Viewpoint: Recruiters Need New Skills for the New World of Work

Viewpoint: Recruiters Need New Skills for the New World of Work

The global talent scout, convener and coach

By Edie Goldberg, Ph.D. November 20, 2017

​The makeup of our workforce is shifting. Longer lifespans are resulting in an aging workforce. Other demographic changes mean that soon women and nonwhite ethnicities will become talent market majorities. One of the results of this shift is that HR professionals will have to think differently about how their employees blend work and life and craft a career strategy that works for their lifestyle. And while many companies now have a separate diversity and inclusion practice, too few talent acquisition departments are working to ensure that their organizations are reaching out to potential candidates that best reflect their diverse customer base.

To help achieve these goals, there are five specific capabilities the traditional recruiter needs to develop to become a Global Talent Scout, Convener and Coach. This new title reflects the capabilities required for talent acquisition professionals to compete in today's global talent marketplace. 

Traditional recruiting capabilities need to evolve to look more like those of a talent scout—a position where recruiters can find currently unavailable (and possibly even scarce) talent and cultivate long-term relationships to increase sources for future needs. Similar to how companies may court potential customers, consider a future where it will benefit the company for recruiters to engage prospective candidates in social media groups, contests or other marketing programs to raise awareness of the company and its culture, and lure the talent to the company when the timing is right.

At Dropbox, a file-hosting service headquartered in San Francisco, a severe shortage of critically skilled talent and too many job-hopping Millennials have prompted HR to build talent scout capabilities on its team. According to Neil Frye, Dropbox's global head of recruitment, operations and technology, "Passive is the new active, and that requires recruiters to help find the right opportunities based on candidate interests, growth and capabilities." 

Dropbox's recruiters are transitioning from reviewing unsolicited resumes to digging deep to understand data about roles, skills and talent geographies and reach out to passive talent to make talent pools. One new approach is to identify roles where they want more applicants, such as machine learning, and then build a social media campaign based on an ideal persona for the role. They monitor campaign success by looking at impressions, conversions and candidate quality, and this approach is working well so far to identify talent they likely would have missed previously, Frye says. 

Community Development

Some companies may foster alumni networks to maintain relationships with former employees as a source of potential referrals or if a returning employee should  wish to return. However, many companies have a history of branding employees as disloyal for leaving. As talent sources become scarcer, savvy employers understand that formerly valued employees are welcome back at any time.

Going forward, companies will need to have a much stronger sense of being "boundaryless," where the company actively invests in developing a community of talent (internal and external to the organization) so that potential future employees can build a deeper connection with the company. This is true whether the community comprises alumni or simply individuals who have expressed interest in the organization or its products.

One example of a company investing in community development is Tata Communications, a global Internet and mobile networking provider with headquarters in Mumbai and Singapore. While the organization already actively recruits freelance workers for short-term assignments, its internal research uncovered that Tata employees want similar gig-like experiences and frequent changes to their roles.

"We can only move about 400 people per year in our internal job program but, according to our research, over 4,000 people want to change jobs," said Aadesh Goyal, Tata Communications' CHRO. Tata's solution to this problem was the creation of Project Marketplace, which connects current employees with new short-term assignments.

Each assignment generally leverages skills employees have that are not utilized in their current roles or helps those employees learn new skills that will benefit their future career. Employees who engage with Project Marketplace are being constantly developed, Goyal said. The marketplace will be expanded to talent external to the organization.

Life Coach

Because careers will be more "boundaryless" in the future, HR needs to build capabilities around life coaching to help current and prospective employees think through the diverse experiences they need to enhance their quality of life and workplace opportunities. In the past, career coaching (if provided at all) was done by the manager or HR business partner. But as people consider the various opportunities available to them, there is a growing need for recruiters to be able to help employees consider how to curate a series of work experiences that will make up their career puzzle. While a move to a new organization might bring the experience employees need to advance their career goals, so too might a position with a nonprofit organization they are already engaged with in their spare time. Experiences can be gained in so many new ways that helping employees understand the specific knowledge or skills they need to advance and what their options are for gaining that capability would fill a void that many individuals encounter when they are considering new career choices.

