Talent Leaders – Dave Owen

April 2, 2024

Dave is a Co-Founder & the CEO of ditto – the UKs first b2b secondment marketplace enabling companies to offer employees external secondments in new sectors to develop new skills.

Prior to starting ditto Dave was Global Head of Talent Acquisition at Dyson, accountable for 5,000 hires a year across 75+ countries. Dave’s last “real job” was Talent Strategy Advisor to the BBC.


What do you think is the key for businesses to be successful in recruitment and talent acquisition in the current business environment?

I’ve always answered this question in a similar way, and despite a very different business environment, I think it still stands:

Being ‘strategic’ or ‘successful’ within talent acquisition is remarkably simple. It boils down to whether your decision(s) will increase the speed, quality or diversity of your hires. This answer applies to startups and the biggest companies in the world.

How important is having the right tech stack to the success of a recruitment function?

I tend to overuse metaphors so hold on to your seat for this one. The answer is of course, it’s extremely important to have the right tech but that includes being extremely clear on “what” tech you need and that’s linked to the capability and maturity of the team that’s going to transact within it. If you put me in the world’s best formula 1 car, I’ll crash.

One of the hardest things for TA and business leaders is strategically navigating a highly saturated HRTech market and knowing when and why you’re saying no as well as yes.

How has the role of a recruiter changed and what new skills do you think they need to possess and develop?

It’s been a little while since I talked a lot with recruiters, but it’s pretty apparent the funnel volumes overall have gone up. In a candidate-rich market this is to be expected and I’d caution companies to start putting this down to AI/Tech and seeking to remedy it with more AI/Tech. I think recruiters today are working with fewer resources and support as companies have made reductions sooner than they’ve put tech in place to cover the deficit and I think for that reason recruiters more than ever must be brutally focused on prioritising time/effort to maximise ROI. This sadly often results in plates being dropped and best practice falling by the way-side.

How important is strong recruiter enablement in ensuring individual, team and business success?

Unquestionably recruiter enablement helps TA teams, particularly larger, mature functions with the right data and governance in place. I actually think this category is being pushed far more than it is being pulled. There is a place for recruiter enablement in the same way there is a place for most AI co-pilot ideas you hear about. The trick is measuring the consistency and quality of the outputs feeding recruiter confidence and therefore long-term adoption and usage. There is a tendency to start talking about the compelling time-saving metrics of this new category, however don’t forget the other metrics I mentioned in question one; you need to be increasing the diversity and quality of your hires and the experience too.

What do you think is the biggest challenge and biggest opportunity facing Talent and Recruitment?

I’m so sorry to drop the old ‘AI’ term, but it’s my answer to both here. Short-term I think AI displaces many jobs and fundamentally reinvents the recruitment funnel top to bottom whilst we figure out the art of the new possible. Medium to long term, I think AI results in net-positive jobs and better TA functions overall.

What is the biggest challenge being a founder in the Talent space and how have you tackled this?

Prioritise thinking about meaningful problems vs solutions. There are so many solutions you could build right now for the first time. The harder challenge for founders is focusing on problems people truly care about and will pay to have them fixed. Our business is built on the same lived experience of a problem but from three entirely different sectors vs designing a secondment marketplace because it’s pretty cool (which it is!)’s Talent Leader Series seeks to share the view of leaders in the Talent space.

By sharing the thoughts and insights of these leaders will hopefully help the Talent industry as a whole as it explores new opportunities and faces new challenges.

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