Special episode this week featuring a panel discussion from Talkpush hosted conference, Rethinking Talent Acquisition. Top leaders from high volume hiring companies discuss strategies to onboard new hires successfully and make them feel part of the community even if remotely.
VP for Talent Acquisition, Transcom
Vice President of HR and Recruitment, iQor Philippines
Alethea de las Armas
AVP, Talent Acquisition for Global Resourcing, Manulife
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MAX: Thanks for joining us. I'll be inviting on the stage, Jun Abo from Transcom, Alethea from Manulife, and Fleurette from iQor. Each of them had the talent acquisition function for their respective companies, which all hire north of 5000 people a year in the Philippines alone. And so we'll be talking to them about onboarding and hiring without an office. After that, I'll be holding the mic for a little bit longer to talk about what we've experienced at Talkpush in the last year, overcoming the fear that was initiated by the crisis and building on the change that was forced in the market.
So, yeah, as I was saying, these are the panelists who will be joining me on stage right now, Jun, Alethea and Fleurette from Transcom, Manulife and iQor respectively. And so, ladies and gentlemen, if you'd be kind enough to join me on stage. Hi Jun.
JUN: Hey Max.
MAX: Hello Fleurette.
FLEURETTE: Hey Max. Hi, everyone.
MAX: And Alethea. Hello.
Fantastic. Thank you all for joining. Welcome to the stage.
PANELISTS: Thanks Max.
MAX: So, you all had the HR function or talent acquisition function for some of the largest employers in the Philippines, and about a year or plus ago, you'all had to adapt to a really rapid change. And I think we're all past the trauma of how to adapt a little bit and we've kind of shaken it off. But, take us back to that time perhaps of a year ago, when the biggest challenges of hiring remotely, and particularly on the onboarding side hit you in the face. Can you remind us what you went through at that time, and I don't have a particular order in mind so maybe we'll do alphabetically, starting with you, Alethea. Yes?
ALETHEA: Okay. I think I've had a very interesting experience in this pandemic simply because I was actually in a different organization when I first joined, or when they first experienced a pandemic and I was the Global Head for onboarding for that bank. So I was managing all the regions across the world, and was basically the one responsible for ensuring that the digital onboarding was happening. And then I decided for some crazy reason to change organizations so I actually experience digital onboarding as a candidate, right. So, I think, from both of those perspective, the main concern was really how do you maintain the candidate experience, and it was very interesting because I didn't have the best experience on boarding on with Manulife, and that was actually the reason I decided that their job offer really focus because I said I can do this better than they're doing it now. And because I was a candidate right at that point in time, and you know it was really seeing that in both perspectives really just highlighted and how this pandemic is going to turn everything into a digitalization concern, as well as coordinating with a government so it was such a shock to actually be going through that last year.
MAX: Yeah, that's a really good hot tip for everybody who's in talent acquisition which I know is most of the audience, if you're applying for a company that has a horrible onboarding process, that's it. That's where you should be working because you have a lot of things you can fix. Great. Thank you. Fleurette, tell us about those challenges from a year plus ago, and particularly on the onboarding side.
FLEURETTE: So Max I told my husband that once we have grandkids. I'm going to be spending days and days talking about the horrible experience of pandemic because we get to live through it right, but as we all know there's so many learnings that came through but let me discuss to you a few things that really shocked us to our core because there's no playbook, there is no training that will prepare you for this. So one is, it was really difficult to connect with employees, right. You can't just call them and expect them to pick up the phone and on the onboarding side it was so difficult for us to get all the documents completed on time. So every company will have a list of mandatory contractual requirements for them to be able to join us. And that has been really difficult and then in addition to that, when the government started reducing the capacities of your government agencies, like NBI. The schools aren't open, their online portal is not very helpful, you have issues with your pre employment medical clinics, all of those put together is clearly a nightmare and I'm sure everyone in attending this event is nodding their head trying to relive that experience. So when you put really big issues in front of people, that's when you're gonna see teams actually working together, because for us, this is the time that we have to prove our worth. This is the time that you have to do the noble job of giving Filipinos the jobs that they need. So, yeah, I can, I can go on and on but trust me, you want Jun to also weigh in.
