are businesses changing their talent strategies to manage skill shortages?

Foster explained how the talent shortage has prompted many businesses to shift their focus from skills to potential. Why? Because employers are realizing that they will have to play a bigger role in the training and development of their employees. Rather than passing up talent for gaps in skills or experience, they're looking at the talent market for training potential. Are they coachable and eager to learn? Can they be taught and trained efficiently? The talent assessment, in many cases, has shifted to examining a candidate’s potential rather than ensuring they have every skill set coming into the role.

“This embrace of training needs to be a long-term strategy for employers today because the skills gap isn’t going away when COVID does,” said Foster. He underscored that other factors, such as the continued retiring of Baby Boomers, will continue to exacerbate talent shortages and skill gaps.

How has the recent focus on diversity and inclusion helped or hurt employers?

When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in recruitment, Foster revealed that job seekers and employees are demanding authenticity in a company's approach. In recent months, Foster and his team have seen retention and turnover issues flare up at organizations where DE&I promises did not match the reality employees were experiencing on the job. What many employers seemed to forget as DE&I became front and center for businesses in 2020 is that the people you employ and the people you are recruiting are paying attention to those commitments. Employers that do not follow through on stated DE&I commitments or make diversity statements without taking action are putting their employer brand at risk.

How big of a role should tech have in the recruiting process?

Foster shared that in the last few years, technology has driven most recruiting processes. Efficiency gains, especially in helping various talent management engagement platforms talk to each other and share data, have been especially helpful.

However, he is now seeing a strong shift back to human-centric engagement with technology assisting, but not driving, the overall recruiting processes. Because recruiting and talent acquisition are fundamentally people-driven processes, recruitment technology can help or hinder recruiters depending on how effectively it supports good interpersonal engagement. "People want to talk to a person when it's about big decisions like their work and life. That makes hiring a very touch-oriented process,” said Foster.

He explained that a good recruiting process leverages technology to make certain communications more efficient, such as interview reminders or confirmations of application submissions. But tech cannot replace in-person engagement. From interviews and phone calls, to personalized emails and texts, people appreciate outreach that proves there are people looking out for them through the process.

About Mike Foster.Mike is Client Services Director at Advanced RPO, to get his perspective. In the recruitment space for 15 years, Mike started his RPO journey at ADP RPO as an account manager. He has been with Advanced RPO since 2018. His work includes building positive, productive relationships with business leaders and departments while closely supporting the account recruitment team as a manager, mentor, and coach.

For more industry insights, Join Joe Marino and other top RPO and TA leaders at RPOA's free virtual conference on October 12, 2021 

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