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A new focus on talent attraction: shift from conventions to compelling convictions


Talent transactions are progressively rising. The activity of a significant number of companies across many geographies has finally been aroused. One of the immediate consequences of this awakening is the need to identify, select and bring on board new professionals into the organization.

Soaked in the euphoria of market activation, we can fall prey to forgetting all too quickly the situation we experienced years ago when many professionals with impressive skills and talent were expelled from their respective organizations when the projects they were hired for disappeared, or when their employers could no longer cover their contractual rates. In a nutshell, the recent past ought to encourage us to think that identifying, recruiting and on-boarding talent is a task comes with high levels of responsibility.

Attracting is not just an act of wooing; it is an exercise in responsibility whereby a professional identifies and analyzes to what extent the expectations, interests, desires and skills of another professional can bring added value to an organization and ideally all within the framework of valuable conversations…

However in this arousal of supply and demand there seems to be no marked progress on how most talent attraction and on-boarding strategies are focussed. Most organizations are still attached to a handful of conventions when it comes to identifying and attracting talent; they often cannot see the wood for the trees.

Power: brand vs. person

One of the most widespread and pervasive practices in any talent attraction process involves a selective scrutiny of those professionals working for organizations with “premium” branding or a good reputation in their respective sectors. Most recruiters and head hunters lose objectivity as soon as they give more importance to professionals who develop their career in top-level companies. We allow ourselves (me included) to be guided by the belief that the “best” work for a reputable company. So in this heavily biased process, professionals with levels of motivation and skills well above this hypothetical “top level” slip past our radar and through our fingers. Such professionals we will never even get to know because their current employer seem second or third rate to us. Being drawn to the power of the brand a professional works for—instead of being drawn to the power of the person—is a dangerous and restrictive conventionalism in talent identification matters.

The trap of sector inbreeding

In the same vein, most of us recruiters and head hunters allow ourselves to be caught up in the dangerous trap of sector in-breeding. “Possessing sector/industry experience” is as categorical as it is inefficient for a large number of positions and roles in the knowledge economy—especially when it comes to recruiting professionals to work in “staff” or so-called “business support” positions. Even when it comes to identifying and selecting professionals whose focus will be on the operational and commercial side of the core business of the company, increasingly it does not seem so intelligent to focus efforts on attracting talent from among professionals who come from or have mainly developed their career essentially within the same sector. A convention entrenched in the belief that familiarity with the sector or industry guarantees high levels of performance and productivity—nothing further from the truth. However and even though there is no direct correlation, many talent professionals fall prey to sector in-breeding, fostering this way high levels of sector homogeneity within the organization, a questionable practice at least, if we take into account our social business environment needs to increasingly develop a more divergent and a more diverse outlook to face the complexity and changes we are experiencing.

The paradox of prior job experience

Following convention, talent professionals are tempted to try and identify and select those professionals who have specific experience in the same “job post”. A rather unproductive practice which poises on the belief that a post has the same functional impact, content and weight across all organizations… something likely in manual jobs typical of the industrial economy, but absolutely unlikely in any role within the knowledge economy.

In the knowledge economy the nature of work has changed, this is much less obvious and predictable than in the industrial economy. In other words, there is an extremely high probability that in the short term, content and tasks and responsibilities associated with any "job" in the knowledge economy will change. This probability will turn upside down the belief that a professional who already held a position will do exactly the same in a "similar" position in another company...

We focus our energy on identifying professionals who possess specific experience for a given job when paradoxically the job post and what is done there will be substantially different from the tasks and responsibilities we identified and recruited.

Shift from convention to compelling convictions…

Duped by the fleeting glamour derived from rendering services for a well-known or “premium” company instead of discovering the treasure of genuine talent within each person…

Limiting the universe of talent attraction to just professionals coming from the same sector, thinking that we enrich the organization when in fact we only contribute to homogenize the way of perceiving reality, rather than admitting professionals of diverse backgrounds whose divergence make it possible to tackle more complex and uncertain circumstances…

In addition, to be trapped by the notion that a professional with experience in a given job will perform exactly the same function in this “matching post” instead of identifying flexible professionals to handle change with sufficient energy to create their own job post depending on the constantly changing and unexpected circumstances.

This is about powerful conventions in talent attraction, which far from generating value, increasingly represent barriers to the need for identifying and capturing talent based on other compelling convictions…

The conviction that a professional has a capacity and personal mark that transcends the brand of whoever employs him…

The conviction that the more diverse the source of talent, the more complete will be the ability to analyze the reality of the entire organization and thus, the more reliable will be the capacity to react to the market…

The conviction that previous experience is short-lived and that it isn’t necessary to possess this experience as well as the required skills and competencies to allow a professional to design and build his own job and generate genuine value for the business…

In short, actions which define a new era in terms of talent identification, attraction and selection…an era in which organizations, leaders and professionals must focus on talent with absolute conviction…

Andrés Ortega

Andrés Ortega es Licenciado en Sociología en la Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Master en Dirección de RRHH en el Instituto de Empresa, y Executive Coach por la Escuela Europea de Coaching. Experto en gestión de personas y procesos de gestión del cambio en Organizaciones. Su actividad profesional desde el año 1998 siempre ha estado ligada al área de gestión de personas. Ha liderado la función de RRHH en entornos locales y multinacionales en diferentes empresas: ALSA & National Express (Transporte de viajeros) como Director de desarrollo de RRHH y Adjunto a Dirección de RR.HH. Sandisk Corp. – Director de RRHH en la Mobile Network Division, en Maersk Logistics (División Logística del Grupo AP Moller Maersk) cmo Director RR.HH para Iberia, Francia y Maghreb y liderando proyectos europeos y globales en procesos de innovación en RR.HH. También ha desarrollado su actividad profesional consultoría estratégica de gestión de RR.HH. como Director asociado en Humannova consultores y como profesional independiente desarrollando proyectos de innovación en gestión de talento y trasformación digital. En la actualidad es Head of Talent & Learning en ING Bank para España y Portugal. En paralelo a su actividad ejecutiva en el área de RR.HH participa, co-lidera y dinamiza diferentes proyectos: Gerente de Innovación en RR.HH. en la Fundación Personas y Empresas del Grupo BLC. Miembro de la Comisión de Innovación en la Asociación Española de Directores de RR.HH. Co-fundador de The People Club, iniciativa de gestión del conocimiento multidisciplinar a través de las personas, co-organizador de TEDxAlcarriaSt y Profesor asociado en The European University y en el Senior Management Program in Digital Talent de ESIC.

Andrés Ortega holds a BA in Sociology from the Universidad de Complutense in Madrid, and a Master’s in HR Management from the Instituto de Empresa business school, and trained as an Executive Coach at the Escuela Europea de Coaching. An expert in people management and change management processes; his career ever since 1998 has always had close ties to the people management field. He has held posts in HR Management in various local and multinational companies in different organizational environments, ALSA and National Express (Travel Transport) as HR Development Manager and HR Deputy Manager (1999 – 2006) Sandisk Corporation as HR Manager in the Mobile Network Division (2006 – 2008), Maersk Logistics ( Logistics Division of the AP Moller Maersk Group) as HR Manager from 2008 to 2013 for Iberia, France and the Maghreb and leading European and global projects in HR innovation processes. He has undertaken consultancy work in strategic HR management with Humannova Consultores as Associate Director and also as an independent consultant developing innovation projects in talent management and digital transformation. Currently he is Head of Talent and Learning in ING Bank for Spain and Portugal. Parallel to his executive activity in the HR field he participates, co-leads and stimulates different projects: HR Innovation Area Leader at the Fundación Personas y Empresas of the BLC Group. Member of the Commission for Innovation in the Spanish Association of HR Managers (Asociación Española de Directores de RR.HH). Co-founder of The People Club, an initiative for multidisciplinary knowledge management through people. Co-organizer of TEDxAlcarriaST and Associate Professor at The European University and for the Senior Management Program in Digital Talent at the ESIC Business and Marketing School in Madrid, Spain.

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