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Talent Leaders – Rebecca Foden

May 8, 2024

Rebecca stands out as a visionary Early Careers and TA Leader, celebrated for her pioneering efforts in advancing STEM-based hiring, social mobility, diversity, and leading digital innovation within talent acquisition.

Her accolades include recognition as one of the “Top 5 Most Innovative Women in Recruitment,” underscoring her commitment to pushing boundaries through disruptive thought leadership. With notable achievements in leading student recruitment at EY, establishing the Executive TA team at Transport for London and leading the way with cutting-edge candidate engagement strategies, Rebecca has worked for some of the world’s most iconic brands. She is currently serving as a strategic advisor for Tazio, a prominent early careers assessment company, as well as being a Board member with the Association of Apprenticeships. Rebecca has a proven track record of spearheading transformative initiatives across complex global businesses. Her passion for youth engagement, emerging leaders and unchartered talent pathways, diversity, and disruptive thinking is evident in her strategic approach, blending visionary insight with operational excellence to consistently deliver market-leading candidate experiences.

A member of the RL100 and TA speaker on scaling TA challenges and creating human-centred and digital experiences, she has been instrumental in leading the industry with over 35 recognition awards, recently winning a RAD award for best digital experience of entry talent, and the CIPD award for best diversity strategy.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rebecca-foden-321a502 

What do you think is the key to being successful as a Talent leader in the current business environment?

Being successful is always being curious and engaging in a growth mindset.

I’m a great dot connector and constantly observe what’s happening around me and try to apply this to my own hemisphere of thinking.

For example, I am currently quite obsessed with Elon Musk and often wonder how he has built three revolutionary start-ups in completely different fields. I find his view on ‘First Principles’ fascinating. It’s a life hack on problem-solving and applying science. I am not a Scientist, however this doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate science. If you boil things down to the fundamental truths and reason up from there – he believes that anything is possible if you apply physics.

In the world of work, many people reason by analogy and this is how ‘status quo’ continues to permeate everywhere as this is just copying others. Why is this relevant in TA? Well – for me, if I apply first principles to key TA problems, then there is always a clever way to achieve an outcome by challenging our assumptions.

A great TA leader is one who allows space to ‘Think’ and unblock traditional ways of thinking, thus empowering your team to get on with it.

As a Talent leader, what is your key advice for managing your teams and people?

Empathy is the essential ingredient to being a great leader. Individuals need to be seen, heard and listened to, as this will earn trust and commitment, mutual respect and understanding. Leadership is not easy, it can be quite lonely at times, and showing humility and vulnerability are also important to be more human. Kindness is also absolutely essential in the modern world, focusing on wellbeing and enabling your team to help with envisioning the future and aligning their personal goals and growth plans.

A great leader is somewhat like a gardener, cultivating their teams, laying down good foundations and allowing them to grow in whichever direction the wind takes them. Leaders must also always appreciate that not everyone is motivated by the same purpose, or value, the art of a great leader, is spotting where these may align together to create magic.

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

TA has changed drastically in the last 20 years. What strikes me is that we have experienced the same ‘diversity and levelling up’ issues since many dynasties ago, from the Imperial examination (assessment test, similar to today’s volume-based hiring processes) in ancient China to widen social mobility, to headhunting (literally) and the labour shortage in the modern era, despite all the technology and investment in diversity, we have still not solved the Diversity problem.

In this way the role of the recruiter has not changed, in terms of the same problems, labour shortage, diversity, and skills gap – however, the rise of technology, geopolitical conditions, Covid-19, AI have all accelerated these complexities. Recruiters now have to be more than 360, they need to develop new skills to become; technologically savvy, data scientists, most likely outcome (MLO) predictors, employer brand differentiators, TA/employer brand influencers, digital/human-centred experiential builders who are globally minded. The world is constantly changing, and TA often faces unexpected challenges and crises. Being able to adapt to change with practical solutions is essential.

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

The current landscape presents both a significant opportunity and a pressing challenge: effectively integrating AI into our talent processes without compromising diversity. While automation is crucial, there’s a delicate balance to strike. Over-reliance on AI runs the risk of excluding valuable talent pools and overlooking contextual nuances in hiring decisions that only humans can decipher.

At present, AI lacks the capability to apply contextual recruitment strategies on an individual level. For instance, when tasked with screening out candidates lacking specific sector experience, AI may inadvertently filter out individuals who offer diverse perspectives from other industries – this is detrimental.

The question arises: How do we harmonize automation, algorithms, and contextual hiring to unearth those hidden talent gems?

Another obstacle we face is the fluctuating nature of talent acquisition, compounded by a lack of sustained investment amidst challenging economic climates. TA is the lifeblood of organisations, yet it is the first business division to be trimmed which will risk a negative impact on the overall brand value. This is very short-sighted and proves that TA still has a long way to go, to ensure that we have the credibility at the highest echelons in business.

What is the next stage of transformation for Talent functions?

It’s increasingly evident that there’s a growing need to address emotional well-being and measure happiness in the workplace. With one in four young people experiencing mental health issues, and Generation Alpha poised to enter the workforce within the next five years, the majority of our workforce will soon comprise Gen Z and Millennials.

To effectively adapt to this evolving landscape, we must prioritise health and well-being at a foundational level. This could entail introducing roles such as Chief Happiness Officers, Wellbeing Tsars, and creating career paths to contentment tailored to diverse demographics.

AI will play a crucial role in this endeavor, facilitating positive employee experiences and enhancing productivity and loyalty for forward-thinking, human-centric brands.

These brands will stand out as market leaders and I am excited to see which ones do this authentically and lead the way on employee morale engagement. They will be the winning brands who will be magnets for the very best talent.

 

TA.guru’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.

If you are interested in participating please contact sean@ta.guru for more information.

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