Going global

HR professionals can’t necessarily predict which country or continent their
talent will come from over the next few years. But they can put the online recruitment
strategies in place to ensure they get first choice.  Sue Weekes reports

Two years ago, the internet was being hailed as the single most important
factor in the growth of the global recruitment market. Job boards and corporate
websites with the power to display a vacancy on a computer screen anywhere in
the world within seconds, opened up a vast new pool of talent, making the world
a recruiter’s oyster.

But within a year, the dotcom bubble burst and tech stocks crashed.
September 11 occurred, fuelling a world recession, big business was rocked by
scandals such as Enron and Worldcom, and recruitment fell off the agenda,
seemingly taking internet recruitment with it.

Despite the slowing economy and reduction in hiring, it may surprise you to
hear that online recruiting services actually grew 53 per cent in 2001 to
$2.8bn, says Marc Pramuk, senior analyst at IDC.

"This growth emphasises the fundamental shift in the recruitment and
staffing services market that identifies e-recruiting services as a vital part
of how organisations attract and hire the best candidates for open
positions," he says. By 2006, IDC projects that the worldwide e-recruiting
market will reach almost $15.7bn, with a compound annual growth rate of 40.9
per cent.

With the HR function currently preoccupied with redundancy packages rather
than induction courses, online recruitment strategies facilitating global
recruitment may not seem like a priority. Even if organisations don’t want to
make any new investment in it at the moment – and may indeed have trouble
signing if off anyway – it is a critical time to assess the situation and
research the options available. In the long run, you can’t afford not to. The
concept of a single world economy may seem a good deal further away than it was
12 months ago, but there are enough pockets of cross-border recruitment
activity in both directions to make even the most global-sceptics sit up and
take note.

The European Union has already opened up the entire continent to its
members, and recent news reports have warned of a ‘reverse Auf Wiedersehen Pet’
effect by 2020. They predict the UK looking towards Europe for manual labour
due to a shortage at home caused by school-leavers opting for further study and
qualifications, rather than the manual trades.

There is also evidence to suggest that plenty of people are willing to go
much further afield than town or country, and would happily change continent,
says Joe Slavin, managing director of Monster UK, part of the worldwide Monster
network of job sites. Earlier this year, Monster conducted a Pan-European poll,
asking its users how far they would move for an exciting new job.

"Nearly two in five voters replied that they wouldn’t mind moving
continent if the right job offer came along," says Slavin. "However,
one in five voters preferred not to move at all rather than make small moves
across borders." He adds that companies advertising in three or more
countries now make up 25 per cent of Monster UK’s business, and it is growing.

Kris Jarzebowski, managing director of CareerJunction, the leading job site
in South Africa which formed an alliance with the UK’s Totaljobs.com this July,
observes similar attitudes in his region.

"People moving globally is a world trend that will definitely continue
into the future, which is why we are keen to build alliances such as this
one," he says. "Many South Africans travel to the UK to take up
employment for periods averaging two years, returning with valuable pounds that
are so much stronger than the rand."

All of the major job sites report a growing demand for global recruitment
solutions, and IDC predicts that while countries such as the UK and Germany
will become the leaders in providing e-recruiting services, the challenge will
be establishing localised services to successfully address each market in the
light of different languages and regulations.

Most are meeting this challenge: be it by taking the almost McDonalds-like
brand-led approach, as Monster has done – setting up websites and bricks and
mortar offices across 21 countries, the latter being largely staffed by
nationals in that country – or by partnering, like rival TotalJobs is currently
busy doing. Its alliance with South African site CareerJunction followed a
similar union with top Australian job board Seek.com.au and more are planned
over the next 12 months.

"We found that we’ve got to have a global solution to offer in order to
enhance our UK offering," says Keith Robinson, operations director for
Totaljobs.com. "It is a key plank in our strategy."

TopJobs, meanwhile, has taken both approaches, offering its Topjobs.net URL
for worldwide recruiting to clients, such as international utilities company
McKinnon & Clarke, and European search and selection company Monpellier
Partnership, along with branded sites in Switzerland and Norway, and affiliates
in Spain, Poland and Thailand.

As well as a huge potential pool of global talent, online recruitment saves
a considerable amount of time and money. In some cases, it is even fair to say
it has made international recruitment financially viable. One recruiter we
spoke to quoted a £230,000 spend to advertise a job across several European
newspapers for one week, compared with £200,000 for an entire year on the net.

David Rawlins, director of specialist recruitment firm Quantica, has
experience of recruiting all over the world, and while the internet is only one
part of the mix that he uses, its reduced cost has already made it an effective
low-risk option for one of his job searches.

"We were looking to fill an HR role in Germany and did a search and
found some candidates, but the person we offered it to declined," he said.
"So we put it on Monster. Even if we’d got nothing after two weeks, we
wouldn’t have lost very much, but we got a really good standard of applicant
and appointed someone. In that instance, it worked really well."

But cost and time-savings aside, the web’s main strengths of reach, ease of
use and speed of response, have also occasionally proved to be its Achilles
Heel. The age-old moan of internet recruitment delivering quantity and not
quality persists, and is likely to be magnified by the enlarged international
pool of jobseekers.

Claire Stern, HR director of Countrywide, a UK public relations company,
wasn’t even looking for an international response to an ad placed on one
leading job board, but received one nonetheless.

