Tag Archives: jobs

Finding the Right Talent for your Business

A company is only as good as the people in it but how, in an ever-changing and developing recruitment environment, do you get the most talented and most fitting candidates to walk through your door?

Many companies have become frustrated by an apparent ‘lack of talent’.  The truth is that there is an abundance of aptitude and flair in virtually every sector.  What many forget is that the company-employee relationship is two-way and that, as an organisation, you must be as attractive to applicants as they need to be to your business.

If you are struggling to hire your dream team, then settle in and peruse our tips, to see if there are areas in your recruitment strategy that could do with a tweak or a rethink.

Your Corporate Profile

One of the most difficult things to do in business is to put yourself in the shoes of others. You may be racking your brain as to why you are not attracting applicants. Profile and reputation are more important than ever, as many elements of your business are visible, your reputation and history are easily accessible to potential employees.  Social media and the culture of branding across all aspects of life mean that the ‘online shopfront’ of your business must be on point. So, how do you look from the outside? What does your company look like to those who don’t already work inside it?

What kind of applicant are you hoping to attract? What demographic? What experience?  What attributes and values? Now you must think about whether your brand appeals to the target recruits.  How visible is your brand in the marketplace? Does the business look like a big enough player in your industry; is the business innovative/cutting edge or have an ethical stance – or whatever values your target employees expect?   

What Do New Graduates Want?

Businesses crave fresh, energetic, relevant and hungry graduates. Hiring these vibrant, ambitious new professionals give companies real energy and new perspectives on problem-solving. However, graduates are not only looking for good salaries.  In fact, studies show somewhat of a decrease in this being the most important factor when seeking long-term employment. When you are scouting for young talent, consider the following:

Progression Opportunities: More than half of graduates now state that the potential for career progression is the number one thing they look for in a job. So, your offer should include a clear structure for progression and professional development opportunities.

Culture: A positive and exciting work environment is now an essential ingredient for a desirable job. In 2017, over 60% of workers under 30 said that they would trade a higher salary for a positive social and professional climate around their job.  Is your company doing enough towards employee happiness and wellbeing?  Not only is this more attractive to applicants, but high workplace wellbeing has been linked to optimum productivity.

Flexibility: How flexible is your working structure? Many millennials have been known to favour less money for good flexibility. With it now being so easy to work remotely, people are also looking for the option to operate from home for some of the time. Can you implement this in your workforce?

Your Recruiting Methods

This is perhaps the biggest problem facing companies looking for the best recruits; how do you get the message out there? How do you reach the people you want on your team and how do you extract the best from your applicants? Well, there are some traditional recruitment methods that have become forgotten in recent years, yet still work extremely well.  There is also a torrent of new ways to get the freshest talent to knock on your door.

Traditional Methods

Newspaper Advertisements: Now, it could certainly be argued that this is outdated.  However, research around the world suggests that this is still a very successful way to reach candidates.  For many, the job pages in the papers (both online and paper publication) are the ‘go-to’ starting point for job searches. So, don’t turn your nose up at this method just yet.

Temp Agencies:This is a sound way to get ‘no-strings-attached’ potential staff through the door. Temp agencies are often teeming with skilled fresh graduates just making a living whilst they wait for the right job to come along. By getting a temp in, you have no obligation to ask them back if they aren’t up to scratch. If, on the other hand, they are wonderful then you, and they, might feel that a perfect match has been found!

Internal Hiring: Never overlook the brilliant people who already work in your organisation. Not only is internal hiring/promotion the simplest way to fill roles (as they already know, and are part of, the infrastructure of the workplace), but it is also the safest way to hire; no risks taken on sub-par skills or questionable personalities.

Modern Methods

Social Media: Yes, it does seem obvious. And yes, social media does have a somewhat controversial reputation, but you would be remiss not to use it to your advantage. We are all glued to our devices, there’s no getting away from it, so social media recruitment posts and advertising will broaden your pool of applicants. Another bonus of this method is that, in the grand scheme of job advertising, using social media channels is relatively low cost.

ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems):  These systems are becoming increasingly popular with businesses of all sizes. ATS essentially deals with all your recruitment needs, cutting down on administrative load, and creates a database of talent that not only corresponds to your current needs, but also keeps candidates on file for future opportunities. There is an ATS to fit any business, check out some of the best software options here.

Open Ended Job Advertisements: This is an interesting development. The standard job description is changing in nature. It has become not uncommon to leave off job titles and parts of job specifications. The idea is that a more diverse range of professionals will apply for the posts, basing their application more on the content of the prospective job as opposed to the title.

Updated Interview Techniques and Job Auditions: ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’ is an interview question that is soon to be left in the past. Interview techniques are changing; there are a number of ways to get a better read on your candidate with a few tweaks in your technique, check out a few here. We are also seeing a rise in the ‘job audition’; getting candidates to spend a few hours in the job for which they are applying to see if they really do match up to their CV.  This is a much more practical and telling way of assessing a potential addition to your team.

