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Automating TA and breaking through the ‘treacle Layer’: Igniting passion in Hiring Managers, uncovering Potential and piloting skills-based hiring | with Andrea Marston

Tuesday 23rd April

Automating TA and breaking through the ‘treacle Layer’: Igniting passion in Hiring Managers, uncovering Potential and piloting skills-based hiring | with Andrea Marston

Andrea Marston is a trailblazer. As a Global Talent Acquisition leader who has spearheaded TA teams at the likes of Workday, Finastra, AOL, Huddle, Oracle, and most recently at VMware (now part of Broadcom), Andrea’s advice on overcoming TA’s biggest challenges is not to be missed.  

And having played a pivotal role in scaling several multi-billion-dollar enterprises in hyper-competitive landscapes, all while championing inclusive and equitable practices on a global scale, there aren’t many challenges she hasn’t had to overcome.

Join Andrea and Robert Newry for episode one of Season two of the TA Disruptors podcast as they discuss…

🤖 Why candidate experience is still so poor, and how GenAI could be the answer to  creating frictionless automation while maintaining the human element of TA

🔥 ​Why persuading hiring managers to do something differently feels like pulling them treacle, why they’re probably more bought into hiring for potential than you think, and how to ignite their passions to make the change process feel easier 

🚺​​ The impact of with ‘shopping list’  job descriptions on diversity and how to reframe the way you advertise for roles instead 

⌛​​ Skills-based hiring 101: why the conversation hasn’t moved on since the late 90s, the way skills-taxonomies hold us back, and what the skills-based pilot process that dramatically improved retention at VMWare looked like

We promise it will be the most valuable podcast you listen to this week. 

Listen to the episode here 👇

Podcast Transcript:

Robert: Welcome to the TA Disruptors podcast. I'm Robert Newry, CEO and co-founder of Arctic Shores, the task-based psychometric assessment company that helps organisations uncover potential and see more in people.

We live in a time of great change and TA disruptors who survive and thrive will be the ones who learn to adapt and iterate and to help them on that journey. In this podcast, I am speaking with some of the best thought leaders and pioneers who are leading that change.

And I'm thrilled to welcome today a friend who I've known for some time, Andrea Marston, who has just left as happens her role as Senior Director of Global Talent Acquisition at VMware, which is now part of the Broadcom group. Andrea has held several Senior and Executive TA roles at a global level, and prior to VMware, had roles at AOL, Finastra, and Workday. She specializes in global talent acquisition roles building and leading high-performing teams and helping scale multi-billion dollar businesses and also shares with me a real strong passion for diversity equity and inclusion. She's also on the Beamerie customer advisory board and was one of the original group of talent acquisition leaders who joined the RL100.

And we first connected over seven years ago, and I can't think of a better person to talk about the practicalities of skill-based hiring on a global scale. So welcome, Andrea. 

Andrea: Thank you for having me, Robert. It's great to be here. 

Robert: Let's kick off with this, current one of the key sort of global obsessions at the moment is around the skills-led organisation, which is then driving a lot of discussion about skills-based hiring. It would be really useful, I think, just to get your perspective on why is everybody obsessed with the skills-led organisation and is this really something genuinely new or is this something actually that we've seen before but just in a different set of clothing, as it were? 

Andrea: It's something that everyone is talking about right now. Everyone does think that skills is the key problem that we have because we don't have enough people with the right skills already to be able to take them from other companies. So that said, we were talking about competencies and competency-based interviewing back in the late 90s, early noughties, and I don't feel like the conversation has actually moved on that much. 

Back then, it may be slightly different that a competency, what is a competency, what is a skill? However, we've been talking about it for so long, it just seems to be the same thing with a different name. I don't feel like the conversation has really moved on that great deal. 

Robert: Okay, that's really interesting because I think that's not a nuance that many people have picked up on today on this and I think possibly one of the challenges around for many people in talent acquisition about what does skills-based hiring mean because we do have this little bit of confusion of what is a skill versus a competency and as you say, for those of us that have been around the block a few times. Competency-led hiring was also a big trend a few years ago and it came from, I suppose, this perspective of what is it that people will be doing in the role that will make them successful. And that's what we need to focus on rather than do they have a specific hard skill and what level of experience do they have in doing this role? Is that for you what you think the skills-based hiring should be about? It's about somebody's capability to do the role rather than do they have specific experience or skill in doing it. 

