Hiring Success

Episode 10 — Discussions on Hiring as a Global Humanism

Gareth Flynn from TQ solutions joins us at the Hiring Success conference to discuss the global state of TA, HR tech, human-centric skills, and more.

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There were many noteworthy moments at this year’s Hiring Success conference, including a series of on-site podcast interviews with some of the best and brightest minds in talent acquisition. They’ll be released over the next couple of months, starting with this episode. 

Episode 10 features a discussion with Gareth Flynn. He is the managing director of TQ solutions, an advisory and solutions firm for talent acquisition, recruitment, and careers related projects; the co-founder and director of The Career Conversation—a company specializing in digital micro learning and lifelong career development; and a technology advisor and mentor with Udder— a team of experienced recruitment, talent and HR technology specialists.

Gareth traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to San Francisco for Hire 20. Our discussion begins with his general take on the conference and why it’s a unique experience for someone who works in talent acquisition outside of the US. Other topics discussed include the talent shortage as a global phenomenon, micro learning and career development, the increasing importance of creative skills in the modern workforce, and the ways in which technology can actually make us more human.

Episode Transcript

Mason:

Hey everybody. Thank you for tuning in. It’s hard to believe, but it’s already been over two weeks since we wrapped up the Hiring Success conference. There were many noteworthy moments, but what made the conference memorable for me was the opportunity to sit down and talk with some of the sharpest minds in talent acquisition. The interviews we recorded will be released over the next couple of months and we’ll start today with the conversation I had with Gareth Flynn, who traveled all the way from Melbourne, Australia to San Francisco for the conference. Gareth is the managing director of TQ Solutions, an advisory, and solutions firm for talent acquisition recruitment and careers related projects. He’s also the co-founder and director of The Career Conversation, a company specializing in digital microlearning and lifelong career development. He’s a man of many hats and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. Having traveled such a long distance, I was curious to hear about Gareth’s impression of the conference and to see what topics in recruiting and talent acquisition are top of mind for someone from the down under. The discussion that followed is one that you’re sure to appreciate. Enjoy.

Mason:

Gareth, thank you so much for coming onto the podcast. 

Gareth: 

Pleasure, nice to be here Mason.

Mason:

So you’ve come, you’ve traveled quite a long way to join us at Hiring Success. Just sort of initially, what’s your impression of the conference?

Gareth:

Yeah, traveled halfway around the world. So yeah, definitely a long haul flight but really worthwhile, the conference has been really insightful. You know, one of the reasons I came was to hear what’s going on in the US particularly. We’re often asked in Asia Pacific you know, what are the big US companies doing what can we learn from the US. I sometimes get a little bit frustrated by that cause I think we’re actually just as mature in many ways in Australia, but it’s been really great to hear from American businesses. Hear from some of the vendors over here as well. So the conference has great content. Really good to meet people and I’ve obviously learned lots about your product as well. So it’s been great.

Mason:

So I’d be interested in hearing more about your perspective on the differences between talent acquisition in the US and Asia Pacific.

Gareth:

Yeah, look, I think we’ve been suffering from a skill shortage in Australia and Asia Pacific for a very long time. We’re a small country. We have a very small population and we lose a lot of people internationally. And I think, you know, listening to some of the speakers here this week that America seems to…the skills shortage seems to be more recent here and people are grappling with it, especially here in California, whereas I think we, we’ve kind of become accustomed to it in Australia. So some of our ways in which way we’re trying to source and engage people are quite advanced in Australia in some regards. But, but I think that’s, that’s certainly one piece. And but I think on the whole we we are dealing with the same issues. Talent acquisition is not working. Business leaders are increasingly frustrated and companies are trying to fix the broader recruitment model they have. That’s the same here and it’s the same in Australia. So I think those underlying big issues are still are still really similar.

Mason:

Recognizing that there are these shared problems and issues when it comes to talent, do you think that that helps create a global sense of community among people working in TA?

Gareth:

Oh, totally. I mean, as a consultant I’m actually part of quite a few network groups. There’s a couple I’m a member of globally.  whether it be participants in the UK and Europe or here in the US and in Asia Pacific. So there’s a real, there’s a real increasing sense of community. People are very willing to share. You know, there’s virtual webinars with global participants, there’s you know people who go to conferences like me will always network and meet-up with quite similar groups of people. And I think companies that used to be competitors are also willing to share. You know, you may have a big four consultancy firm, really open bookings or another big four consultancy firm or a major bank doing the same, and that one’s happened five years ago. So I think that whole collaboration piece in the industries is really starting to be seen.

Mason:

Yeah. So there’s a lot of knowledge transfer and sharing,

Gareth:

Oh, big time. And you can, if you’ve got a problem, you can WhatsApp a group when you’ve got several suggestions or answers. It, I mean that’s, that’s taken place now and it’s great.

Mason:

And when you’re at a conference like hiring success, how much do you feel like you, you take away the, to inspire you or to give you new ideas about the way that you approach your work?