So, there we have it. How many of these tips and techniques will you be trying out for your business? The addition of just a handful of these ideas will help you to populate your business with a talented and driven workforce that is just as positive about working for you as you are to have them on your team.

Nikita Kachanovsky on Unsplash

AI: A threat or opportunity for UK businesses?

SMF President, David Falzani,  explores the challenge AI poses to business and wider society.

The hypothetical outcomes of AI for business have ranged from utopian to hysterical among commentators, with many focusing in particular on the implications of AI and automation for work – and the risk of redundancies. The Bank of England estimates that 48% of human workers will eventually be replaced by robotics and software automation.  ArkInvest meanwhile predicts that 76 million US jobs will disappear in the next two decades.

Daniel J. Arbess, writing for Fortune magazine, goes as far as to argue that “the accelerating penetration of job-displacing software presents maybe the most serious (and still underappreciated) socio-economic challenge to market economies in generations, both in our own country and abroad.” Jobs, it seems, are the biggest worry. “Applied software technology reduces costs and prices, taking fewer consumption dollars a longer way. We’re starting to hear a lot about this, because entrepreneurs, investors and shareholders of companies will be enjoying epic financial rewards from the AI economy–but what about everyone else?  People still need jobs.”

Meanwhile, Professor Stephen Hawking raised the stakes somewhat in 2014 saying “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.” whilst Elon Musk warned that AI is “our biggest existential threat”.

AI is, then, conveyed as a threat to business, employment, and even existence, sometimes by people who don’t understand how the technology is currently being used, sometimes by the science and technology community. At the same time, it’s floated as the basis for a universal basic income and the new Industrial Revolution, as well as massively increased efficiencies across all industries. So is AI a threat or an opportunity for UK businesses?

Blake Irving, the CEO of GoDaddy, a global web hosting company, explains that “the AI that’s real today is known as ‘Narrow AI’.” Rather than worrying about super intelligent Skynets wiping humanity off the face of the earth, Blake argues we should instead focus on narrow AI as “what’s actually changing everything.” Citing Rand Hindi, who defines narrow AI as “the ability for a machine to reproduce a specific human behaviour, without consciousness… a powerful tool to automate narrow tasks, like an algorithm would”, Irving argues that narrow AI will replace or transform any job where information gathering and pattern recognition drive a volume business. “That’s not just labourers. That’s accountants, traders, estate agents, lawyers, software developers, and on and on.”

A good example of this ‘narrow AI’ can be seen in eBay’s introduction of personalised homepages and a ‘ShopBot’ for its users. “Using structured data – a transformative step to drive discoverability of our vast inventory, insights into supply and demand, pricing trends, among other things – and artificial intelligence, we’re creating a shopping experience that is tailored to each eBay user’s interests, passions and shopping history,” CEO Devin Weing explains. “With more than one billion items … we’re making shopping on eBay all about you, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach.” This is massively increasing sales conversions for the company and its traders.

Irving goes on to examine three categories of ‘AI insulated jobs’: those which require meaningful creative interactions with other people; those that won’t be replaced due to the limitations of robotics but will be transformed side-by-side with Narrow AI tools; finally, entrepreneurial roles, which can encompass such a diversity of work as to be difficult to automate. Irving uses these categories to argue that the ‘end result’ of AI displacing jobs will be the need for a population better educated to manage or interface with AI. It will, in other words, incentivise skills-based specialist technology education and ultimately spur a demand for creative thinking and skills, the things that narrow AI cannot provide.

The structuring of data that narrow AI affords us isn’t so much abolishing old skills and roles, then, as it is creating a demand for integrating new capabilities into the modern business plan. If anything, it is actually increasing the demand for creative entrepreneurs, whose skill sets are more valuable than ever while productivity and efficiency shoots up across the board thanks to AI. A similar increase in productivity was seen in the 1990s due to the implementation of MRP and MRP2 that saw skilled and semi skilled roles replaced with algorithms.

It might be worth considering that every threat is an opportunity because it forces change. The exploding volume of literature on the so-called AI revolution suggests that these technological developments may offer massive efficiency improvements, and radical changes to how businesses get things done. Are you able and willing to turn AI into an opportunity to radically overhaul skill sets and workplace practices to keep ahead of the curve, or are you not in a position to invest in this fledgling technology yet, and at risk of falling behind? The answer depends largely on the kind of organisation you run, to what extent it has information gathering and pattern recognition centred tasks, and how open it is to change, as well as how well you grapple with the reality of AI technology as it currently stands.

Searching for the Right Post-MBA Job

Fang Fang
SMF Fang Fang

In August 2011, when I walked in London Business School for the first time, I had no idea what to expect.