Andrea: Yeah, absolutely. And it's not coming from a bad place, the focus on skills-based hiring. We do want people who are gonna come in and be successful in the role. And just because you've got five years of experience doing something doesn't necessarily make you any better than someone that's even done two years experience in it. In fact, there's an argument, the person who's been doing it for two years but has actually grown more is going to be a better person than someone who's done the same thing five years in a row. Experience only accounts for so much and we have always been using that shorthand of X years of experience as a way of saying, okay, is this person, can they do the role? It's a very blunt, blunt instrument. 

Robert: It is and I think that's sort of part, I suppose, of the education that needs to go on around this too, that everybody's talking about skills-based hiring, but in many cases they need to take a step back a bit and say, actually, what does this really mean? What are we trying to achieve here? And so I think I like your point about what we're really looking for is capabilities around this. And therefore, in your experience, because there's quite a few… consultancies out there and experts who are saying, oh yes, well if you want to get the skills led organisation right, we need to go map all the skills that we have in an organisation, create a taxonomy around that, and then when we've done all of that, talent acquisition will have a menu and a shopping list of the skills that we need, and then they can go out and find it. Is that how you think? skills-based hiring should be done? I sort of half know the answer to this one, so I'm teasing you a bit on this, but. 

Andrea: Yeah, no, no, I don't think it should be the way forward. And skills taxonomy, I think, is an oxymoron at best, actually. It's such a non-starter, and we've all been there, we've all tried to do that, and even if we just talk about something simple like communication skills, your… your definition of good communication skills might be different to mine, for example. If we bring a third person into the mix who's also interviewing, they're gonna have a different idea again. But also what's good communication skills for one role might not necessarily be the right type of communication skills for another role. Sometimes we want it to be more data-led, sometimes we want it to be more about enthusiasm or influencing skills. All these skills that we talk about have to get so detailed so that everyone understands what they mean, it's impossible to actually create a taxonomy that big. So as soon as you start doing it and using it, it starts to fall apart because everyone has these different definitions. And do we really want to go down the route of having another shopping list?

We've shown that shopping lists are a bad thing to have anyway. We don't want someone that does 20 different things there and say, well, okay, how is that better than this other person that's only got 19 of those skills? 

Robert: Yes, that's fascinating. So you're right, though, we have we can have multiple different definitions. I mean, even as you say, even within an organisation, you can have multiple definitions, let alone across organisations or even you know, across job boards or LinkedIn, everybody's I suppose gonna have their own taxonomy on this. And then you've just, well, how are you going to differentiate people as to what level of skill that they have? So I fully agree with you that if we go down that route of a taxonomy, which a lot of organizations are thinking about doing, they probably don't realize the complexity and the difficulty they're heading down and they may actually never really come up with a viable solution. So then how did, if we don't have a taxonomy around this, how then did you approach doing that at VMware then? Because I know you've spoken about skills-based hiring. So what then did it mean for you and what was the trigger for you sort of adopting that? 

Andrea: There was a number of different influences for us. So… we're a tech company that obviously didn't have enough people out there that we could attract at the right time to come and do the role. So there's that element, but there's not enough people out there. There's also, we wanted to equip our hiring managers and our interviewers to sell the opportunity in the right way, to understand that they were probably competing with 10 other companies for the right talent.

And we wanted to address diversity at the same time as well. It was always something that was threaded through absolutely everything that we did. There was the well-known thing, and I don't know if we're gonna agree on the percentages, but it's meant to be something like men apply for a role where they can do 60% of the job description, and women, it's 90% or something like that. They have to have done 90% to be able to apply. So we know that a shopping list style of job description attracts a skewed number of men versus women. So we wanted to address that. We also wanted to really ask people to think a little bit differently about what they were hiring. 

So we didn't just wanna be hiring from the same companies all the time. We wanted to bring in that cognitive diversity as well. Bringing in people that are gonna look at things in different ways, that are going to bring in complementary skills. As opposed to all the same type. We don't want a team of clones in an organisation. We want people to come in with different ideas and question each other. We did start off with the job description right at the beginning. And I dabbled in performance-based job descriptions before I joined VMware, but we started to build what we thought a good job description should look like. And it started with a little bit about the team. You know, what is it like to, who is the company, what is the team within the company? So giving a bit more information about that. Then the critical piece was, what does success look like in this role? What would you be doing in this role for the next 18, 24 months? What would you expect to achieve? What would you expect to deliver? And what sort of things would you be doing? As opposed to, you need to have all this list of things that you have already got or done or experienced.

So you could no longer put things like seven years experience in there, which is such a, you know, we all know that's a bad thing. Do we, it's not a good predictor. No, no, not at all. So it took away that problem. And then the last piece was a bit about the hiring manager. They would write, this is who I am, this is how I like to lead, this is what my team does. And so it gave the opportunity for candidates to look at something and say, that's what I want to do. I can do that and I want to do that and I understand what I'm getting into as opposed to this is who you must be. And it's a real 180. 