MAX: I do. But yeah, there's a double message here, it's like, on one hand, it's overwhelming, on the other hand, it's hero mode. This is when we do our most important work. So that was, I think a lot of people went through those two emotions at that time. Jun?
JUN: Yeah I echo everyone's sentiment. So there is a Chinese curse that goes, may he live in interesting times. And like it or not we are living in interesting times just like everyone else. When we transition to the lockdown in the pandemic its impact on work, initially a lot within the talent acquisition team it's okay, we're not going to be hiring. So there's not enough work for us. But lo and behold after a month of slowdown, we started hiring and hiring, and hiring. One of the few questions that we started asking ourselves is with our onboarding process, how do we make our candidates feel that they've made the right decision in terms of joining Transcom. Second one, and the most important one for me I think it's, How do we make them excited about being part of the Transcom culture. How do we help them prepare for their role that they signed up for and how will employees fit in based on the new team, which they could not be meeting for weeks or even months. What we've learned early on, it's the pandemic, and the shifting to working at home. It's much easier for new employees to resign when there's no feeling of loyalty to develop and again organizational culture appears remote. Again most of our organization was centered towards building that rapport, that engagement and culture when they're on site. When you can see them, when you can touch them, when you can talk to them. But how do you translate that into this new normal. So, yeah those are the challenges that we face early on.
MAX: I'm gonna go back to what Fleurette was talking about, and the paperwork and working with the administrative side of onboarding, but before going there, you touched upon a key point Jun, which is the fact that you don't have the same opportunity now when you onboard someone to make them feel part of a community, and so it's easier for them to just stop showing up. And I'm sure we're all looking for ways to create that social fabric while not meeting people in person. I'd love to get some of the tips from this very experienced panel. What are some of the initiatives that you can recommend as part of the onboarding specifically, that will make somebody who is not going to shake your hands, not give you a hug, not have a meal with you still feel part of the group, and the community? What are some of the actionable tips you can offer our listeners or our viewers?
ALETHEA: I think one of the things that really are very low hanging fruit that we did was to change our templates right. You always have gathered a template that you send out via email and automated responses. And we really made it into a point that they were a little bit more engaging, warmer,and I mean just adding, I hope you're safe as you receive this, those types of little nuggets that you input just to help them understand that you do understand that there's something happening in the world that may not let them respond as quickly as usual I think one of the other things also on those templates is that we really spoke with cross functions, and had them understand that from a family that experiences standpoint, we're seeing that there's a better opportunity to engage, so especially with IT managers, tapping them and having them communicate better with their near hires not even the ones who have accepted offers yet but really tapping the hiring managers to ensure that they are part of that community and making sure that they understand that if somebody wasn't able to appear on an interview and there was no notice, we can't just blacklist them because that was in some functions that was what they did, but our next reaction is always, are they okay? And we would send out a message saying that we notice you weren't able to do your interview, so are you okay? And those little nuggets really help us ensure that they see us as a caring organization. And we really meant it, so it was really just putting more of our heart into the communication instead of just thinking it off as another template that we send out.
MAX: Right, so don't listen to your instincts, and send him a hate mail, no, just hold back. Okay, I just been ghosted again, something could have happened. Compassion first. Yeah, that's good.