Until then, my career path had been very simple: five years as a civil engineer in the same UK engineering consultancy. Unlike many of my classmates, I was not sure I would like a career switch. When I was surrounded by bankers, strategy consultants, marketers and entrepreneurs, my mind went completely blank. I had no idea what M&A, customer acquisition or global business leaders mean; not to mention what kind of job I could do after the MBA.  What should I do?

Shock and fear drove me to take immediate actions. I decided to use the two years at LBS to explore. An MBA provided the best platform for me to step out of the engineering design world, to try out different industries and roles, to experience different cultures and to exchange ideas with similar minded people. I did not want to waste a single minute of it.

I worked seven days a week and used every possible opportunity to learn, to research and to network. Besides classes and exams, I completed one project and two internships in three industries in three countries. I spent one exchange term in the US and travelled to many more countries. I participated in every major school event and many business competitions. Some say an MBA is a journey to find yourself. It was exactly through these experiences I started to realise my strengths and weaknesses, my interests and my career options.

My first project came through the discussion board on the LBS intranet, three months into my MBA. It was to help a LBS alumnus, a managing director of the UK arm of a large international construction group, to analyse M&A pipeline targets in the UK construction industry. I secured the job by partnering with a classmate with an M&A background. The successful completion of this project boosted my confidence that I was able pursue a non-engineering career.

When the summer recruiting season began, I was determined to try something totally outside my comfort zone. After numerous mock and real interviews, I won my first internship with the Boston Consulting Group in its Melbourne office. This internship exposed me to the fascinating world of strategy consulting as well as to the magical land and waters of Australia. The challenges to transform from a frontline civil engineer in the UK to the advisor of the top management of a major Australian retailer were beyond my imagination. However, I was equipped with the excellent BCG database and toolkit and supported by extremely intelligent and warm colleagues.

During and after the internship, I also travelled along the south and east coasts of Australia. Interacting with local people furthered my understanding of the country and culture. Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, riding the waves around Tasmania, night climbing of the Sydney Harbor Bridge and watching whales, koalas and kangaroos along the Great Ocean Road have become unforgettable memories of my life.
Fang Fang at Sydney Harbour Bridge 2Fang Fang at Sydney Harbour Bridge

Shortly after my return from Australia, I headed to the Netherlands for my second internship at Shell headquarters in the Hague. Life in the country of windmills, bicycles and tulips was not always rosy. I had to deal with the language barrier while taking up a challenging project at work.My project was to develop a market strategy for the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) business.

My background as a civil engineer helped me to understand many aspects of LNG projects and the value chain. Shell was a very international company with a strong networking culture.  People in my team were mostly Masters and PhDs in mathematics or economics with international field sales and strategy experience. I benefited enormously by learning from them and became friends with many. In addition, I spent a considerable amount of time meeting people in different divisions who offered me valuable insights on Shell and their career experience. Working at Shell headquarters was a great opportunity for me to see the workings of the largest company in the world and to learn how incredibly bright and successful corporate leaders think and operate.

The classroom knowledge at LBS laid a very good foundation for me to pursue a management career. My projects and internships taught me the real world, real people and real challenges. Together they transformed me, from a technical design engineer into a commercial and people- minded manager. They also helped me to confirm my passion for the engineering industry and to realise my interest in strategy and operations management.

Soon a perfect opportunity came up. In autumn 2012, the CEO* Program (Chief Executive Opportunity Program) at Siemens came to recruit at LBS. The Siemens CEO* Program is a recently founded and unique leadership program for MBA graduates. Each year, the program recruits six associates globally. The associates have both engineering and business backgrounds and aspire to become general managers in a global company. Top global leaders at Siemens are heavily involved in selecting and mentoring the CEO* Associates. Over the two year program, each CEO* Associate is usually tasked with three international assignments, completely personalised to suit his/her development needs.

To get the job, I went through four rounds of interviews, with the CEO* Program team, with the head of Strategic Projects at Siemens, with a division CEO and finally, with then global CEO of Siemens Peter Löscher. My learning from these interviews is very simple: be yourself, know what you want and be clear about what you can bring to the company. To me, interview skills help you to tell your stories more effectively, but who you are and what skills you have acquired through the years determine how far you can go in the recruiting process.

Siemens is a great company that cares about the development and welfare of its employees. My on-boarding included management training, intercultural training and German language training. The CEO* Program team took great care of all my relocation issues and assignment search. In October 2013, I started my first assignment in the Strategy and Business Development team of Siemens’ train business in Berlin, mentored by the division CEO of this multi-billion euro business. Currently I am leading a project that aims to optimise the sales organisation and approaches in some 20 countries. It is a great opportunity for me to gain an overview of the train business, to gain an appreciation of the business planning, development and sales at Siemens and to understand the highest level strategic topics of a global business.

I am very grateful for every opportunity I was given. Without financial support from the Sainsbury Management Fellowship and the LBS Annual Fund Award, pursuing an MBA would only have been a dream. I sincerely appreciate the job opportunities from the great people and companies mentioned above. My post-MBA journey has just started. I am excited about the new challenges ahead.