Robert: It is a total flip, isn't it? 

Andrea: And I loved it. Right from the beginning, you could, you know, I remember writing my first job description in that style and we did write a guide for our hiring managers on how to write this. And it, you know, it did take a little bit of time and we certainly had to coach them and help them through it, but it really changes the way you think about a role and can get you excited about the role. Certainly helped our hiring managers and interviewers talk about the role as well because they were thinking much more about what the person's gonna be doing. Feedback from candidates, they loved it because they could see something different and they could picture themselves in a role. And it also, it did, when we had more than twice as many women apply for roles because we did, you know, we did do an A-B test on this stuff. So as we ran it, we saw more women apply and more ethnic minorities apply as well. 

Robert: Fantastic. 

Andrea: So that started with a job description. Then we brought in, okay, well we need to look at the interview process as well, because otherwise we'll just go back to, you know. The old ways. The old style. So we'd already been doing competency-based interviewing. We slightly shifted it to, we had discovery interviews, we had strengths-based interviews.

And we had a work sample simulation. So you had a more rounded, more holistic view of what a person can do coming into the role. 

It also made it a lot more interesting for the candidates and for the hiring managers because they were able to look at a situation a lot more effectively and look at what a candidate could actually do rather than coming out and going, I'm not sure, should we get Jack and Julie to go and meet them as well. 

Robert: Yes, and whatever their perspective might be. 

Andrea: And it goes on to the 18 interviews and that sort of thing. We got away from that problem. It did help, and I think having that very structured interview format meant that there was a lot more confidence in other people interviewing as well. So you could share interviews across hiring managers and across teams, knowing that everyone was looking for the same sort of thing and had a similar understanding of what good looked like. 

Robert: So what you're effectively saying is that what skills-based hiring is doing is not specifically saying, oh, I need this skill for this role. It's more of a mindset and a rethinking about what are the success criteria that drive performance in the role. And what you allude to there is it's much more likely to be things about how people do things and how they are. Things which could be a transferable capability or skill that they might have. And by really thinking about what that success criteria and what those success criteria look like, by then having that in the job description you then redefine how you're going to assess for that in the recruitment process which includes then interviewing as well and making that a bit more behaviour based rather than in the past. 

I've always felt interviews ended up being like a sort of Spanish inquisition because I didn't trust the CV, and so when you come in for interview, I'm now going to try and catch you out and test you, as opposed to let's make this engaging, let's make this relevant to the role, let's make this consistent. So I think that's really interesting that for you, it's skills-based hiring, it's not really something new, it's much more about how do we get a holistic picture, an authentic picture about a candidate, and let's align that to what success really looks like in the role. 

And why do you think people have been missing that then, up to now, because if it's been around for a bit, and suddenly now we're all getting excited about Skills Case hiring again, is it just because we weren't effective before or? What do you think was stopping people from getting that right before? 

Andrea: I mean, it's not perfect. Let's be clear. And there is still so much more that we can do to really refine how we do this. Because interviewing as a, just as tool, is not great. I mean, it's been statistically proven. It's not the best way. Well, it might be the best way, but it's just not a good way. 

You know, there's a number of things that come into it. We… I've always talked a lot about hiring for potential. It's something that we just never, we never talk about because we have this idea that we're gonna bring in someone that's done the role before, they can waltz in day one and just run. And that's what every hiring manager will talk about. That's what I want. I want someone that's just gonna be able to do it because I haven't got time, I'm already stretched, I haven't got enough people, what all those things. And a good way that I've certainly used, and my team used, to convince a hiring manager to rethink it, was to talk about, well, what was your best ever hire? And no one ever talks about the person that came in and ran on day one. They will always talk about the person that they brought in that they took a chance on, that only could do certain parts of it. Still, they believed in either was it the growth mindset or this is a person that had the raw skills that they needed or had transferable skills or adjacent skills or something that they could come in that was gonna be complimentary. They could shape them and mould them and help them grow to be the best person. 

And everyone's always got one example of that that they're really proud of because partly they got a thrill out of managing that person and seeing them develop. But also that individual came in was really generally quite grateful that they had a chance to prove themselves and to develop and grow in the role. So you've automatically got someone that's much more engaged as well. So everyone's a winner with that kind of scenario. And given that everyone has that example, it still needs to be pointed out to people so that they feel okay doing that. And there is a fear, you know, you'll always have… No one ever got fired for hiring a software engineer from Google, basically. It's that sort of thing. It's that certainty that I'm going to look good. And giving hiring managers that freedom and that chance to take someone that's not fully, fits the brief as such, you have to give them the opportunity to potentially fail.

