Talent Trends


Talking Talent Leadership Profile

A Q&A with JENNIFER MATTOCKS of PeopleScout
Executive Leader, Managing Director of the Americas

Trend Writer

The roles of talent acquisition and HR are changing. When you talk with Jennifer Mattocks, it’s clear that she’s here to lead that change. PeopleScout’s Executive Leader of the Americas, Jennifer is the daughter of an artist and a mathematician – part creative, part analytical and constantly looking for better ways to work.

Jennifer doesn’t come from a traditional recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) background. With more than 20 years of experience leading enterprise client management and strategic sales teams in HR advisory services and talent assessment, Jennifer has a broad view across the HR function and has seen firsthand the way it’s transforming. She has a deep understanding of not just talent acquisition, but also the full employee lifecycle.

We spoke with Jennifer at our Chicago headquarters about the changes headed for HR, the forces behind that transformation and what organizations should be doing now to be ready for what’s next.

We’re starting a new decade with historically low unemployment. How should employers approach their workforce planning?

Thinking about the skills shortage, there have been a few statistics that have caught my eye. One is that the World Health Organization predicts that there will be a worldwide shortage of 15 million healthcare workers by 2030. That’s not far away. This is an issue that we need to focus on now. Another is that, according the Department of Labor, 17.4% of workers in the U.S. are now foreign-born, and it’s rising. That means we need to have a global perspective when we’re looking at our workforce.

As it relates to the skills shortage, employers should be thinking about the influence of significant shifts in the talent landscape and how they address them in their workforce planning strategies. Strong talent pipelines will hinge on the idea of the fluid workforce – the idea of non-linear career development – and making sure that we have programs in place to have the right skills at the right time in the right place.

One way to adapt to the challenges that we’re facing in finding the right talent is through a total workforce solution, which allows employers the flexibility to be able to address skills shortages and low unemployment. For some industries, healthcare included, that means we need to look at ways we can find talent with relevant skills through non-traditional channels. Then, by closely tying training and development with talent acquisition, we have the ability to realign talent to roles and responsibilities that fit with their current skills.

How do you see the role of HR transforming to adapt to the changing world of work?

One role of HR is matching people’s skills to work. As HR and talent leaders, we know we cannot assume that when an individual is placed in a role, that is what they will do – or want to do – for the rest of their career. Creating nimble career paths and opportunities for ongoing development will be critical to the success of any HR leader going forward.

An example to illustrate the change we’ll see from HR is through how we approach career pathing. Right now, we have a career ladder that goes from bottom to top. That ladder is going to be flipped on its side – and it already has, to some degree. Individuals are seeking different skillsets or opportunities to develop within the organization, which doesn’t always translate to a linear career progression. Employees also want to have stronger ownership and input into their own career development; we see this characterized by input particularly from the millennial and Gen Z talent, who are just starting to enter the workforce and seek variety in opportunity.

I also anticipate that we’ll see the idea of the external gig economy brought in house. Meaning, HR will serve as a hub that is responsible for moving talent throughout an organization based on individual skillsets, the work that needs to get done and the way talent wants to work. With that, HR as a function will change, and the skills needed to succeed in HR will change, as well.

To this end, I see the need for a much tighter connection, even blending, of talent acquisition and talent development roles. Not only is HR responsible for nimbly fulfilling the talent needs of the business to deliver on the work that needs to get done today, but HR is also responsible for providing structure, resources and tools for the development of talent pools for the future. So, we will see HR marrying those two roles to a degree we haven’t yet seen.

What is the role of technology in the changing world of HR?

HR leaders first need to have a thoughtful strategy, then make sure the technology supports and enables the strategy. With a strategic foundation in place, technology will facilitate the ability of organizations to do three things.

First is to have visibility into and a more comprehensive understanding of the talent that they have in place today, as well as the talent pools that exist both internally and externally.

Second, HR leaders can leverage learning and collaboration technology to build up the skillsets that perhaps are missing or need development within the organization. I think we’ll see a lot more innovation to come related to this. And third, HR can utilize technology, AI and analytics to better match individuals at the right time to the work that needs to be done.

Technology will also change the HR roles we see today in a fundamental way. There’s a lot of talk about certain roles being replaced by technology and tasks replaced by automation, but we still need human thought, perspective and ethical input to drive technology to make the right decisions. The human touch will never go away and will increase in importance for organizations to be competitive.

