Tech Strategy for Global Recruitment Remains Challenging

By Dave Zielinski Jun 18, 2013

Globalization has made the world a smaller, more homogenous place, but creating a technology strategy to recruit effectively across borders is still a challenge.

A recent study commissioned by Evenbase, a global digital recruitment group in Havant, United Kingdom,investigated factors that will shape global recruiting in the coming years. The study, Digital Recruitment: Hottest Markets in 2020, was conducted in late 2012 by MBA & Company, a group of MBAs, Ph.D.’s and professors from some of the world’s top business schools. It examined recruiting markets in 12 countries. Here are survey findings of note:

Limited worldwide traction for social media. Social recruitment has yet to make significant inroads even in many developed markets, the study found. In Australia, for example, where smartphone penetration is among the highest in the world and skill shortages are common, 86 percent of job seekers said they didn’t use social media to find positions, and only 13 percent of businesses considered social channels a major source of hiring.

Brazilian companies also reported limited use of social networks for recruiting. Only 14 percent said they were a major source of hiring, despite mobile Internet use in Brazil increasing nearly 100 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Adoption rates of social recruitment were even lower in less developed business markets, said Evenbase CEO Keith Potts. “It was a surprise to see that social media wasn’t embraced by job candidates or employers on the level we thought it might be,” he noted.

In the United States, however, the use of social recruiting tools like LinkedIn is more well-established, and nearly one in three U.S. recruiters who participated in the study said they considered social networks a major source of potential job candidates.

Demographics in some areas of the world also indicate the potential for greater use of social or mobile tools for job recruiting, Potts said. For example, the study found that in Brazil, 25 percent of agency-hired workers were under 21, making them prime targets for social or digital recruitment strategies, given the technology preferences of that age group.

Despite governmental obstacles, China also shows growth possibilities.

“Networking is a fundamental aspect of Chinese culture,” the study notes. “Thus business networking has a lot of potential. While Facebook and Twitter are banned, LinkedIn is not; and there are already several professional networks, such as Tianji, in operation.”

Mobile Use: U.S. Lags Behind

Use of mobile hardware and software for recruiting remains higher outside the U.S.The study found that traffic on mobile devices in India, for one, exceeded desktop traffic for the first time in May 2012.

“The use of mobile to access job boards, career sites or job aggregators is advancing faster in Europe and Asia than in the United States,” said Sarah White, head of a recruitment and HR technology consulting firm in Milwaukee, Wis. That’s partly because more people outside of the U.S. don’t have laptops or desktop computers, White explained, resulting in many recruiting products and processes in those regions being built first in mobile environments.

She said more recruiting processes in America will be fully mobile-capable–meaning that job hunters will be able to fill out entire applications on career sites via smartphones or tablets—within the next two years.

Effective Global Recruiting Models

Experts say the key to effective international recruiting is developing a model with centralized or fixed technology platforms that also allows for flexibility at the local level.That means deploying uniform applicant tracking systems (ATSs), candidate relationship management (CRM) systems or video interviewing platforms worldwide while allowing local recruiters to use the specific hiring tactics or sourcing technologies that work best in their cultures.

“In the U.S., LinkedIn might be used more often and effectively by recruiters, whereas in Europe or other parts of the world it isn’t as popular; so you’d encourage recruiters to use other tools or recruiting channels with proven results,” said White.

In some countries industry-specific job boards or professional associations might be the best recruiting grounds; in others traditional print ads might still yield the strongest candidates.

Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Oakland, Calif.-based human resource research and consulting firm Bersin by Deloitte, said recent research by his firm points to governance issues as the biggest obstacle to effective global recruiting.

“In most other areas of HR you can get away with decentralizing operations and things won’t blow up too much,” Bersin said in a phone interview with SHRM Online. “But that’s not the case with recruiting. You really need a centralized process that manages things like your ATS, establishes a consistent recruiting brand and sets some standards for interviewing or assessment.”

According to Bersin, only 25 percent of companies in the survey reported having a “well-integrated” global recruiting process. “The majority of large organizations still have different recruiting technologies and systems in each country, which can be fine for a while but ultimately becomes expensive.”

There were about 300 U.S. respondents to Bersin by Deloitte’s 2013 High-Impact Talent Acquisition study, conducted in the winter of 2012. The complete results will be presented in a series of reports that will start to be released this fall.

Because labor markets are so different around the world, it’s also essential that recruiters be empowered to use sourcing techniques that fit their local cultures, Bersin said. When Apple was recruiting staff for its retail stores in China, it hired a Chinese recruiting company that opted to conduct many of its interviews in Apple’s product chat rooms.

“The recruiter identified people who were active or knowledgeable in those online chats and often reached out to interview them or offer jobs,” he said.

Contingent Workforces Go Global

It’s not only recruiting executives who need to develop robust global strategies; rather, HR leaders looking to expand contingent workforce programs to other countries also need to plan shrewdly.

In a 2012 survey by Mountain View, Calif.-based Staffing Industry Analysts (SIA), a global advisor on contingent work, 31 percent of managers running contingent workforce programs said they’d recently expanded their programs globally; 47 percent said they were likely to do so within the next two years.

Bryan Pena, vice president of SIA’s contingent workforce strategy, said going global requires finding a proven vendor management system (VMS) overseas, as well as developing an understanding of how laws or regulations vary around the world in terms of issues like pay parity, data privacy and the use of temporary workers.

“Companies usually just want to lift and shift what they’ve done successfully in the United States to other regions, which is almost always a recipe for failure,” Pena said. It’s also surprising, he noted, how many U.S.-based contingent workforce managers don’t include or consult with their global counterparts when planning to expand programs internationally.

Among the most important steps is finding a competent VMS, the Web-enabled system for procuring and managing contingent or contract labor. “I can’t tell you how often I hear complaints from managers who say, ‘The vendor told us they could do something, but they didn’t tell us they didn’t have direct experience in the region, so they’re learning on our dime,’” Pena warned. “Make sure you have a good understanding not only of VMS capabilities but of their prior experience serving other clients in the region.”

In choosing a VMS also ensure it can do more than just invoice in multiple currencies. The system should be current on the contingent labor laws and regulations of the region. In some countries, for example, you have to pay contingent workers the same amount you would pay comparable full-time employees.

“There also are laws in countries like India and Brazil requiring that you first have a certain corporate structure to enable a VMS to take payment,” Pena said.

Dave Zielinski is a freelance business journalist in Minneapolis.

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