And it's been the business leaders, and we had quite a few of them at VMware, that backed this idea and gave the opportunity for people to say, well, take a chance on them. You know, you might not be right, but let's see what we can do here, because you've already got eight of these people that can do that, so why not bring in someone that's slightly different? 

Robert: I love that, and you know, I think what's so incredible about hiring is that, everyone knows. that they're going to make, in many cases, as many mistakes as they are successes on this. And yet, our mindset is one of fear of making a mistake rather than accepting we have made mistakes, and rather than just accepting that it's a little bit of a lottery on this, thinking a bit more about, okay, well, how can we re-approach this so that we do experiment a bit? We know we may not get it right all the time, but we've never got it right all the time. And it's okay to experiment and get this wrong, but you're more likely, if you take the approach that you were sharing there, and you give people examples of that, to be successful by taking this different type of approach than you are to fail. 

And so I think that's one thing I love, and I wonder whether when you're telling that story about, because it resonates with me too, that everybody, if you talk to them about their best hire, will think about somebody that they brought in on a chance. And you almost need to ignite that passion and interest to get something going, because I think one of the things that has held us back is the hiring managers' reluctance to change on this. And while I was talking to the managing director of Siemens on this, and he said, yes, you know, you've got some managers that will embrace this, but quite a lot. Which you talked about as being the sort of treacle layer in there, are just stuck in their ways around this and very reluctant to change. And you've got to find a way of igniting that passion to get them through the treacle, as it were. Is that how you were able to ignite that change within VMware, just to get them thinking about that great story that they had? And how do they do more of that?

Andrea: First of all, the treacle layer, I love, and I'm stealing. 

Robert: Okay. You're very welcome. 

Andrea: It absolutely resonates. And I think it is a little bit of that, it's the leaders above that, above the treacle layer, giving that confidence to people to, okay, you can hire someone that's maybe slightly different, or what can you do to grow people within your team, it may be hiring people on a slightly different level.

Certainly, we've seen people come from, for example, veterans coming in as well. You know, especially when we look at DEI from a holistic view, not just looking at it from a gender perspective, because I know sometimes we get stuck in that one part. So much more, isn't there, yes? It's easiest to measure, so that's why we get there. But actually, what we're all trying to do is just improve diversity. Yes. and improve that ability to think differently about things and attack problems in different ways. 

You know, we've seen some great veterans come in with very different experiences but had that ability to adapt and adapt and look at things very differently within their chosen field. We've also, we've seen a lot more interest in neurodiversity as well and how those groups can work together, but… It does mean that everyone has to adapt their own style. You know, we're not clones, and we're not a bucket of skills where we come in and whatever we have on day one is going to be quite different by month three. You know, it doesn't take long for people to be learning new skills, learning new ways of talking, adapting, doing different things. I mean, every company I've worked for, I have had to learn how they operate and certainly adapt certain things about my natural style without losing my identity or anything like that. But everyone has to adapt and every manager has to adapt their management style to the individual as well.  So we're not fixed beings, we never have been. So why do we expect that when we look at it from a recruitment point of view. It's really bizarre how we don't do this.

Robert: I think it's so interesting, isn't it? And that's the danger of the skills-based hiring, if you look at it in the wrong way, that we're in danger of creating clones and saying, these are the skills we need, therefore, talent acquisition, go out and find it, as opposed to, you make a great point about this, which is anybody who comes into an organization, even if they have got high experience of the role will need to adapt and change for that organisation and maybe even within that role. 

And so it's an acceptance of, well, everybody's on-boarding is always going to be an element of re-skilling and learning. I would love to just sort of dive in as to a little bit about how you shared some great things about diversity, equity, inclusion in there and more women coming in. It's fantastic because we've really got a, you know, in many companies make a step change around this rather than just a sort of marginal improvement. And, and so what are the elements of success of introducing this new approach? We talked a little bit about, uh, hiring manager buy-in. We talked a bit about, um, the changing the job description, but I imagine too that there's also something around learning and development around this too. And did you have to get them on board and was there something that you had to experiment and pilot with as well to kind of work out the nuances of getting this right before then pushing out on a regional or global scale? 

