Happy Feet and Eggshells

Had a nice conversation with European recruiting professionals from WorkWonders, Shell, and Newell Rubbermaid in the exhibit hall at the ERE Global conference in Amsterdam.

The Netherlands, they say, is very short of construction employees, and they’re being brought in from Eastern Europe. This, however, is like “walking on eggshells,” because of the perception that it’s displacing local employees — much like the controversy in the U.S. over companies sending jobs to India.

Shell’s looking for experienced HR professionals. Rubbermaid’s trying to sell more products in Eastern Europe, and in turn needs to recruit more from Eastern Europe, though cultural and language differences are making this tough.

My notes from the conference speakers are below:


Rachel Denning, Executive Director, Recruitment — International


  • Happy Feet’s success is good news for TimeWarner; Feet is providing ample competition to Borat and Bond.
  • TimeWarner — with its 95,000 employees, 2 million resumes on its BrassRing system, $43.7 billion revenue, and $10.7 billion profit — is hoping to be #1 or #2 in all areas it does business, is selling parts of the business (like the Atlanta Braves baseball team) that don’t fit, and is buying back stock to show people that the company has confidence in the business.
  • It launched an in-house executive search firm in the United States in January of 2003, with the goal of saving money and with the sense that they’d understand the business better than outside firms. The 30-person team has completed 915 searches (with 35% internal applicants) and saved $50 million or more, she says.
  • A team of four started doing in-house search from London starting in 2004, handling international search assignments, starting in Europe, as well as ad campaigns and diversity initiatives. It has filled 108 senior level assignments (she says only two have failed), and saved $6 million or more.
  • It pays its in-house search staff on salary and with bonuses for personal performance and company performance. They’re not on commission, but successful searches obviously could affect their personal performance bonus.
  • TimeWarner tries to do searches in 10 weeks; they present four to six candidates; the client interviews between three and five.
  • Measurements they use: cost savings; completion rate; time to fill; internal mobility; the number of appropriate resumes they receive; diversity (something they haven’t fully defined outside the U.S.); and source of hire.
  • It does hiring manager surveys informally, but would like to make this process more systematic, to gauge manager satisfaction, over time, with searches.
  • Denning says that being in-house helps because they spend time in the business and are in the room as new products are discussed or unveiled, and otherwise spend a lot of time understanding the magazine-making, movie-making, and other parts of the business. “We’ve got quite sexy brands ? we are an attractive business,” she says, joking that George Clooney has something to do with it.


Stephen Carr, Manager of Recruitment Sourcing
T-Mobile UK

  • 62% of Britons have either referred somebody or been referred for a job, or both. 89% have not been rewarded for it.
  • Recruiters surveyed in the UK rank employee referrals as the best source of quality candidates, yet only 47% of larger UK companies have a referral award program.


Kevin Wheeler, Global Learning Resources

(presentation about Asia)

  • “We’re heading into a talent storm in Asia” with repercussions in Europe and the U.S. that are yet unknown. Asia will dominate the world economy by 2040.
  • Asia houses 1/3 of the world’s talent, many not well educated. The small number who are educated are in “tremendous and constant demand.”
  • China and the U.S. have a lot of similarities in terms of the percentage of jobs that are in manufacturing and mining, but China’s heavily agricultural, and the U.S. is heavily service-oriented. China’s future will include fewer ag jobs and more service jobs.
  • China and India have too few educated people, too high a savings rate, not enough jobs, and not enough people willing to relocate. Chinese leaders fear that “they can’t generate enough jobs.”
  • The highly talented and skilled — a tenth of a percent in China and India, Wheeler estimates — are paid a “tremendous amount of money.”
  • 1.24 million college students can’t find jobs in China; there are “incredible, incredible challenges economically.”
  • India’s pace is slow; China, as a totalitarian regime, can get things done (e.g. building a road).
  • It’s a myth that low-level work is being done in Asia; companies such as Motorola, Google, H-P, and Cisco are having Indian teams devise software systems.
  • The universities in China and India have loose standards as far as what constitutes an engineer; it could be an auto mechanic. “It’s very hard to know what you’re getting,” Wheeler says, unless you go to a handful of top universities to recruit.
  • Wheeler says “you’re going to have to have very good recruiters in those countries”; you can’t expect to send someone over there and expect them to be successful, and you can’t easily find a local person who’s going to be a successful recruiter.
  • “The best way to get talent in Asia,” he says, is probably to grow your own.” They work hard; they crave a better life (many are unhappy with it as is); are often very individualistic and motivated; want their families to feel their successful; are interested in other cultures; and women are equal to men and are “really sharp.”
  • Recruiters must redefine their jobs for Asia; they must provide mentoring and coaching as to how to be successful; they need to use travel, the Internet, and more to encourage interaction with the headquarters. Have people travel back to the home country.
  • “There’s so much energy, so much potential. You can almost feel it in the air there.”


Alan Whitford, Abtech Parternship

(presentation on demographic issues) 

  • You “can’t find a plumber in Poland as all are in UK,” which is a significant turnaround from past years, where there was a shortage in the UK. Now, “if you need a plumber in Krakow, call someone in the UK.”
  • In the U.S., some people see the Mexican border as the answer to the baby-boom, labor-shortage issue.
  • In Europe, Ireland, the Netherlands, and France are growing in population/birthrates, unlike, for example, Italy.
  • “In Europe we don’t have any [interest] at all to keep working after 60.”
  • UK employers are dealing with a deluge of employment legislation.


Elizabeth McFarlan, Director, International Recruitment

UnitedHealth Group 

  • United’s a U.S.-based company, but some of its divisions are working overseas, doing such things as drug trials. In fact, it’s now operating in 42 different countries.
  • “I have no idea what’s going to happen six months ago,” she says. They may, for example, need nurses from the Philippines or they may acquire a company in Russia. “Who knows?” she asks.
  • United has operated very separately here in Europe, with little collaboration or connection to Corporate back in the U.S. She’s hoping that changes, and wants to make sure best practices from the U.S. are being considered here.
  • A sign of how removed she is from the headquarters: United’s using Jobster, though she was unaware of this until this week’s conference, when she heard Jobster CEO Jason Goldberg’s presentation here and inquired about it.
  • Back to the no-idea-of-what’s-happening-in-six-months, it’s trying to develop a pipeline to be ready for quick, large recruiting projects that could come at any time. United’s pipeline-flow-chart shows whether a certain job function is anticipated; whether the skill-set will be hard or easy to find; how likely it is that there’ll be a need; and what type of sourcing strategy will be deployed to fill the job.
  • As to the above mention of “what type of sourcing strategy will be deployed” — these are classified as A, B, and C, with A involving their company website, a referral campaign, job sites, agencies, newspapers, events, market research, and more. B would include only a portion of these; C would only include a smaller portion — just the company website. In an ideal world, she says, “recruiters would spend 75% of their time on pipelines.” United’s been trying to send emails to people quarterly, bi-monthly, or monthly, depending on the nature of the candidate. For example, people it just wants to stay in touch with may get a quarterly “hello” type of email, and those who it’s really trying to convert into candidates may get a monthly contact asking to meet up for coffee.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s