JUN: Yeah, just to add I think this remote working environment, it provides a sense of not fitting in, it can develop really quickly, especially with the lack of interaction, I really agree that he can't over communicate enough, we need to make sure that the candidates would feel that sense of belongingness right from the get go. One tip I could share with you guys it's for the ones watching this, we've started investing in our onboarding concerts. So it's both people driven and automated. So for people driven we have our onboarding ambassador. So these are folks who would manage the relationship in the communication from the moment a candidate signs their job offer, all the way up till they show up. They attend their training, they do their orientation, the relationship is there so if there are any questions, concerns that the new employees are too shy to ask their hiring manager or supervisor, then the onboarding ambassador is going to be their buddy. So they can ask questions, or even escalate concerns. I mentioned, automating it and you know Max I've been working closely with your team on how we can automate our onboarding process especially for our frontline advisors, and the key for us when automating that is how do we focus on cultural immersion, so that, again, focusing on that sense of belongingness, leveraging on our well being platform and programs because, again, like what the earlier speakers in the earlier panel mentioned employee wellness and well being. Mental health is important. How do you create that sense of belonging, and we also tried to add that virtual meet and greets, virtual coffee chats with our new hires.
MAX: Great. Fleurette, do you want to add to the topic was everything covered I can move to the next question.
FLEURETTE: Yeah, go ahead, Max.
MAX: Okay, I will. Well, it's an ever ending topic anyway. How do we make people feel at home but I do like the ambassador's suggestion. It goes a little bit against what calpak was saying, where he was talking about the generalist where everything is handled by technology and recruitment is done by a generalist, there's still room for specialization perhaps like a specialist onboarding, specialist sourcing. I don't think that debate is settled, of course. We talked a little bit about, you were mentioning, people who quit their jobs a little bit more easily when they don't come to the office. How's the experience of the journey from somebody, applying being shortlisted being hired and then actually showing up on day one on the job. Has that funnel yielded some surprises and some shockers compared to a year ago? In other words, what are some of the drop off points that people should be on the lookout for where there's a risk of somebody disappearing, doing a Houdini on you? What can you share with us on this Fleurette or others, yes.
FLEURETTE: The unfortunate reality is that you have to master dropouts on every step of the way. So, because I have this ability for all recruitment and all of HR and we track this and it is making us sad. I do have recruiters and by the way, plugging hi to my loving HR and recruitment team, they come to me and say that they got ghosted in real life on their personal life and even at work, they get ghosted and so it has becoming to be something that they're very concerned about, and what you can do is first, work with the data that is available for you, right. And based on that data, we have consumed days, not only hours but days, looking at the data, trying to analyze why people are ghosting us and some of the data points that I can share to the team is that one, are they not showing up after the offer? So, for sure, it has something to do with the offer, 80 90% of the time, are they not showing up when you give them a long list of onboarding documents? I can tell you that they're afraid and they don't have the time and they don't want to go to those physical offices to get those documents. So, what we have done is really an investment, all around, an investment on technology. Let me talk about technology first, we made sure because the 201 folders that are used, it's something that we used to call many decades ago and I'm probably giving away my age. That is something of the past, you cannot do 201 folders anymore, physical ones right. So, we have invested in a platform where candidates can submit it can be uploaded, indexed in that particular platform so that when someone needs to audit you, it is available at your fingertips, right. The second part is we have made an investment on a vendor.
If your candidates cannot go or do not want to go to government agencies, schools, right, you have someone to do that for them. I know this is not something that everyone is accustomed to. Not all companies are not willing to make that investment, I get it, but for us we have computed the financial benefits of doing that versus not doing that. So every person that we don't hire is obviously, a loss in revenue, so you just have to put forth a good financial comparison on the investment versus the loss of revenue. And above all that Max, I'm a mother and Happy Mother's Day to everyone that is here, technology and platforms can only work if you have parents and support systems that can nurture them, right. So you have to train them properly, you have to invest in them the same way that we invest in our kids' education, you need to make sure that you are patient, because technology will not work 100% of how you desire that technology to work. So again, spending time with your frontline nurses is critical, spending time understanding what the candidates are talking about you is really critical at this point in time.