Andrea: Yeah, I mean, when we launched it, we were hiring in excess of 10,000 people a year. So, and of course- 10,000 people to hire, so hundreds of thousands possibly of applications. Oh, yeah, absolutely. And you know, and if you're taking away the shopping list, the first thing that happened was we got increase of applications and we had to think, okay, well how do we address this because we can't cope with hundreds of applications for every role. And you know, it was tweaking job descriptions so you're getting the right people. But so there was lots of micro learnings along the way as well and how we did that. But you know, there was a few things we had to do. 

So we had a great guy in our TA enablement team who put together a training course and there was, I think, three hours of learning how to interview and do the job description and all that piece, which was fantastic and it was very engaging training. He did do a great job, well, there's a couple of them that did a great job and that said, you've got some of the people, some of the people that are the most in need of that training are not gonna spend three hours doing some training. Unfortunately. And they're probably thinking, I've been through all this before and you know, oh, you have been doing unconscious bias training and now you've got some higher-ing potential training. When's it gonna end? 

So we did have to adapt it. So although we did track how many were doing it, and we reported on this at the ELT level, because they were also, this was linked to OKRs, it was linked to what we could do, how much were we using, it was called guided by outcomes recruiting, so go hiring. So we did report on it to our CPO, which was great to have the visibility at that level and certainly helped our leaders take notice because the percentage of people that had taken the training, the job descriptions that were being used, was all being reported on. We didn't mandate it, but we reported on it. So that was helpful. 

Robert: So you get that enabled a little bit, I suppose, of a leaderboard or a benchmark or a comparison, did it at all, so that some people would be going, oh gosh, they've really adopted it in this part and we're a little bit behind. 

Andrea: Yeah, so there was a little bit of competition. So I don't want to be, no one wants to be at the bottom.

Robert: The bottom of the leaderboard. 

Andrea: Most of them anyway. And so that did help, but also we adapted some of the training and said, okay, right. How can we do this? Some of them, want to do it live. They want to be able to ask questions. So rather than the recorded three-hour training, we would do a one-hour live session with small teams and to get them on board with it, make sure that they were using it and then help coach them through the process as well. It was a massive lean-in for our TA team. 

Robert: Because they changed management now. This is a very different skill from the normal, I'm meant to be sourcing and finding talent. 

Andrea: Absolutely, and fantastic leaning in from our TA team, to be fair. Everyone did get on board with it, they saw the value of it, and they became the influencers. And there was no way we could have done it without having everyone in TA, a proponent of it. Now, the other piece that we did do was, we did do a pilot study, of course, so we had an area of the business that were so different parts of the business in different locations running it and so we could test, is it having an effect? So we actually had data that showed things like the DEI fund, also the candidate experience, the hiring manager experience, all those pieces. We even, we were able to trace after a year of that as well as the retention and we saw improved retention for those that had come through that process. 

So it was interesting to see all the things coming through that helped shape it and grow it and reach the critical mass. So we had some of our leaders talking about it in leaders forums, for example, talking about this is what they've done, this is the effect they've had, and here are some hires that they've made, et cetera. So it was great to get some of our leaders talking about it with their peers, that absolutely helped.

And the final thing that we looked at was to encourage people to be a part of it, to feel like they were owning that piece as well. So for example, I had our sales leaders were talking about, you know, at the time we were moving to be more of a SaaS organization. And so we need to bring in people that have got slightly different skills. I've got the perfect route for you. And so then we looked at, and it just came at the right time, but it was using a business imperative, something that was important to the sales leaders, to the business, to making a change and looking at how can TA influence that? How can TA help you meet your business objectives or your OKRs? And I don't think we do enough of that in HR as a whole. I've just looking at where are people organised? Make sure that what we're looking to do helps the business meet its goals. Yes. And make it relevant as opposed to talking about it just as a nice thing to do. We talked about DEI for way too long as something that's the right thing to do rather than something that actually impacts the bottom line. 

Robert: I think that's a brilliant, brilliant observation. And I do see that as a big challenge for many organizations quite rightly what you're saying, to make this change, work and be successful. In the past it's been, oh well we've got senior leadership have been talking and buying into DE&I and we've got to improve it and we're gonna put everybody through training on this. And it feels a bit about, well, you're just gonna push it onto you, irrespective of whether you think it's gonna help you do your job better. And so as a result, you don't get buy-in on that and you get pushback and there's not alignment. And so what you're saying really on this, which I think is so interesting, that for this type of project and program to be successful, you have to show that they will get better business outcomes and almost come to them with their language, which is, would you recognize to be successful in your new sales approach? And I liked your example of, we need to be more SaaS led.

So perhaps we need people who've come from more of a SaaS type of background in there that might be able to help us make that transition, give us that diversity of thought. Does that sound right? Right, now how are we gonna try and recruit those people? Oh look, we've got this new way of doing this that we think will not just help you with this, but also help with you getting more women in, which you know will help you look at things in a different way, it'll improve your attention.