Gareth:

Oh, every conference I takeaways, some major learnings. So you know, for me, the session I’ve just had with Gary Ball on a few should work or some absolute nuggets in there that I will I will sort of digest and think about and, and take back to clients. I mean there’s some commentary that was very relevant for our current customer in Australia. So, yeah, my, my thinking and the evolution of my thinking has re particularly the last three years where I’ve attended a number of conferences in the US Asia. And the UK, I just learn every single conference I go to and share that with my team and we then share it with our clients is part of what makes my business quite special in that we have a lot of indoor knowledge and understanding what’s going on globally.

Mason:

Yeah. And being here really gives you a sense of just how diverse talent acquisition is as a profession. I think you necessarily have to look at the world through different lenses, technological, sociological, psychological, political, and even sometimes, and I think this, I think this affords people working in TA to kind of find their own niche and develop expertise in things that they’re genuinely interested in or passionate about. What’s your niche in which area do you have the most strength in terms of your interests and professional knowledge?

Gareth:

Yeah, great question. I’m agitating. The function I think is a strength of mine in our company. So we do want to transform what we’re doing. We don’t believe our current frameworks are working, so there’s an agitation and challenge to the status quo, which we, we will poke the bear. I think we’re we’re often used to help develop a business case for change. So bringing some science data and financial, commercial acumen to the table, that’s something we, clients used us for extensively. I think that’s partly because the function, the skills, and the function traditionally have been mostly focusing on HR and recruiting, not necessarily on finance and commerce. And that’s increasingly important as we try to get investment for transformation. And then the other piece for me I’m deemed our HR tech greek in the in the business so on a personal level.

Gareth:

I attended a lot of conferences and events to learn about technology. What plays with what, who are the best in breeds and what can we potentially bring to, climates as we transform. So that that tech piece for me is a, is a really key is it really to keep part of who I am and what I do. And then there are members of my team, for example, a chap called will,  innocent in Australia who’s a brand and experience guy and he brings his specialty to that to the table. But from an employer brand recruitment marketing side, so it’s about your areri ght, its about about piecing some of these experts together with inner client’s to help them with that transformation.

Mason:

Okay. So since you’re a self-described tech geek, let’s continue with the topic of HR tech. Are there any developments in that arena right now that you’re particularly excited about or that you think will be disruptive?

Gareth:

Oh lots, well I think, I mean obviously with what you guys are doing with the core recruitment software is awesome. So I think, you know, the, the, the focus on experience and the, the design of your, your platform is, is great and it’s the future of obviously recruitment technology in terms of its core tech. But I’m loving the area that’s emerging though around mobility. What’s happening globally is a focus on internal hiring. You know, companies are, it’s so hard to recruit externally at the moment. The tenure problems, we’re trying to hold skills and capability within and that now let’s focus on career, career development in some mobility. So the, the likes of platforms such as glorious and fuel 50 as examples. New technology focused on mobility, I’m really excited about because there’s a lot of companies who are focused on developing that capability now and we’ve not had technology cause all the VC money has been pouring into external hiring platforms, It’s now starting to move into internal hiring platforms. So that’s a really exciting emerging space for me.

Mason:

So what are some ways that companies are embracing internal mobility? You mean like shortlisting candidates that they think are fit for a promotion or like offering them internal mobility training programs? I mean, I suppose there are several different ways that, you know, companies are doing that, but I’m just kind of curious.

Gareth:

Yeah, sure, where I see this potentially heading is you know, it’s being coined for the internal talent marketplace. So it’s, it’s enabling your workforce and your hiring leaders to to, to, to access jobs and skills within an internal marketplace. So in the future, employees will have very deep profiles of who they are and what they are and what they want to do and hiring leaders will be able to seamlessly post gigs, projects, the comments, jobs, opportunities within that marketplace and have started to have visibility of skills within that marketplace. So I see that emerging in the future. And to enable that, we have to train and empower our workforce to manage their own career. So they’re going to need to understand their role in the marketplace. At the same time, we’ve gotta really up skilled up the capabilities set of the line leaders. And so that they see that accountability for internal moves. And so, and their technology will enable that to happen once we build the capability of our workforce and our leaders.

Mason:

So I think that what it means to have a career could become much more dynamic and interesting in the future then wouldn’t you say if it becomes standard practice to give employees resources to develop new skills and become lifelong learners? I think that people would probably feel much more engaged, potentially satisfied with the work that they’re doing and then in their jobs.

Gareth:

Oh, totally. I’m so, so for me on, on that topic, I totally agree people but continuously learn where I think it will relate in translation to an internal enterprise is that individuals will start to identify that your career paths like I know partly will be technology-driven with within a company that correct Arthur will identify the learning they need to undertake, which will link into LMS type technologies. Again, and powers and account schools at work workup will need to take that learning self-directed, probably a mixture of microlearning and, and other courses and that will enable them to then move into a preferred career path. So I do see organizations that are really serious about talent and talent retention will start to enable their workforce to develop their own career paths linked to their learning platforms. And that’s where it becomes really exciting. And that just doesn’t happen today. Right. and that’s where I see a lot of the future of internal mobility and learning going.