JUN: So to add to that one. For one of the aha moments that we've seen, and then I'm talking about our CSRs and PSRs frontline advisors, we've seen an increase in terms of fallouts across the various stages of our recruitment funnel, it's really critical that you have a very rigid and strict funnel management in place, just so that you know what's going on at every stages of the funnel, but just focusing on the fallouts at the end of the funnel so we see fallout for those folks who signed their job offers, but did not proceed with their pre employment background checks. We've seen folks who have signed their employment contracts but did not show up on day one. And when we try to look at the different drivers, what we notice is that we categorize our candidates or new employees into three profiles, the starters, the shifters and the adapters. Starters are fresh out of school, shifters are those with BPO experience and then you have the adapters who are coming from different industries for the first time to work in a BPO. Shifters what we found, they have a tendency to get attracted to the next shiny object so even though they've signed a job offer if another company comes along and offers them 500 pesos or 1000 more than what they got on their job offer, they jump to that offer and ghost you. For adapters and starters, it's more important that we are able to reaffirm that they made the right decision. So identifying what are the different drivers that will trigger their motivations. So for example, is there a specific benefit that we have that we can then share with them so as they're more inclined to push through with joining us. And I think a lot of it it's really how to properly communicate, and ensure that you have the right platform that you're able to send this communication templates, messages, as well as a live person that can still reach out and address their concerns at any given time.
MAX: A real human being flesh and bone, so old school.
MAX: We're not over yet. The robots haven't won yet. Okay, well I think you raised an important, old school weapon or a tactic of the recruiter which is, adapt to your audience, recruitment and sales adapt to your audience. The audience of course is shifting the psychology of the candidate says different than it was a year ago, their demands are different, so a lot of things have changed and so I'd like to ask our panelists about the demands of the new hires, what are some of the questions that they ask now that you never thought they would asked a year or maybe two, three years ago, Or let's just say that the frequency of these questions has risen up, what are some of the new trends in terms of demands, and that that we need to anticipate in talent acquisition?
ALETHEA: Thanks, Max, I think, it's maybe less of a trend but more of like a huge impact. Now, of course, everybody is basically having nightmares about a question, do I need to work on site if you're hiring for contact centers. The current quarantine conditions that change every week that determine our public safety, public transportation and all of those things really affect decisions on a daily basis, that's one of the things. The other thing also is that, so Manulife hires an actuarial analyst to salespeople to the contact center role and what we can really see is that there is an ask in terms of what mental wellness support we have. We have questions about how we support the family. So there's really this need to not just speak about monetary compensation but non monetary as well. And how often do they need to go to the office. Manulife currently for most of us 90% we still work from home, and we don't see that changing over the next year or so, given where our vaccination is, so even when we share to people, to the earlier panels point, do you want to work from home or stay on site, and that leads to a different type of conversation every single time. I think one of the other things is that links to the initial question, or the former question that you had was the major fallout for most of our higher strike now and maybe because I'm volume hiring IT roles is intermittent interruptions. So, the current assessment that we have a lots of people after 60 seconds so it automatically fails them, and we have to adapt to that because a lot where people may be on prepaid, or a short borrowed boost aid, so I think that's really it that really supporting them, not on the process itself of hiring but what's in it for me, as you support me through the pandemic.
JUN: So that's very good, just a word that I think the employee value proposition for work at home needs to evolve, then going back to what I shared earlier, a lot of the traditional BPOS our employee value proposition is centered around working on site. Case in point for Transcom we have childcare facilities on site, you have coffee shops on site, you have gyms on site. But what uses are all of these on site facilities if your employees are working at home, how do we then evolve the employee value proposition. So when you're targeting folks whose preference is working at home, you're still able to attract them and what's attractive for them. I agree with employee mental wellness, that's one of the key programs that we heard our employees asking for us to do more. We also seen an interesting development that's actually what we're seeing as a trend especially in our Bisaya sites, it's for those without any call center experience, they're actually interested in working on site, just because they know that they don't have any previous call center experience, they would like to be trained and mentored closely by supervisors and by trainers, so we're now looking at bringing in training so as they can then be handled, and get the proper training and the mentoring by their trainers and supervisors.