And I think that's such an important part of making the programme successful around this. And it's a different type of skill for talent acquisition because in the past they're thinking, oh, senior leadership have just said we need to have better DEI. So, right, they're doing some training on this and we're just gonna give them some candidates and hope that everybody's objectives align on this rather than actively going out thinking, actually we need to be a little bit more proactive about this.

The other element around this for me is around technology. So did you change any technology on this or do you actually think, because there's a lot of organizations going out there saying, oh yeah, if you want to do skills-based hiring, you need a piece of tech. And obviously you're on the customer board for Beamery on this, but you have eightfold AI that are going out there all the time and saying, oh look, if you adopt this technology, you can make this a successful project. What's your take on the role that technology should or shouldn't be playing in how to make skills-based hiring successful? 

Andrea: I do like tech, all right. I'm a bit of a geek at heart and that I like playing with new tech and I get excited about it, like lots of us, okay? Yes. But I do think, and I have to stop myself sometimes, about just seeing some shiny new tech and go, oh, let's just throw that in there, that's gonna transform it all. It never does, you know? It's always got to look at the principles, the foundations underneath it. What are we actually doing here? What is the goal? And then let's look at our process, let's make sure that these things are built properly before we start overlaying any tech on it. And I think maybe that's where we've got into mistakes in the past.

Bemary for example, we use Bemary, at VMware. And great product, fantastic way to engage with talent and keep those relationships going as you're, because people are not necessarily ready to move just when you want them to, and sometimes, it has to be developed. So, that said, without looking at, well how do we engage with them? What are we gonna actually say to them? You can put the best tool in place, but if you've got nothing to say to them, if you don't know where you're going with this, what your target market is and what's in it for them, the best tool's not gonna do anything at all. 

And it does concern me when we're looking so much at skills taxonomy, if people don't really understand what skills they need or effectively what they want to hire or why they're looking to hire that and where it's taking them, how can they really apply the right tool without having these principles in place first. 

And it's boring and it's not high tech and it's not sexy, but it is something that a lot of companies are not doing right. Why is our candidate's experience as the industry still so poor? Why is it that we still talk about the black hole of hiring? I mean, that's just, that should not exist now. Especially with automation, especially with the increase of AI, we should be using AI and automation as much as possible where it's frictionless, where it should be moving people through, getting back to people, all the simple things that can be done with AI or automation. 

We should be doing all that now and we're not. Then we can apply the more human element of our TA teams. And I do believe that's where we will go as a TA profession in the future, really bringing in the slightly more artistic elements, can I say, or the human elements, where we've got the data, we've got the automation to really help smooth the process through, but using that knowledge and that ability to connect the dots when they're not obvious when they're not gonna be seen by AI. That's where the TA extra element comes in. And it's, you know, for me it's a little bit like art, right, it's the difference between a painting by numbers and a masterpiece. Where you have someone that, you know, you could recreate it but it's never gonna look the same.

Robert: I think it's such an interesting perspective and I love the analogy too. There's a lot of discussion about how do we bring the human element, you know, we need automation. You know, you referred to earlier that if you're hiring for 10,000 roles and you can have hundreds of thousands of applications, you've got to have some automation in there. And the automation needs to be around making and the focus should be around how do we make it frictionless for the candidates so that we can add a human element to this and technology is in danger of if we're not careful of taking the human element out of it. 

One of the things that I worry about and you alluded to a bit there is people not really understanding where AI should be adding value and where it shouldn't and so one of the things and it would be interesting to get your perspective on this too based on what you've just said is that there's a lot of discussions now about oh well let's get all these skills sorted out that we're looking for and then we'll use AI to go out and search and match against these skills. And then you as a recruiter, you don't have to worry about doing that. But from what you said on that, that's actually a danger on because that's not automating something that should be administratively built into the process.

That's actually the human element on this, of trying to see, well, do we understand the role? How do we find people who perhaps wouldn't necessarily have gone through a normal matching process? And so do you see and fear that actually there's a danger here, that if we don't understand how tech's being used, it will take the human element that should be in the process out, rather than enabling it? 

Andrea: I mean, we all know that there's a lot of bias already in AI, you know, and as soon as you start trying to taxonomize, a word, I'm not sure, but you know, or calibrate where people are, it's gonna be based on the tech that's been put in there. And I'm not convinced that with that good at understanding what people's abilities are, and I think it totally goes against the idea of a growth mindset as well, which quite a number of organizations now have shown that this is fundamental to how they operate.

