Imagine 1000 HR professionals in a theatre. Everyone with work and people challenges, mobile phones and email to answer. Cue Martine Wright, a survivor of the London bombing of 7/7 and now a Paralympian. Martine reminded us that all the problems we have are nothing in comparison and that people with belief – not email – can save life and achieve great things. That stopped the clock, and the email.

‘The challenges business face today are fast moving and people-shaped’ said Jim Carrick-Birtwell (co-founder of Changeboard). Competitive advantage is created by accessing and retaining the very best in future talent.‘

Sir Clive Woodward, amongst others said ‘you can never spend enough time and money on getting in good talent’. Yvonne Agyei at Google agreed: ‘Hiring is everybody’s responsibility’. Michael Keegan, chairman of Fujitsu UK said that accessing the best talent in the world, and making sure they are kept learning and earning, are things that Boards and Executives must keep on their agenda all the time.

Peter Cheese at CIPD wrapped up the story ‘The future of work is human and flexible. Policies put people in boxes. HR has to change this. Rip up the old rule books and look at what the purpose of the organisation is, what talent do I need and then get on with delivering it.

So what’s new to make this real?


Helmut Shuster (EVP HR at BP) talked about the amount of data now and the importance of embracing new technology to communicate, train and evaluate.

Evidence Based Hiring in action

We can all learn from successful companies who have no legacy of ‘how things should done’. The biggest departure from tradition came from Google, where managers do not have the power to hire their own staff. Committees do their hiring for them by reviewing the role and their interview feedback in a structured way. This data-driven, objective approach avoids bias and the manager hiring people ‘like them’, or just people they like. Interviewer mix and training is important but this is both radical and refreshing.

The final words on data were left to Helmut who told a panel audience that HR would only have maximum influence at the C level if they came to the table with evidence, not just ideas.

Values and Behaviours

20 years ago hiring decisions were based primarily on hard criteria: skills and experience. Values were undervalued. Today Google and others argue that soft skills, values and attitude are paramount for the future workforce.

World class performers are not just naturally talented. As well as IQ, EQ and motivation they must have the willingness to learn and behaviours that show a determined attitude to succeed. These are important data to measure and assess when seeking future business champions.

Companies, candidates and hiring managers must know what their values and behaviours really are and be prepared to share them authentically. People must also be willing to CHANGE how they assess talent, skills and potential.

Ruby Wax, a campaigner for Mental Health issues, also talked about the importance of self-understanding ‘Everyone should learn to read themselves as well as others read them. Amy Sawbridge of Virgin also talked about the importance being oneself – authentically – in the workplace: ‘You don’t park your personality at the door’.

The importance of Brand

Like it or not, everyone and every company has a brand. We can choose to ignore it but think for 5 seconds and you know it’s true.

Personal brand identity is an authentic representation of ourselves and how we want to be perceived. How we position a consistent brand for our businesses is important and so we must do the same for us and for our employees. Companies must have a consistent, authentic employer brand AND employee experience as well as a candidate experience.

If the employer brand is untrue the wrong candidates will be attracted or, if attracted will quickly become disillusioned. If the candidate brand is untrue then both parties are working in the dark: wasting time and energy.

How this all comes together for Future Talent

The competition for future talent is fierce and getting harder. If you want to be an Olympian in this sport you need to think and act like one. Today’s elite sportspeople collect and use data to back every decision. They also understand about the values and behaviours that drive them to success. Successful future talent will be those people who understand themselves well and whose ‘brand’ is lived. Successful companies – and HR teams – will be those who use broad unbiased evidence to support their talent decisions, and who generate an authentic employer brand to attract and then hold onto the very best.

Share this: