Hiring for HR and recruitment: The hidden challenges

Human capital is often revered as an organisation’s greatest asset.

It’s a valuable collection of all the skills, knowledge, creativity and personalities that determines a company’s productivity and drives its economic value.

But if the people you employ are such an important investment, how can you ensure the talent you employ in the Human Resources & Recruitment industry are the best in the business?

SEEK surveyed nearly 6,000 people from 20 different industries to find out what really attracts them to a job. It found that not everyone is listening to the same messages.

Culture is key

For people working in human resources (HR) and recruitment, culture is a much stronger driver than it is in almost every other industry, except marketing and communications, says researcher Caroline North.

The Laws of Attraction survey data found the top three desires for people in HR and recruitment are salary and compensation, work-life balance and company culture.

Most other industries rate culture as only a seventh or eighth priority.

North is not surprised by this result.

“Culture lives in everybody but for most of us it isn’t part of our day job, like it is for those working in HR & R,” says North.

“As the custodians of what their company is like to work for, they are much more critically aware of the role of a good culture and how it can impact on your ability to do the job.”

Clare Johnson is the director of Page Personnel and agrees people in her sector seek out companies with a good culture.

“HR is in tune with how important culture is for getting results from people,” says Johnson.

“Culture is the reason why people want to come to work. You can offer good salary, good benefits and have a good physical environment, but culture goes beyond that. It’s why people want to get out of bed in the morning.”

What HR and recruitment workers are willing to trade for company culture is job security.

It’s not a promise that tends to excite them at the same level it may do for those in other industries - possibly because they have the confidence that comes with being highly educated (93% have a tertiary qualification), with high levels of seniority (1 in 3 identify as holding a senior role) and a well-established network of recruitment connections.

“People are more willing to take a gamble with a contract role in order to gain more experience,” agrees Johnson.

“They’re prepared to take a leap of faith.”

Minimal man power

Of all the people that work in HR and recruitment across Australia, only about one quarter of them (28%) are male.

North says although recruitment roles were found to attract more men than those in HR, the significant gender imbalance identified by the data within this sector suggest the whole industry needs to look at fresh ways to attract male talent.

“HR is very people focused,” says Johnson.

“You are helping people with their career, guiding them towards the lifestyle they want and onboarding them so it is quite a nurturing profession which may be why it tends to appeal more to women.”

Rebecca Gravestock, Director of People and Performance for Australia and Asia at online accounting platform Xero says she believes the trend is changing.

Xero, she says, actually has an even split of men and women in its Australian team but, historically, there have been more women in HR.

Gravestock says HR once acted as more of a support role reacting to and managing personnel issues. However, she says that’s evolving now and HR partners with the business to drive better outcome for its people and customers.

Practice what you preach

But how does what we do influence who we attract?

Recruiters are tasked with fostering diversity yet when the spotlight is turned inward, this sector is actually less diverse than many workplaces in Australia.

Laws of Attraction found they were significantly less likely to have been born outside of Australia (just over 1 in 4) and much more likely to speak only English (nearly 8 in 10 did not have a second language).

While the data is an opportunity for HR to reconsider its approach to how it recruits for this industry, North says it’s also a chance for self-reflection.

“There is a lot of noise and talk about diversity but if the industry that is set up to represent the people doesn’t reflect the people, it may be necessary to look at how those imbalances can be addressed.”

Gravestock says the secret ingredient for diversity is inclusion.

She says it is all very well to recruit people from different backgrounds and beliefs but if they don’t feel a sense of belonging within the organisation, you won’t retain them.

“All leaders, not just in HR, need to be role modeling and demonstrating what we mean by working flexibly, by having diversity and inclusion,” says Gravestock.

She says the industry needs to work together as a whole to break down barriers that might deter diverse talent from applying – and storytelling and sharing experiences is a good way to do that.

“It’s not just a challenge for individual organisations and departments to solve, we need to be working with our community – our partners, our customers and other organisations, to think about solutions,” says Gravestock.

“And we need to be making sure we share those stories so that others can see what can be achieved.”

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Belinda Parkes

Belinda Parkes is a freelance journalist and sub-editor with more than 20 years’ media experience across newspapers, magazines and digital media. Belinda has had a love affair with words from a young age, having written a song at age five, a...

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