And we've got a number of CEOs that have talked about how they develop their people, how they're still growing, how they're developing, what they're learning from each other. We've had all these other things like reverse mentoring going on and how much they learn. So how can we say that these are, that any kind of tech is going to be able to fundamentally say this is the right person for the job? That’s why we still use such a blunt tool as interviewing because we haven't got a better thing yet. 

Robert: And we probably won't, because I think for me, one of the things that I think is so important in the interview, we can, we do have tech that will enable us to find things out about people in terms of their cognitive skills or what some of their strengths and preferences might be, but when it comes to the interview, what we're trying to understand is how they approach things, their motivations and their values. 

And that's ultimately for me, it's a human connection that needs to be made and you need humans evaluating other humans on their side. I'd worry when we're trying to understand things like motivations and values of automating that, that we end up back again to your earlier point about cookie cutting and you know, ending up with a lack of diversity rather than an increase in diversity around this. One of the things I would just like to explore a bit too is, as you know, one of my passions around a change that I think we need to see in the world's talent acquisition is scrapping the CV. 

And so do you, so this, for me, skills-based hiring provides us with a great opportunity now to tackle what I believe is one of the last barriers to really getting full diversity and opening up the many roles that we have to the broadest possible talent pool. As you were going through this process, were you able to scrap the CV? Do you think that's possible? And what do you think is perhaps holding us back from really making that final leap and saying, you know what, we never need to see a CV again? if you're going to apply for a role? 

Andrea: It's a really difficult one, isn't it? I mean, yes, in my heart, I understand where you're coming from, and it would be fantastic if we could just scrap the CV. I do remember having to fill out an application form for the first job I ever went for, you know? And no one wants to do 15 of those. So the CV fixed a problem then with things like LinkedIn and the ability to have an always on CV. Do we, does that replace the CV to an extent? I think LinkedIn would certainly say yes. So it helps to a certain extent, but I'm not sure, I'm not sure we're ready to get rid of it, unfortunately. Maybe in the future. I think at the entry level roles,

there's a real argument for it. And I have been delighted to see how businesses, many businesses are looking at it very differently of saying, well, actually, we're not going to look at what university you went to, or even what degree you actually did, or whether you went to university at all. And fantastic to see those sorts of things, but it does need to be backed up by some other kinds of assessments. 

And it's quite I do find it quite interesting what kind of tools are coming up. There is a tool that has actually, I have been impressed with on that front, called, I mean it's Startup, but I like what they're doing because they're using AI effectively. It's called Vyrup, I don't have any affiliation with them. But I think they're interesting because they've got, they are looking at how do people talk about what they've done and not just about what experience they've got. And at the entry-level, that can work really effectively because you can deal with mass applications. And you can use that Intel from AI for a human then to look at all of this and make decisions based on some really useful data. So I think companies like that may become more useful in the future and could possibly scrap CVs for certain level roles. You know, I think it's going to take some time before we're going to be hiring our next sales leader with no background information on them whatsoever. 

Robert: And that's the interesting thing that I always find around Scrap the CV because people challenge me on this one saying, oh well, you know, Robert, we'd never hire or you'd never go to a hospital and say, oh, I'm happy to have an operation from a surgeon who had no previous experience in, you know, doing medical and I go, yeah, that's not what I'm saying about scrap the CV, because clearly in certain roles, whether you're a finance director or you're a doctor or you're a lawyer, you want them to have a qualification in that, but the mindset about when you take the CV away is that you're saying actually self-reported lists of your experience and skills is not really something.

And that's why, you know, I challenge you a bit on the, does LinkedIn replace it, because I don't think it does, because it's just another forum for you placing, you know, your, again, self-reported list of skills that nobody really has got any way of challenging or validating. 

And I think you said earlier, which I absolutely love, that, you know, you put down that you have ninja skills, in there and you know, that's which I'm sure you do have ninja skills perhaps not in how to use two swords and climbing up buildings, but It does I think what I'm trying to do with scrap CV is challenge people's perspective. 

That there is an alternative now. The world has moved on we don't need to look at a piece of paper or even a LinkedIn profile anymore to work out what I like to refer to as the skill enablers around that. And you referred to them a little bit earlier too, that the curiosity they might have, learning agility, the way that they interact with people. These are all sort of core foundations that we can then train on. And there may be in some cases that there are things we don't wanna train on, such as have you been a neurosurgeon or are you a qualified accountant? But that's easy to put on an application form as a tick box with a here's my certificate and then outside of that, then I want to know about your human capabilities. 