Mason:

This is kind of a broad question, but which skills do you see the greatest demand for and out of those skills, which would be the easiest or most accessible for employees to acquire through technology?

Gareth:

Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think so. I also have our startup business that operates in in in learning microlearning in particular, and it’s focused on human-centric skills and the skills in most of mind from enterprises at the moment or human-centric skills used to be called soft skills, but they’re actually more soft is not the right word. A human-centric is, is, is, is the skill and the name. And I think that the skills that companies are craving they’re, they’re actually harder cause they involve mindset and behavior change and they do take longer to form and build. But that’s why there’s a fair bit of investment needed. You’re training someone with technical skill is relatively easy. But you know, I heard a stat when I was here in the US couple of years ago that the skill in most demand in Silicon Valley is communication skills.

Gareth:

So, you know, we’ve got technical skills in abundance. We want technical skills actually in a century skills combined that that’s, that’s what companies are needing is also calling up with school and education systems geared up to do that, they are geared up build technical skills, whereas we have focused on human-centric skills. And that’s what companies are really starting to invest. And that, that could be it could be mindfulness, it could be as a communication. I mean there’s a whole range of stuff that will fall under that banner.

Mason:

What you just said stands out to me because at least in the US right now, you often hear people talk about the fact that our current model for higher education produces graduates that don’t necessarily have the skills that are in demand or needed by businesses, for instance, coding, software development. So on. And I think that this has changed the way that a lot of people think about more conventional disciplines or areas of study like the humanities almost as if they are no longer relevant. But you’re making the opposite claim. Yup.

Gareth:

Totally, totally agree with you. You know, that, and again, in, in, in Australia, there are organizations that are working with industry success to set up educational institutions to develop the skills that are required in business for the university sector is not creating there’s a focus on what they call steam skills. So STEM with an a and the a is what Arts subjects. So, you know, we’ve been overly indexing on STEM skills and subjects and now there’s an increasing focus on actually needing the arts subjects. And you, I mean, you raised a really interesting one there around written communication. So important. I’m dismayed that the quality of some of them, and I’ve interviewed and worked with a number of university-educated early entry career people and their written skills appalling. So there art some communication in writing.

Gareth:

Recent form is a, is a lost art and in, in recruitment with a focus on marketing and brand, the of writing and storytelling is really important. Verbal communication skills, storytelling in person is a, is a, is an increasingly important skill. Visual communication with video is an increase, isn’t it? There’s a really, really important skill within our industry sector. You know, we’ve been talking at a conference here around the need for content and that’s gonna be written is going to be video, its in person. And we have, we have to, we have to focus on that.

Mason:

I’d say that a lot of people worry that advances in technologies like AI will eventually deprive us of our humanity. But if you look at things a bit closer it might actually be putting us in a position where our most human attributes are emphasized and accentuated.

Gareth:

And, I totally agree. I think a few years ago we all got caught up in the, you know, that’s also made everything and we don’t need any humans involved in the hiring processes as an example. But you know, we’re now working with companies on their TA strategy. And one of the areas that we’re focused on with them is ask the question, how much human and how much digital and when it’s human, who is it? And once you worked out who, what, what are they doing and what’s, that’s, what’s the skill they need for that, that intervention. So the human versus digital question I think was blindly issued to be we’re going to digitize everything a few years ago. And now companies are going, no, we want some hero moments where humans are involved and those they going to be high-value moments that create big value for either the candidates or the hiring manager. And they are going to be very focused on, on humans to human interaction, not necessarily on technology.

Mason:

Any final thoughts for our listeners on the current state of talent acquisition or the future?

Gareth:

 Yeah, this Came up as a little bit in my answer, the question did come up a little bit yesterday in Jerome’s presentation. When articulating our real value as an industry sector. So you know, we’re seen and perceived in many cases as a, as a back-office cost center and hence, you sector, companies as both TA leaders are struggling with funding and investment. I challenge the industry to start seeing themselves as a value center. But also importantly start measuring metrics that will demonstrate the value you’re creating for an organization. So again, we’ve done a number of business cases with large organizations where our business cases are predicated on company metrics such as revenue creation. So how much more revenue can we create for your organizations through better hiring? Or they may be focused on productivity. How much time can we give your hiring managers back so they can do their job through better hiring and that will have a revenue outcome? So there’s a whole range of things we can focus on that will demonstrate true value. And so I challenge the industry to really focus on value, not cost, because we create immense value for an organization and where recruitment is a multiplier of value if you get it right And that’s why we need to focus. 

Mason:

Gareth Great chatting with you. Thanks for your time, 

Gareth:

No problem Mason, good to catch up. Thanks.

Mason:

This episode of the hiring success podcast may be over, but that doesn’t mean the discussion has to end to keep the convo going. Head to our newly launched site, hiring success.com an interactive online community to shape the future of recruiting. Once again, that’s hiring success. Just like the name of this podcast.com.

Mason Mitchel

Mason Mitchel

Mason Mitchel is the Editor-in-Chief of Hiring Success.