FLEURETTE: Hey Max, I'm going to add something that is slightly off topic but very much related. Okay, so talking about internet issues that's a given. In fact, all the companies have lobbied for IV BAP to really talk to the telecom companies to make sure that this is on top of their radar. You can only push so much work at home as long as the technology can support it, so the topic that I wanted to share with the group is, I think it was mentioned briefly earlier, that new hires always want to work from home because of the fear of the pandemic. However, once they started doing that they realized that, first, it is not sustainable, very noisy, you have siblings, you have parents or vice versa, that are very noisy in the background with roosters and dogs that are making noise.
MAX: And the Aircon.
FLEURETTE: Yeah and fan, not always Aircons Max, fans, right. So, you do have this real problems and then they realize that it's not only that I miss my colleagues, my friends, but it is not logically possible for me to sustain this, and then they do the reverse they asked to be placed back in the office but then, companies will have to weigh that end versus what the government is asking us to do, right, you can only have so much capacity at work. And then the other issue that we're also seeing is that, the engagement, regardless if you coach or train at some point in time you need to think of something new, whether it's gamification, whether it's giving them you know five minutes of doing something radical. I think those are the things that will keep them engaged, right, they're there, people are so done being at home, whether it's for work or personal reasons, it's just something that we need to be aware of and cognizant of.
MAX: I believe everybody is reading the same articles as we all are, people coming back to the office, and in some parts of the world but actually I just looked at the stats just this week that office occupancy in the US, which is supposed to be way ahead of most of the countries in terms of vaccination, still only adds 25 or 30% of what it was 14 months ago. So, it will definitely take a while, and so this investment in wellness and well being is absolutely a smart investment today because if it's bad today and people are fed up today, you can imagine it's just going to be worse six months from now. So, anticipate. Now talking about something not really related but we talked about our new hires being fed up. What about our recruiters being fed up, having to do all that, chasing documents and all that repetitive, mundane work around onboarding, repeating to them: go through the checklist, send me the documents, etc etc etc. It can be a very repetitive task. Now tell me, what do you think can be automated. I mean it's definitely something that my company is working on, we don't have to do any product placement here but I'm just kind of curious what your thoughts are on what can be automated and what will remain human.
FLEURETTE: So, Max by alluded earlier to a long list of requirements right. It begins with a serious review of the HR team with the support of their operations leadership team to really review it. Is it mandatory, yes or no? Is it a contractual obligation with the client, yes or no? or maybe it's a nice to have, because we have been collecting it for many years until now we carry that practice. So, we've done that, it's a painful exercise, but the result coming out of that exercise was huge, right. So, from a list of a couple dozen to now very critical. And by the way again because of the pandemic, you have to categorize them, which documents do you need pre offer, pre onboarding and post onboarding, I'm addressing the elephant in the room I don't think that all companies are going to share all their issues all their problems. I am doing that a little bit so that folks can actually learn. What I can share to address that problem I will repeat, a bit of what I shared earlier is that every time you invest on a technology and Max should be happy if I say this, every time you invest on technology don't think of it as an additional expense for the company. You have to really weigh in and compare how much revenue loss you are experiencing for not being able to hire them on time, not only hire them, but hire them on time. So, every week, that you're missing filling in your classes, that equates to 1000s of dollars for every company, right. So, technology platform, you need to be able to submit indexes, and report on those documents real time. There couldn't be any delay in those particular processes. Latency is something that we hate, right. We cannot afford issues of the system being down, latency. So those have to be considered when choosing the right technology platform and even the vendors that you're going to be working with.
JUN: For me, just going back to your question about what can be automated. Pre day one communication, how to keep your candidates warm from the moment they sign job offers, reach a certain process all the way up to day one, the communication there can be automated, document collection can be automated and tracking. And then, document the creation so employment offers and contracts, including signatures that can also be digitized and automated.
MAX: So that's quite a lot Jun. In fact, with your permission in my next presentation I'll give a sneak peek of a robot you have running on Facebook. Permission granted, yes. All right, great. Well Alethea, did you want to add to the topic on automation or was everything covered, we move on to the next question?
ALETHEA: We can move on.