So, and I agree, I think there are new technologies around that, obviously, you know, Artishaw's with its task-based assessments is one of those alternatives as well.

Perhaps I'd just like to end with, on that note of human skills, and what I suppose in your experience do you think looking forward now are the things that organisations and particularly TA professionals should be thinking about in terms of the things, the human element. You talked a bit about curiosity, but are there others that we really should be thinking about? How what those skills should be, and therefore how do we evaluate them when we're looking to hire people? 

Andrea: I mean, I'm completely with you on the certification piece. Okay, so that's an easy one, you know? And we can have certificates or showing specific skills and things like, you know when I mentioned about the work sample simulation earlier. You know, that could be used to show what somebody's programming skills in Python are like, or whatever it might be. And so absolutely the hard skills or certificates or things to show competence in accounting, for example, those things are relevant still. They're never going to go away. The soft skills are always gonna be harder to determine. And we can all mark our own homework and we can put that on our, as I was saying too early, putting five out of five on something on your CV drives me insane because no one should be marking themselves on these sorts of things, but anyway. 

Robert: And who are you comparing yourself to? It's all relative. Exactly. 

Andrea: Yeah, exactly. My ninja skills are

Robert: Compared to your friends, they may be extremely good. 

Andrea: They're fabulous compared to the other two people that we're putting one at the time, as a joke, I should say, and it was years ago. But no, I'm certainly no Jackie Chan at all. 

So, you know, we do need to be looking at, and things like curiosity and agility and enthusiasm and determination and grit are never going to go away. You know, those are the core things that we want to look for. And, you know, I know that I picked up my first internship by just being more enthusiastic than the other candidates. I didn't know anything.

But that's what got me the job because they just thought, yeah, she really, really wants it. She might actually work hard. And I loved it. And I still always remember that feeling of really knowing absolutely nothing. You know, we all deal enough with imposter syndrome without actually trying to put a list of things that we have or don't have. So let's just encourage everyone to be more curious, more agile. And certainly I would love talent acquisition as a whole to really think a bit more broadly, a little bit more holistic about talent. I think the opportunity that a lot of TA leaders and functions haven't explored enough yet is really linking between, yes, we're bringing in external talent, but also what are we doing with our internal talent? How are we making it easier for people to move? How are we enabling them? And giving them the opportunity to try something, possibly try something and fail, but moving along. And really helping with that movement within an organisation. And I see L&D and TA still coming at it from different angles. 

Andrea: And I would love to see much more joined-up thinking on this and thinking about it more holistically. Think about a couple of things that we did in VMware, which so proud of my team for spearheading this, was to move people around internally, just for three or six-month gigs. 

Robert: Oh, it was a secondment as a waiter, yeah.

Andrea: Basically it's a secondment, yeah, still, you know, it was still under our cost centre, but if they were free, they were able to go into work in other parts which were being stretched. And it started off just in TA, but because it was so popular, we ended up with people, we had TA people in the office of the CEO, the office of the CTO within deal management team, employee relations, very, very different types of places to be and helped a stretch team because they couldn't hire for whatever reason, they didn't have the headcount at that time. And I'd love to see more agility with that in any organisation. And that's how we can use AI. We can use AI to have a platform that gives people the opportunity to do that.

The human element is being able to make it happen for people and not putting so many restrictions in place in an organization because of, sometimes barriers we put up ourselves at cost centres. Yes, right, who's gonna pay for it and yep. At the end of the day, we're actually one company that's benefiting from this. So I love the fact that VMware supported us through that and we were able to innovate in some really unusual ways.

And nothing was ever perfect, but it was great to see things just improving. And I think that's all we've got to do. Don't try and make it perfect. Have that agile mindset where you're just, you're constantly in beta mode, and you're just trying to keep on improving, continuous improvement every day, as opposed to let's build something that's perfect. 

Robert: Wonderful advice, and super helpful for everybody thinking about how to deal with some of this sort of great change that's coming along which is it's all right to experiment, it's good to experiment, and sometimes it'll work and sometimes it won't, but that's what innovation is about, that's what pioneering is about, is trying something, you know, fail fast and learn from it, and then, you know, be agile around that, and there's nothing wrong with that. 

I think you're right, the sort of TA world hasn't ever been given that brief that you can do that. It's okay to be able to experiment a bit, and learn something, some of which will work, some of which won't. But the only way you're going to make significant changes is if you're allowed to do that. And that's an internal mindset. It's also a leadership encouragement as well to provide that psychological safety. 

Wonderful, wonderful thoughts, Andrea. It's been so interesting talking to you. I know many people will have got a lot of value for everything that you have shared. Thank you so much. 


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