"I deliberately placed a financial assistant job ad on the web to test
it out, and was very clear about the requirements," she explains. "I
received more than 100 replies, but not one was appropriate. They were either
able to live here but did not speak the language, or else spoke the language,
but were unable to live and work over here. It gave me a much bigger
administrative headache than traditional recruitment methods."

Sadly, experiences like this can, and do, deter HR professionals from using
online recruitment systems. But these problems can be avoided by employing an
online management tool to assist in the process.

In fairness to Stern, it was a one-off test, so you wouldn’t expect the
company to have any candidate management tools in place. But anyone serious
about online recruitment, global or otherwise, needs some way of automatically
managing response and filtering out unsuitable candidates in the early stages.
Posting a few ads on a job site does not make an online recruitment strategy,
and if you’ve struggled to make internet recruitment work on a national level,
you’ll have no chance internationally without the right structures in place
(see right).

Sean Dixon, HR manager of FedEx Express in the UK, Ireland and Scandinavia –
a subsidiary of the FedEx Corp, the world’s biggest express transportation
company – needed a tool that could service its global reach and a massive
candidate response rate. It adopted Monster’s one-stop HR solution, Monster HR
(MOHR), which helped it handle, manage and screen candidates from one location,
while remaining accessible throughout its business.

The European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region of FedEx is responsible
for the activities of offices in 113 countries, and has headquarters in
Brussels and its European hub in Paris. The EMEA office has more than 7,800
employees, and 14 call centres taking 1,000 calls a day.

"Online recruitment provides us with cost-efficient, fast, flexible and
effective solutions to meet our recruitment needs, combined with a massive
reach to a global pool of talent," says Dixon.

"We identified that the basis of building effective online recruitment
strategies was to find a partner with a career site that could offer us the
greatest reach. We have been placing ads on Monster for the past six months
across Europe, and had a staggering response of more than 107,000 hits. The
candidate profiles we received have been remarkable."

To his own surprise, Dixon explodes the myth that online recruitment only
works at an executive level.

"We anticipated success using Monster in our IT and executive
professional fields. However, we were pleasantly surprised by the success in
our frontline positions, such as couriers, warehouse agents and clerical jobs,
and this success is replicated across all of our European markets, especially
in France, Italy, Spain and the UK."

FedEx Express shows how a structured and robust online recruitment and
management system can service ongoing day-to-day needs but can also allow
recruiters to tap into the global talent pool to solve one-off needs, such as
skills shortages, or the search for elusive specialist talent.

TotalJobs believes its recent alliance with CareerJunction and Seek.com.au
could help the NHS and education sectors stave off potential skills shortages
in the light of the recent cash injection by Chancellor Gordon Brown. The
Australian alliance has already placed a number of healthcare professionals
from Australia through international staffing specialist, Beresford Blake
Thomas.

"While the web speeds up initial stages of receiving candidate details,
responding to the needs and understanding of local etiquette and business
protocol can be difficult and time-consuming for the overseas recruiter,"
says Quantica’s Rawlins. "There are underlying, unspoken cultural barriers
to recruitment across some international boundaries – factors such as the
cost-of-living differentials between Germany and Switzerland, for
instance."

As IDC states, ‘localising’ services will be the key challenge for
e-recruiting service providers. But HR, too, must take responsibility for
adapting itself to tap into the global talent pool. Namely, by putting the
right management tools and internal structures in place. Without them, the
function is unlikely to make online recruitment work across a few miles, let
alone a different continent.

Tools of the e-trade

Online management tools come in a
variety of guises and can range from simple questions ensuring the candidate
has the basic requirements for the job, to online psychometric testing. The
past 18 months have also seen the rise of the end-to-end recruiter, which
manages the whole online process, from advertising the application, to
shortlisting candidates – these include JobPartner’s Active Recruiter system
and Mr Ted’s TalentLink, which were looked at in more detail previously in
Personnel Today (Net Gains, 15 January 2002).

Another major development has been the big back-office systems
providers such as Oracle and SAP, now providing an eHR module which can receive
data from the corporate website or another job site. David Hurst, publisher of
Online recruitment, the specialist magazine and website, sees this as one of
the drivers for an increased take-up of internet recruitment around the world.

"They have big clients and at last we can move away from
this nonsensical situation where personnel data comes in, is printed off, and
then re-keyed into a different system," he says.

Whether you opt for an end-to-end recruitment company or tools
offered by a job board, you should be able to build in the kind of questions
that are key to global recruitment if they aren’t already there, relating to
issues such as languages, work permits and visas.

"These are simple ‘yes/no’ things," says Andy Baker,
managing director of Workthing, which acquired online job site PeopleBank at
the beginning of 2002. It is now incorporating more advanced features, such as
psychometric testing for some of its clients.

Other tools which can help sift out unsuitable
candidates include Isero’s TalkingCV, which allows candidates to record an
interview according to a pre-defined structure set by the client, and then
upload it on a website for recruiters and line managers to see. It is currently
being used by the British Council, which promotes English teaching abroad and
places English teachers around the globe, often having to call them in from
other parts of the world. "OK, you might eventually have to get a
candidate on a plane for an interview," says Isero sales director Phil
Taylor. "But this offers another stage before that to help recruiters
decide if a candidate is right."

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