Dropbox is experimenting with partnering with other providers, such as, to help match talent that may not be a fit for Dropbox but might fit the needs of other companies it partners with in its community. In this way, the company is acting more like a career or life coach, suggesting new opportunities, rather than just recruiting for Dropbox.

Talent Platform Expertise

Talent acquisition needs to develop a new capability around talent platform expertise to understand the different potential sources for talent and how to effectively contract with individuals from different sources (e.g., free agents, contractors, employees, social media followers, etc.). Increasingly, either talent acquisition or HR business partners will need to advise and coach their line management on the most appropriate way to access talent to address business needs. There isn't just one way.

According to Frye, Dropbox is moving from serving as a "temp filler to a gig-work matchmaker." Frye's team coaches hiring teams to review the work required, the duration of the work and whether it is deliverable-focused or time-based. Considering these factors and the capabilities required, they decide whether the job should be fulfilled by a full-time Dropboxer or a contingent worker.

While Tata Communications recognizes the importance of talent platform expertise, its efforts have essentially been to automate this capability. It leverages SAP's Fieldglass for its flexible workforce management, but it has decentralized its process by having managers respond to a series of automated questions to ensure the managers are using the best source of talent to meet their business needs.

Contracting and on-boarding temporary talent is also a capability needed by the Global Talent Scout. Talent acquisition has traditionally worked on finding and acquiring the right talent, and the procurement function dealt with additional contract talent to fill specific, short-term needs. Today, these roles are merging as talent becomes more fluid for organizations. Furthermore, as the talent a company is acquiring on a contract or freelance basis is increasingly responsible for projects with significant strategic impact on the organization, having procurement serve the main interface with that talent sends the wrong message: that they are simply a replaceable asset that should be acquired at the lowest cost possible. Coming into the organization through the talent acquisition function, rather than procurement, means these contractors are more likely to be onboarded in a way that helps them feel connected to the organization's mission and values.

At Dropbox, HR has moved the contingent workforce onboarding effort beyond completing forms and security training to include a culture-based onboarding experience to help contingent employees better understand how their work is adding value to the company and its mission. The contingent workforce manager (a recruitment employee) is less focused on time sheet approvals (as procurement would be) and more focused on the quality of the deliverables and how to best leverage the talent. Once an assignment ends for a freelance employee, information about his or her contributions is shared widely with others to better match that talent with other organizational needs. 

Diversity and Inclusion Advocate

While traditionally other functions within HR have been focused on diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs, D&I all begins with the talent an organization targets as potential hires to progress the company's mission. Thus, there's a strong need for the Global Talent Scout, Convener and Coach to be a strong advocate for D&I to ensure that the organization has a well-rounded pool of talent to carry out its objectives. This begins with an understanding of the keywords used in a job posting to ensure they do not inadvertently screen out women, people of color or older workers.

Tata Communications is taking significant steps to diversify its employee base as a path to organizational success, Goyal said. Given that women now outnumber men in terms of college graduates, the company believes it is critical to have a gender-balanced talent pool. The company's talent acquisition organization is held accountable for ensuring that the talent pool it is selecting from has an adequate supply of female candidates. The organization is already seeing improvement in the diversity of its employees and the leadership team, Goyal said.

While some of these capabilities are small (but meaningful) twists on current capabilities within the Talent Acquisition function, developing a new set of capabilities will help the organization be better positioned to compete for talent in a world that is rapidly changing.


Edie Goldberg, Ph.D., is the principal of E.L. Goldberg & Associates in Menlo Park, Calif., and the immediate past chair for HR People + Strategy, SHRM's Executive Network. She was also the co-lead for CHREATE's HR Talent Pipeline workstream, which much of this article is based upon. To learn more, visit her website,, or



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