Talent Leaders – Sean Allen

March 14, 2024

Starting his career in agency recruitment. Sean has spent the last 13 years in-house and is currently Head of Talent Acquisition at The Very Group. Previously, Talent Acquisition Manager at BJSS and prior to that held various Talent Partner roles focussed on tech at organisations such as BBC, Sky and Yorkshire Building Society to name a few.

Sean is also a member of the RL100 and a co-founder of The Talent Community.


The Talent Community:

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

Empathy: In the current climate we’ve seen a lot of redundancies within the Talent Acquisition space alongside the slowing down of hiring at many companies. I believe one of the biggest attributes you can bring to the table as a Talent leader in the current climate is Empathy.

Agility: The current business environment across most organisations has been impacted by inflation, thus in turn driving businesses to look at costs and headcount as they face in to the inflation increases. As Talent Leaders we need to be agile to be able to pivot in our skill sets to support our colleagues across the business and re-prioritise our objectives and focus. Being agile allows the Talent team to thrive in a challenging market.

Communication: Effective communication is critical as a Talent Leader. It’s important to ensure your team are on the journey with you, understand their roles and the impact we have on the business and the bottom line. It’s key to understand how your team absorb information and how they like to receive feedback and praise. By leafing with effective communication, your team will be alongside you on the journey and be able to make meaningful impact where required within the Talent function.

Strategic Thinking: This is another critical string to the bow for talent leaders. It allows us to anticipate future challenges, identify opportunities for growth and align talent initiatives with broader company objectives. This allows for collaboration across wider people functions and business functions. If you use data to make informed decisions, you can allocate resources effectively and navigate complexities in an ever-changing environment. This enables your TA function to have long term success and high value impact to the business.

Industry Trends: It’s always important as a Talent Leader to keep abreast of talent trends in the market. Whether this is economic driven, advancement and introduction of new technology or improvement of how companies attract, retain, and develop talent. It’s key to ensure we show agility to constantly look to improve how we do things and keep ahead with the market and competition.

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

Trust & Transparency: For me I’ve always tried to lead with an openness of trust and transparency. I want my teams to feel psychologically safe when they’re at work and that they’re able to bring their whole selves to work. By leading with trust and transparency, you will often see this reflected in your team and they will be open with you regarding any challenges they are facing at work or at home. This allows you as a leader to offer them the support they need and ensure you are doing the right thing by your team members.

Understand Motivations: The other thing I look to do is understand what motivates the team as a collective and as individuals. By knowing this it enables me to try and drive them in the right way and on the right path. It’s our jobs as leaders to help our teams unlock their potential and to support them on their career journey, whilst ensuring we deliver against our strategic goals as a team and the goals of the business.

Lead by Example: As I’ve progressed through my career, I’ve slowly moved more hands off when it comes to recruitment. However, I do pick up recruitment when times are busy, colleagues are on holiday etc. I’ve always tried to lead by example and not ask my team to do anything I wouldn’t be willing to do myself. Through demonstrating integrity, professionalism, and a strong work ethic, it fosters a culture as such.

Listen: It’s easier said than done. But it’s important to actively listen to your team. Don’t try and fill silences. It’s not just about hearing what they say but giving your full attention to them and taking time to absorb and reflect on what they’ve just said to you.

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

In the current climate and the year we’ve just had in 2023, I’d say it’s the overall value seen of TA from the exec within the business. We’re seeing TA teams cut so fine due to the economic climate now that their value is mainly delivering on the roles they have. Whilst I understand to balance overall costs within the business, there is a real opportunity for those organisations that have kept hold of their talent teams whilst recruitment is paused/light to utilise their skills and experience supporting other areas of the business whilst developing their talent teams further. A further opportunity is having your TA team to continue to build and engage with candidate pools to keep engagement with their brand so when recruitment inevitably picks up, you’re on the front foot as an organisation to secure amazing people quickly for your business.

I’d also highlight the return to the office. We’re seeing more organisations move back to being onsite fully or onsite multiple days under a fixed hybrid model. Candidates are telling us on the most part they want remote or flexibility when it comes to hybrid. I think organisations that can offer fully remote to fully onsite and every bit of hybrid in between will win as they’ll have the largest candidate pool to tap in to.

Final note is that whilst we see budgets cut, there is another opportunity to run reviews on past performance of tools and partners, work with the business to understand future workforce planning and ultimately look at what will be needed to help deliver to that, as well as looking at creative ways to continue to do things where you have lost budget.

What is the next stage of transformation for Talent functions?

I think the next stage of transformation for Talent functions will include further integration of technology, data analytics, and AI to enhance recruitment and learning and development.

AI: Leveraging technologies like AI and machine learning to help automate repetitive tasks in the recruitment process will become more widely used. From interview scheduling, candidate screening and more we will start to see a greater use of AI within Talent Acquisition functions to reduce recruiter time on tasks where possible and appropriate, enabling them to focus on areas where they possess real value they add.

Data Analytics: Some Talent teams do this well and others less so. But through leveraging data analytics, talent teams will gain improved insights into workforce trends, performance metrics, and talent acquisition strategies. This will enable data-driven decision-making when it comes to talent mapping, especially in areas where there is a real challenge to secure external talent.

Internal Mobility: One thing that often gets overlooked or left more with L&D teams is the talent you already have – your employees. I believe TA functions working more closely with L&D teams will enable a more strategic approach when it comes to understanding and mapping out internal talent. Not only in terms of succession planning but understanding and leveraging skills from colleagues across the business and promoting more squiggly careers. Your internal talent should be the first place you look but you also need to ensure you have the right frameworks in place to understand your current employee make up, their skills, career aspirations and having the structure and tools in place to develop them.’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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