Alex is Talent Acquisition Manager at BJSS, one of the UK’s largest privately owned Software Consultancies.
Alex started his recruitment career in 2016, working for a couple of well-known local IT recruitment companies in Leeds before making the switch to an internal role at BJSS in 2018. Since then, he’s worked his way up from Recruitment Coordinator to a Talent Manager role, which gives him the unique insight of having worked his way up through each of the different levels in the BJSS talent structure.
As part of the Talent Leadership team at BJSS he’s responsible for helping to shape talent strategy across multiple locations, such as Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and Nottingham. He also manages a team of 8 talent partners and coordinators, based in various UK locations. Alex is passionate about innovative sourcing strategies, fostering diversity and inclusion, and establishing meaningful relationships with candidates and stakeholders.
What do you think is the key to being successful as a Talent leader in the current business environment?
- Good active listening skills
These would probably be my top 5 if I was building an effective leader from scratch, but I guess it’s all about working out what’s in front of you and tailoring your approach to suit the situation and the people around you. Adaptability is probably the one that I’d highlight the most out of the list above. What I’ve learnt is that you need to be okay with the idea of changing your style and approach to suit different individuals and different situations. You can’t tackle everything in the same way and you need to be nuanced in your thinking and approach. The Talent industry is a rapidly changing environment.
As Talent Leaders, we need to be at the forefront of that change to make sure we’re doing the right things by our stakeholders/customers/clients/candidates but also our people as well. Some of the best leaders I’ve worked for have been forthcoming in trying to push me outside of my comfort zone, whilst at the same time being somebody who you know has your back no matter what situations get thrown your way and I’d like to think I’ve modelled a lot of my behaviours on those individuals.
As a Talent leader, what is your key advice for managing your teams and people?
Try and think about the shoe being on the other foot and how you’d like to be managed but have the self-awareness to understand that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all philosophy either. Everybody is different, we all have our own styles, ways of working and nuances. What works for one person isn’t necessarily the way it’s going to work for everybody so be open to embracing that and mixing your approach up to suit the individuals in your team. Whilst establishing what this looks like, use this as an opportunity to set clear boundaries so everyone knows where they stand and everyone’s on the same page as well.
Don’t be afraid to fail fast but learn from it – I think this goes back to the wider self-awareness piece too. If something you’ve tried to implement isn’t working or you’ve got some negative feedback, be comfortable with recognising that it’s okay to pivot and try new things. Try and get into the habit of self-assessing. Is this producing the results I wanted it to? Is this having the desired effect? Is this the best use of our time? If the answer is no, mix it up.
Empower your team to work on things they’re passionate about. Find out what they enjoy and try to create a platform for them where they can explore these things further in the workplace. This could be anything from D+I, learning and development, public speaking, event organising. Giving your people the freedom to pursue their own passions will ultimately lead them to being more comfortable and engaged at work and they’ll naturally grow as individuals with what they learn. Champion autonomy and allow people to be curious about new things.
Recognise that you are the steward of your team’s culture, it starts and ends with you. I think it’s important to try and create an environment at work where people feel comfortable to be who they truly are and where people can be the best versions of themselves. Diversity of thought and approach is key to establishing a team that works together but also one that evolves over time.
What do you think is the biggest challenge and biggest opportunity facing Talent and Recruitment?
In terms of challenges, I think the changes brought about by Covid are still relevant, especially with regards to how remote working is viewed and perceived in the market. Candidates have so much more mobility now in terms of companies they can work for given the advancements and general acceptance in remote first working (not something I have an issue with by the way). However, this creates a bigger market for candidates to explore, people who live in the North of England can now consider remote roles in London for example, along with associated London salaries. I’ve seen first-hand how this has affected companies in the North in relation to attrition but also available candidates in the market. It’s made a hard job even harder.
This has also created opportunity, however. It gives recruiters (both internal and external) a chance to really work with their stakeholders/clients to delve deep into what sets them apart from the competition. What sets a certain company apart from the rest? What new and exciting tech are they working on that developers in the market really want to work with? What new products are they developing that everybody will want to know about? It’s given recruiters an opportunity to work with businesses to educate them how to proposition their opportunities properly as well as look at what their overall talent strategy is. Whilst it’s becoming harder to find good people, companies are evolving and changing their approach to how they’re perceived in the market to give themselves the best possible chance of hiring. As we see Gen Z focussing more on transparency from companies around DE+I, CSR and EVP, there is a real opportunity to look at ourselves internally and showcase our journey in these spaces via employer brand. I think it’s also pushed companies to think more about how they plan for the future and how they can look to develop talent as opposed to constantly back-filling. With mass investment going in to early careers roles and companies facilitating and setting up academy programmes for apprentices and graduates, there has probably never been a more buoyant market for those working in early careers recruitment and I think it’s a great show of commitment from companies in terms of how seriously this is taken now.
What is the next stage of transformation for Talent functions?
There’s so much talk about the advancements in technology at the minute, especially relating to AI. A lot of talk I’ve seen has been around how AI and especially advancements with platforms like Chat GPT will make talent and recruitment more a more challenging place. I’m of the opinion that if you go looking for problems, you’ll probably find them. We should be trying to change the conversation around this and find ways to use them to our advantage. Speaking from my own experience I’ve seen how AI and Chat GPT can be a great time saver as well as how it can aid talent functions in streamlining some of their processes. For things like writing job adverts and strategy plans it can be a great starting point, but I think the key to it is understanding just that, it’s a starting point and an element of human touch is still very much needed. There are probably historical comparisons you can draw such as the switch to applicant tracking platforms as opposed to manually updating spreadsheets once upon a time. That change was probably uncomfortable for some to begin with as it was a different way of going about daily tasks, but it’s a good example of how we’ve leveraged technology in the industry to improve the overall experience.
I think the next stage of transformation in talent is understanding that robots and automated platforms aren’t coming for our jobs. We need to develop an understanding as to how we can work in tandem with the newest technologies available to us, whilst at the same time understanding the value that we bring to the job and the skills that we’ve honed throughout our careers. No other industry self-depreciates like recruitment and talent in my opinion, and I think it’s time for recruiters to look more inwards to understand the value that they bring, the contribution they make to the economy and the businesses they work for and the service they provide. Instead of the first thought being how is this change going to negatively impact me, it should be how can I use this and harness it as a power to be better at what I do.
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