What are you most excited about for the future of talent acquisition?

We are at the point in which HR and talent acquisition needs to be prescriptive to drive success. Then, HR needs to deliver on the needs of the business while driving the engagement and productivity of the employees. It’s going to be fun to see that shift start to be more pronounced.

I think the other really exciting shift is one that’s personal to me, given the age of my children, and that’s seeing Gen Z enter the workforce and even start to enter management. This is a generation that more naturally and openly drives inclusivity and values having an ethical decision-making process behind what they do. They really embrace technology in novel ways, and having individuals with those capabilities entering the workforce will be very exciting for talent acquisition. I think it will continue to shape how we hire, promote and develop talent, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes they bring.

Talking Talent Leadership Profile

A Q&A with JON PORTER of PeopleScout
UK Managing Director & Head of EMEA Operational Delivery

Trend Writer

Jon Porter doesn’t have a typical recruiting background. He started out as an accountant with KPMG and made his way through the advertising sector before finally landing as the UK Managing Director & Head of EMEA Operational Delivery. Along the way, he was lucky enough to work with many organizations with diverse recruiting challenges – from the British Army and the Metropolitan Police to Lloyds Banking Group and Diageo. So, when Jon looks at talent challenges, he doesn’t just look at them as a recruiter; he views them through the wide-angle lens of the entire business, and he sees them as a storyteller.

Jon shared his story from PeopleScout’s London offices. He explained how the unique and ever-evolving challenges and opportunities in the UK and Europe will influence talent acquisition leaders around the globe.

What are some of the biggest challenges facing the UK and Europe in talent acquisition right now?

The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty around Brexit since the referendum in 2016. Organizations have not had certainty around the future, and this has influenced decision-making around how to potentially invest and grow a business. The focus of government around the normal investment programs has also been affected, as much of parliamentary time was focused on the many Brexit bills progressing through both houses. It almost felt that the UK was on pause and we just needed to press the play button. After the election result of December 12, 2019, it now looks like some of that uncertainty has been removed. The newly formed government, now with a working majority, is pushing for a conclusion of the Brexit debate by the end of 2020.

What are the talent acquisition trends you’re seeing in the UK and Europe today?

There are some clear trends in the marketplace. The obvious one is technology. There is a fragmented and hugely diverse technology landscape in the UK and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia), and leaders are looking at how to better navigate that landscape. How do they make the most of it – to drive efficiency, cost savings and better-quality candidates – and optimize the way they do things?

There is also a trend of organizations looking at multi-country programs, with a focus around EMEA. Organizations seem to be looking at talent more globally and around the concept that talent isn’t limited by traditional country boundaries or geography, or even technology. It’s fast-becoming a boundary-less environment.

How is the introduction of Affinix™ to Europe fitting into and changing the conversation about technology in the region?

I think that our timing couldn’t be better. We’ve had loads of great feedback on Affinix since our September launch at our Resourcing 2025 event at the London Science Museum, and I think it’s because it provides a flexible solution at a time when organizations are still a bit cautious about how they’re going to evolve their technology solutions. Because Affinix is a middleware, it affords our clients the opportunity to get the great technology of the now, but it also provides them with security for the future. It’s a manifestation of now to next.

How do you tell a cohesive and relevant story when recruiting across borders?

Finding “space” in a busy talent marketplace is hard; differentiating one company offer from another requires a deep understanding of brand and channel. Developing target personas, and understanding how they live their lives and how to create a one-to-one dialogue is essential. At PeopleScout, this approach and understanding is in our DNA. It’s how we think.

When looking at cross-border campaigns, we first consider the message – the employer brand promise; the value exchange between the organization and the candidate – the deal. This message needs to be authentic across all borders. It needs to reflect the lived experience of employees within the organization. It can be aspirational; however, it can’t be an exaggeration of the truth. That can only lead to unfulfilled expectations, reduced engagement and increased attrition.

The art of the storyteller is to deliver a consistent, overarching message while accommodating the nuances of the countries in which it needs to be delivered. The language, tone, imagery and cultural touchpoints may change, but the essence of the promise remains consistent. Good recruiters understand how to bring the story to life in conversation with candidates and yet remain true to the organizational narrative.

What are some of the lessons from the UK and Europe that leaders in other regions should be paying attention to?