MAX: Okay. All right, I'm gonna look at audience questions then. We have one audience about wearing multiple hats. Are you considering partnering with recruitment firms, what are the things you expect from them. Okay, I think that's an interesting question, staffing firms used to account for maybe 20% of hires in the BPO sector and in this space I think that number has come down, but the RPO sector, our Recruitment Process Outsourcing always does well on the backend of a recession over crisis because it gives companies an opportunity to grow without having to grow their headcount internally too fast for TA. Do you think that staffing firms and recruitment partners have a nice few quarters ahead of them or do you see that their share of higher will continue to fall in trends with the last five years, anyone?
ALETHEA: So my own personal experience has been that what Jun said earlier, we thought we were not gonna hire a lot. And we actually ended up hiring a lot, and one of the two sides of a coin, were countries, especially first world countries, can't cope quickly enough with the effect of the economy then they move the work to third world countries or developing organizations where labor is a lot less and that really means that countries like the Philippines, and locations like Chengdu to start getting this huge amount of work migration that you did not plan or forecast for, and that's really where the RPO and a third party comes in right. I think that definitely an RPO and the third party vendors for direct placements are one of the three legs of my stool right now that's keeping me sitting quite well. On the other hand, though, I think there is definitely a change in the way that we interact with RPO or the third party vendors. We find that they can't cast a wide net right now. We have to be very specific in terms of sourcing strategies and be very strategic in what requisitions we give to them and for how long. So, I think from an internal recruiting team standpoint, the team is a little bit more hands on even over junior recruiters who work directly with a vendors recruiters that we actually have to be very aligned in terms of KPIs and deliverables, and be aware that the best people or you need right now is really just for open communication and consistency and let them know that we basically have to ensure that they're we're aligned in terms of the process and targets that we have but currently we depend on them.
MAX: Yeah, it's like the RPO model more than their traditional staffing firm role.
FLEURETTE: Max, if I may. I like recruiting firms that are results based right, so obviously depending on how many you hire that's the contract that you have with them. We have our fair share of successes with some of our recruiting partners, but also something that I'm not sure if my peers have encountered. Because our leads management database is so big and robust. When a recruiting firm gives us a list of 190 plus percent of those people are actually on our leads database, right. Specifically, our offices are in the provinces where we are either, the biggest or the top three biggest so it's really difficult. I'm being upfront and honest that recruiting partners will remain important to BPOs, but also they need to think of a way of elevating their game as well because again, we have those names in our own databases.
JUN: Yeah, for us, I think we've been fortunate to have weaned ourselves from headhunters and this is for volume hiring, for non volume hiring so these are for support folks management executives, they will always have a niche. Specialized hiring like multilinguals, yes will have RPOs and headhunters, but for volume hiring we're fortunate enough to have followed the global trend, it's gone down year over year, I think our highest was around 24% higher share 2-3 years ago, now it's 5% higher share. And I think part of it that's because we keep asking ourselves, these guys are sourcing based on the same board that we're sourcing, so we just need to do a better job in terms of added attraction. And one of the things that we wanted to get away from it's we don't want to just keep on getting leads and endorsements from headhunters, we want them to if a vendor would like to partner with us. They need to own part of the recruitment funnel management, chase after their candidates, overlay the job interview stages. So, yeah, I think the future for headhunters for volume hiring for Transcom it's going to continue to go get a smaller piece of the hiring share pie.
MAX: Okay alright. Well same message, up your game, specialize or otherwise your market share will shrink. You've heard it from the panel. I'm sure the recruiters have that competitive fibre that will find a way to reinvent themselves as we all do. In Fact that would be the topic of my next presentation and I'm going to jump into that and thank my esteemed panelists, Jun, Alethea and Fleurette for joining us. They had some of the most cutting edge talent acquisition operations in one of the most tech aggressive markets in the world, the Philippines, which I had the pleasure of working for years and well thanks for sharing and of course where to reach, they are all on LinkedIn.
JUN: Thank you, bye.
FLEURETTE: Thanks so much Max.
ALETHEA: Thanks so much guys, bye guys.
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