THE WHITECROW WHISPER

A quarterly digest of facts, figures and opinion from the Talent Acquisition Sector

APRIL 2024

If you care, share

How companies are (still) putting profit before purpose

We recently took on some work for a company which wanted to benchmark its DEI policies against those of its competitors. We thought it would be easy. Just a case of contacting the DEI leader in each firm, explaining what we’re trying to do, and then getting the relevant insight.

Wrong. We soon discovered nobody wanted to talk to us. We got the insight anyway (because that’s what we do) but the initial reluctance to share left us scratching our heads.

To recap, we were talking about diversity initiatives. Not sales figures. This is information which is supposed to be pre-competitive. Unless of course, a company decides to make it competitive.
Which then begs the question: are you trying to be diverse or just more diverse than everyone else?

We see the same sort of halo-polishing in other areas. I once saw a Health & Safety leader high five a colleague because the oilfield services company they both worked for had only logged four serious accidents that month. This seemed rather a lot to me but it was quickly explained that the figure was significantly below industry average. Hence the jubilation. My clients, it appeared, weren’t really bothered about safety, just safety statistics.

Diversity and health & safety are areas where companies should be working together. So too sustainability, employee welfare, mental health, return-to-work schemes, regulatory compliance, philanthropy and a host of other shared challenges.

Of course, there is some collaboration. That’s why cross-industry bodies exist. But too often these simply put out joint statements of principles and targets. They focus on the end-goal rather than the means of getting there.

If corporates are sincere about compassionate capitalism – and we don’t doubt this – then they need to be more open with each other. That begins with pooling information. If you’ve found a
smart way to attract women to your organization, why not share it? If you’ve reduced your carbon emissions, let other companies in on the secret.

WhiteCrow and other insights companies have a crucial role to play in creating a more caring world. We’re the brokers who collate the data and then share it around. But we can’t do this on our own. We need you to help us help you.

Let’s start sharing.

The World According to WhiteCrow

As the world’s largest sourcing and recruitment company, WhiteCrow works with clients
across multiple geographies and sectors. So a brief glance at what we’re working on
ought to provide a clue to what’s going on in the wider market . . .

  • Unless you’re in the Christmas tree recycling business, January can often be a little slow. With annual plans yet to be finalized and some decision-makers only drifting back to the office in the second week, it can take a while for the new year to get going in earnest. This January, though, was brisk and busy for WhiteCrow Research.
  • Then, as the graphics below demonstrate, it got steadily busier. A 1.7% uptick in recruitment projects in February developed into an 11.1% increase in March. We saw a similar pattern with research projects which expanded by 7.3% and then 18.8%.
  • These figures are further evidence of a global economy that is steadily recovering, with inflation coming down across most major countries and corporate purse strings being loosened accordingly.
  • Another good sign is the variety of companies we worked for in the last quarter; not only did our project portfolio feature many different sectors, but it also included a number of relatively small companies. It’s one thing if the big global brands are hiring (and our roster includes plenty of those), but it’s even more encouraging when companies most people haven’t heard of also feel confident enough to invest in talent and insight.

Talentomics

Whatever your view on the big issues of the day, we can all agree these are
unpredictable times. So now more than ever Talent teams need to be across the
numbers. Below, we share a selection of economic charts and comment briefly on their
implications for recruitment.

  • Oh dear. A recent poll found that UK workers in their late 20s to early 40s are among the least likely in the world to consider work either ‘rather’ or ‘very important’. That compares to results of close to 100% in other countries.
  • The World Values Survey found that only four out of 10 UK respondents believe hard work brings a better life and just a fifth (22%) were of the opinion that work should always come first.
  • So what explains these results? It’s hard to imagine that the UK COVID furloughscheme (essentially paying people to do nothing for months on end) isn’t part of the answer. There might also be some validity to the notion that smartphones have slowly destroyed a generation’s ability to concentrate for any length of time. But that wouldn’t explain the far better outcomes in other countries.
  • Whatever the explanation, it’s clearly high time for a cultural reset in the UK. It’s quite right that companies have sought to redress work / life balance in recent years but if we’ve reached the point where a third of workers don’t believe work has any importance at all, then Talent Directors better beware.
  • Most talent professionals would agree that a hiring process is most likely to break down at the eleventh hour; in other words, when the relevant parties get down to discussing money.
  • With this in mind, we thought it might be instructive to run a survey to gauge the average person’s salary expectations. Using our multi-location research team, we reached out to 106 people across Europe and Asia Pacific.
  • A full analysis of our results can be seen here but perhaps the most eye-catching outcome is that over half of all respondents want a 25-plus percentage salary raise, even for a job that it otherwise perfect in every way.
  • Could be time for hiring managers to lead less on company culture (which most candidates take as a given these days) and accept that money still speaks loudest.

  • We’re currently doing some location analysis for a well-known consulting firm which wants to start up a talent hub in a low-cost location. Having done plenty of similar projects in the past, we know that choosing the right place is about much more than talent volumes and pay levels.
  • Any hiring process needs to be sustainable; in other words, the people you hire need to stick around; or, if they don’t, they should be easily replaced by other people who are happy to live and work in the location you’ve chosen.
  • Once a client understands this, they quite rightly become much more interested in things like transport, crime, safety, culture and green spaces.
  • But a recurring issue is that many of the most popular outsourcing locations are becoming rather dangerous; in the US, for example, once-popular talent hubs such as Cleveland and Minneapolis now feature among the country’s top 20 most violent cities.
  • The same issues present themselves at a global level, as the graph above shows; remember, the lower the crime index the better, whereas with the and safety index it works the other way around.

So said a Country Manager for a well-known FMCG brand. His point was that the business had no succession plan in the event of his departure (or demise). This was all the more surprising because the brand in question is a global business which you’d think would be more organized than they appear to be. But plenty of other companies are playing the same game of Russian roulette with their senior talent. Perhaps it’s because they think nobody will be interested in talking to them unless they’ve got an immediate vacancy to fill. But that’s unlikely to be true. In our experience, succession planning is a win-win. It works for the candidates because they get to understand a business months or even years in advance of embarking on a detailed dialogue with them. And it works for the company because, well, they know what to do if someone goes under a bus.

Wordplay

Like any industry, recruitment has its lexicon of odd words and phrases. The best of
these serve to illuminate complex topics; the worst merely confuse and obfuscate.
As for the rest, well, let’s take a closer look . .

History doesn’t record the first use of the word ‘leverage’ but it’s reasonable to assume it coincides with the invention of levers in around 5,000 BC. No doubt the word also crops up fairly frequently in the writing of Archimedes, the Greek mathematician who explained the trade-off between force and distance. So how come it’s ended up as a staple of corporate chit chat? As in “Don’t try to fix your own computer, just leverage the IT team”. Or “My lasagna’s gone cold; perhaps I should have leveraged the microwave”.

As these examples show, the word has undergone a mysterious transformation from noun to verb. Nothing wrong with that per se, except that the English language already has a perfectly decent word which performs exactly the same function: ‘use’. So why do people persist with the far sillier ‘leverage’? The easy answer is to suggest they’re trying to sound clever. But that’s unfair. No, the reason people prefer corporate jargon to plain speaking is because it signifies inclusion. By parroting the latest office neologism, you indicate belonging to a group.

In that sense, use of jargon is a pretty good measure of corporate loyalty. So next time you hear one of your team leverage the word ‘leverage’, just console yourself they’re probably not interviewing anywhere else at the moment.

Contact

To discuss any of the issues raised in this month’s newsletter or to explore how
WhiteCrow Research can help with any of your talent insight and recruitment
needs, please contact us.

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