Many organizations have a structured view around their approach to talent and where they think hires might come from – whether it’s specific geographies, sectors or universities. I think one of the things that we’re doing in Europe – which does seem to be a message that’s landing elsewhere – is that we need to be more open-minded and a bit more conscious around things like social mobility and inclusivity.

Organizations are looking past the barriers of geography, society and technology. They’re seeing that talent is going to be pivotal to the evolution of business. That’s driving a mentality of embracing talent without any boundaries and taking a more progressive and equitable view of talent.

What are you most excited about for the future of talent acquisition?

The speed of change in talent acquisition is going to accelerate. Technology is absolutely going to fuel that acceleration. Clients are going to have greater and greater expectations, requiring more dynamic talent acquisition strategies. That will be driven by the fact that talent will be even more of a differentiator for organizations.

We’re also going to see employer brands and employer value propositions (EVPs) play an even greater role in the hiring process. The EVP is going to become the cornerstone of the people agenda – so, not just recruiting, but also learning and development, organizational design and more. How does the EVP play into the culture and behaviors of the organization?

Additionally, the vast majority of jobs that will be created five to 10 years from now probably don’t even exist today. So, there will be the evolution of new job roles, new technologies, new demands from organizations, and new challenges in the world and political landscapes. This makes talent acquisition an exciting place to be.


Talent Acquisition Manager

When facing a tight and highly completive talent market, employers find it even more difficult to hire for hard-to-fill specialized roles. What’s more, the dearth of highly skilled talent in critical industries can lower an organization’s productivity, which, if left unabated, could have a major effect on the global economy.

According to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) report, vacancies for jobs requiring highly skilled workers or in-demand skills are among the most difficult to fill. The talent acquisition professionals surveyed in the report said the following job categories were most difficult to recruit:

Creating Candidate Personas for Hard-to-Fill Jobs

Before you source, recruit and hire highly skilled talent, you must first outline the skills, attributes, experience and tendencies of your ideal candidate by creating a candidate persona. A candidate persona is a semi-fictional illustration of a candidate who exemplifies what you are looking for in a specific role. An accurate candidate persona will help your talent team tailor its strategies and approach to best suit the talent you are looking to hire. This is especially important when recruiting highly skilled candidates who have diverse and unique requirements, drivers and employment expectations.

Your candidate persona needs to answer key questions. Begin by answering these questions using existing data from your applicant tracking system (ATS) and customer relationship management (CRM) databases on candidates and employees. You can also interview current employees – especially those who align with your ideal candidate – for their feedback.

Make sure your personas are representative of actual human beings – rather than a portrait of an overly idealized, fictional candidate. Also, be cautious when creating candidate personas; giving your personas names and pictures to make them seem more realistic and multi-dimensional is great, but it may also lead to bias. Instead, keep personal identifiers to a minimum to avoid discrimination and maximize diversity.

Sourcing Highly Skilled Candidates for Hard-to-Fill Jobs

Leveraging Social Media

LinkedIn is a favorite social media recruiting tool for talent professionals. However, oversaturation is the predominate reason that many hiring managers claim that recruiting on LinkedIn has become less effective. Despite being inundated with competitors, LinkedIn is still one of the most important tools in a recruiter’s toolbox. However, sourcing talent on other social media is also a vital part of a modern recruiting strategy.

  • Twitter: Use Twitter’s advanced search function to hunt for user profiles that use industry-related keywords and hashtags. Then, refine your search based on location and other important criteria. For example, if you’re looking to fill a developer position, search Twitter for specific software- and developer-related keywords within your organization’s target market. This search can uncover developers in your area with the experience you’re looking for.
  • Facebook: Facebook’s targeted search capabilities enable you to find high-quality, skilled workers who align with specific criteria. For example, if you search “copywriters with packaging marketing experience,” Facebook will return a result with matching profiles. Reach out to these candidates to see if they would be interested in interviewing with your organization.

The power in using your social media accounts goes beyond sourcing candidates for hard-to-fill jobs; you can also showcase your organization’s employer brand and culture to entice and engage talent.

Employee Referrals

To gain a competitive edge, look to your employees. An employee referral program can help your organization expand its network with a ready-made talent pool. Employees have contacts with former classmates and co-workers, and their referrals are more likely to be qualified and a good fit with the company culture.

Additionally, consider posting open positions in office areas, announcing openings at company meetings and sharing them in company-wide communications to help employees keep referrals top of mind. Also, regularly remind employees about the rewards for referrals, such as financial compensation or other perks. Even if a referred candidate is not a good fit for a particular position, you can still consider them for different roles, which can help supplement a robust talent pipeline.

