Companies today can be divided into two categories – those who are digital disruptors, incorporating video, social, and mobile technologies into all aspects of the business – and those who are, well, being left behind.
The world of publishing has, perhaps more than any other industry, experienced the changes that digital technology has brought to business. Neil Morrison, Group HR Director, UK and International Companies, Penguin Random House, shares his advice, expertise, and a lighthearted moment about his digital recruiting journey.
Q. Random House is a household name to most of us, but in your own words, tell us a bit more about your company's mission and talent philosophy.
A. Random House became part of Penguin Random House on 1 July when the two companies merged creating the world’s first truly global trade book publishing company. We are still in the early days of the two companies coming together, but ultimately we are passionate about bringing the attention of the world to the stories and ideas that matter. It is as simple as that.
In terms of talent, the sort of people we source now and the sort of roles that we recruit for, are completely different than those of even five years ago. We have needed to reposition ourselves as an employer and open our doors to a wider array of talent. That means recruiting and sourcing in different ways. But whilst the skills and the experience we are looking for might be changing, a passion for the work that we do, for books and for reading remains at the core of our philosophy.
Q. What are some current market conditions or trends in the UK that are impacting the way companies recruit talent?
A. The UK market is recovering nicely now from a difficult period. That said, there are still a lot of people that are sitting tight in their companies. We need to find ways of encouraging people to take a chance, to explore opportunities, to listen to what companies have to offer. Part of that is making it easy for candidates, to go to them, rather than being complacent. Companies need to be more creative, more innovative and more attractive, not just in what they have to offer, but in how they present that offer.
Q. It's clear the world's gone digital – and so has talent acquisition. What were the business drivers behind your decision to implement digital recruiting at Random House?
A. The world of publishing has, maybe as much as anyone, seen the changes that digital technology brings to business. As an industry, we’ve shown how these changes can be embraced successfully and how “threats” can be turned in to opportunities. Embracing technology is important to us throughout our business and that includes HR. We felt that digital recruiting would not only send out a positive message to candidates about the way that our business was changing, but it would also simplify and improve the recruitment process for candidates, resourcers and managers. A win, win, if you like.
Q. What are some of the results of your digital recruiting efforts? What sort of feedback have you gotten from recruiters, hiring managers and your candidates?
A. We knew that when we introduced the technology, that people would be apprehensive. So we were very careful to introduce it by choice rather than compulsion. The benefits spread by word of mouth and soon we had people coming to us to ask whether they could use the technology. Feedback from every manager that has used it has been positive. They are clear of the benefits to them in terms of the simplicity, ease and time saving. We’ve not had any negative feedback. Some candidates have been apprehensive, but increasingly we are hearing more and more positive feedback. The benefits are being recognised all around.
Q. What's your advice to other companies considering going digital?
A. Any introduction of technology is going to appeal to different groups of people in different ways. Some will be early adopters and champions and some will be more reticent. I think it is important to recognise that and accept it. Let the message spread, get people curious, share success stories. Ultimately, if you have a good logical reason for introducing it, and take time to bring people with you, then you are more likely to be successful.
Q. What's your funniest interviewing story – either as a talent acquisition leader or a former candidate yourself?
A. Years ago, when applying for graduate schemes, I had an interview in a hotel in London. I must have sat in the same position for the best part of two hours, because when I went to stand up, one of my legs had completely gone to sleep. The result? I tombstoned flat on to the hotel floor. If only interviewing on demand had been available then.