Leverage Recruiting Automation & AI Tools to Source Candidates

Innovations in talent technology have transformed every phase of the recruiting process. One phase that has seen enormous change due to technology is candidate sourcing. Candidate sourcing is the most important phase in recruiting highly skilled talent because the talent pool is more constricted.

Today, talent tools powered by artificial intelligence can locate passive candidates for hard-to-fill jobs much faster and more efficiently than ever before. AI technology crawls the internet to collect and analyze a wide variety of candidate data – from resumes to social media activity. Based on this data, AI-based tools can help make predictions about which candidates will be open to switching jobs, making it easier for recruiters to prioritize those candidates.

Selling Your Hard-to-Fill Jobs

When it comes time for the interview, you’re not just interviewing highly skilled candidates; they’re interviewing you, as well. To effectively “sell” your opportunities, outline and communicate the benefits of working for your organization. Effective communication on the front end can save your company significant time and effort.

Understand What It’s Like to Work for Your Organization

To properly sell the role, make sure that you have an accurate view of your organization from the perspective of your employees – both current and former. Consider deploying surveys to obtain feedback from current employees and make sure to conduct exit interviews with departing talent. Take the feedback you receive and craft an objective report of your employee experience. When you understand the day-to-day experiences of your current and former employees, you can better sell an accurate and positive depiction of what it’s like to work for your organization.

Understand Your Employer Value Proposition

Your employer value proposition (EVP) is what you are selling to the candidate. Recruiters and hiring managers need to know – and be comfortable articulating – the value proposition of your organization. In other words, you need to answer the question, “Why would someone want to work for you in this position?” Your EVP includes a range of tangible and intangible benefits of working at your organization, such as: work/life balance, flexibility, culture, values, compensation and benefits. Know the benefits of working for your company, and make sure that you effectively “sell” it to highly skilled candidates.

For instance, PeopleScout helps a client to maximize its employer brand to attract a healthy pipeline of top talent. The client, which has a global presence in the construction industry, works with PeopleScout to highlight its unique culture to potential employees. During the hiring process, hiring managers communicate the client’s mission of: minimizing environmental impact and maximizing sustainability; creating innovative approaches to complex industry problems; and promoting the well-being of its employees.

As an example, the client offers three days of “well-being” PTO that can be taken in addition to the traditional leave offered by the client. These days are seen as necessary for employees working in a physically and mentally taxing industry, and illustrate the client’s commitment to the well-being of its staff. What’s more, the client also offers multiple flexible work arrangements to increase work-life balance – a prudent, yet uncommon, benefit in the industry. By helping our client weave in its mission, culture and brand into the recruiting process, the team has been able to establish the company as an employer of choice for highly skilled talent.

Careful Not to Oversell

In addition to the perks, it’s also important for candidates to have an objective understanding of the challenges that may come with working at your organization. You don’t have to paint an unflattering picture of the job, but it is important to provide accurate information up front. Overselling or omitting information will start the employment relationship off on the wrong foot should they accept your offer, and could lead to higher turnover. It won’t take a new hire long to figure out that what they were told before they were hired is not the reality of the role. For example, if your role requires irregular or long hours, communicate that to the candidate.

This allows the candidate to make a fully informed decision and mitigate the risk of immediate disengagement.

What Candidates Want to Know

Just like you want to know about a candidate’s background and experience, highly skilled candidates also want to know what they can expect from employment at your organization. In particular, during the recruiting process, they may be interested in:

  • The candidate’s potential for growth: Highly skilled candidates want to know how leaping to a new organization is going to benefit them – especially in relation to the growth and overall well-being of their careers.
  • The role’s potential for growth: Candidates may want to go beyond the position in its current form and discuss what the position could be and how the role ties into the organization’s plans for the future.
  • Your organization’s potential for growth: Highly skilled candidates want to be part of a winning team, so show them how your organization is driving success.
  • Your organization’s culture: Candidates want to know that the position is going to be a good fit, and that includes how they fit into your organization’s culture.

The evolving landscape of talent acquisition requires a more proactive, multi-touch approach to attracting highly skilled talent and converting them into applicants and, ultimately, hires. As the global economy continues to grow and the demand and competition for highly skilled talent rises as a result, organizations need to stay abreast of the scope of talent available in the market.