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ABOUT RSG Built on over 35 years of trading history, RSG has grown organically, and through the acquisition of specialist services, into an established selection, assessment and solutions driven resource provider. RSG’s focus is on strong partnerships; we have developed solid relationships with our candidates and clients since our inception in 1975 and this is reflected in the repeat business and referrals that our specialist companies receive. Our family of companies gives us an understanding across a variety of market sectors including: permanent and contract recruitment through to executive search, bespoke recruitment campaigns, advertising campaigns and total recruitment outsourcing. This knowledge empowers us to provide our clients with an independent, innovative and proven response, every time.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS RSG would like to thank all Debate participants for their valuable time and contributions. In particular, we would like to thank David Mason, Global COO Resourcing at RBS, for leading the Debate and Nicky Bizzell, Freelance Resourcing Specialist, for reviewing this white paper.


CONTENTS 02 About RSG 03 Contents 05 Foreword from David Mason, Global COO Resourcing, RBS 07 An Introduction from Mike Beesley, CEO, RSG 08 Effective Talent Management 08 Introduction 09 Successful Talent Acquisition 14 Managing Global Talent Increasing Global Mobility is Complex 18 Programmes to Accelerate Careers of High-Achievers 19 Women on the Board - Attracting and Managing Female Talent What should businesses be doing to increase the number of women on the board? 22 Young People - the Untapped Talent Pool Bristol Young Talent Case Study What steps can businesses and the Government take to combat youth unemployment? 27 Conclusion 28 Guest Profiles 30 Contact RSG


One of the greatest challenges facing companies across the world is how to attract and develop a strong pipeline of talent throughout their business.


FOREWORD One of the greatest challenges facing companies across

Our brand image was dented and consequently our

the world is how to attract and develop a strong pipeline

customers lost faith in the services we could provide,

of talent throughout their business. The concept of talent

which meant we had to focus on channelling our efforts

management is difficult for employers to tackle; defining

into our Customer Services and inspire confidence and

what ‘talent’ means to an individual business is often

loyalty back into our valued customers. Our resourcing

the first hurdle which must be overcome. Once this has

function had to re-organise to accommodate this new

been established, employers then have to decide upon a

culture - an example of the ever-changing nature of

strategy that will ensure the successful attraction of new

talent management.

talent, alongside a process of managing, supporting and developing the selected individuals in their role.

My experiences have given me a unique and truly global insight into the issues concerning talent management,

Throughout my career I’ve faced these challenges in

which is why I’m delighted to have been invited to lead

varying degrees and on vastly differing scales; from

the RSG Debate on this subject. I was particularly keen

developing a UK wide resourcing strategy in my role as

to discuss the issue with other leading HR professionals

Head of Resourcing for AXA, to leading talent acquisition

in order to gain an insight into their approach, the

in over 20 countries during my time at CH2M Hill as

difficulties they have encountered and whether there

International Talent Acquisition Director. Most recently

is any common ground between our views on strategy

I find myself working for the Royal Bank of Scotland,

and solution. The outcome of our discussion lies in

where I have seen our entire resourcing function forced

this paper, alongside relevant research that has been

to adapt and transform in order to overcome the

conducted into the area by RSG.

damage we faced as a result of the near collapse and government rescue of RBS.

David Mason Global COO Resourcing, RBS


Without doubt, strategies that are consistent, continuous and inclusive are likely to be far more successful in the long run.


AN INTRODUCTION FROM MIKE BEESLEY CEO, RSG After more than 35 years in the recruitment industry,

The other issue is consistency. Many talent strategies

much of which has been spent working strategically

are often demand led, reacting to business needs with

with organisations to solve major resourcing issues, I

reference to the current week / month / year, yet, without

am consistently surprised at how few organisations

doubt, strategies that are consistent, continuous and

have an integrated talent management strategy.

inclusive are likely to be far more successful in the long run. The reality is that few organisations have the vision

In my experience, I’ve found that the appetite to build

or the energy to embrace this approach. Yet, what

an effective talent strategy continues to prove to be a

might look like the equivalent of Mount Everest in terms

top priority for most businesses. However, companies

of effort is, in reality, rather easier.

often cite numerous reasons for allowing the focus on talent management to fall by the wayside, from “our

It is against this backdrop that RSG decided to host a

organisation is going through a significant amount of

debate over dinner with some of the UK’s leading HR

change and when we are finished...” and “we have a

and Resourcing professionals at Bentley’s Oyster Bar

new CEO and we are waiting to see what changes are

& Grill, in Mayfair, London. Our guests represented a

likely to take place”, through to “I just haven’t had time.”

broad base of industries to discuss the many talent challenges businesses face. This white paper brings

Broadly speaking, if we assume that there are three strands to any talent management strategy - attraction, development and retention - most organisations get only one of these right. Now, more than three decades into my career, I can genuinely state with confidence that I can count on one hand the number of organisations I have encountered who have had a fully integrated and clearly planned talent management strategy which has withstood the test of time.

together their thoughts and personal experiences, in addition to industry research and RSG’s own extensive knowledge. The aim has been to uncover examples of best practice and innovative approaches to talent management. Finally, and not wishing to draw too many conclusions for you before reading this white paper, I can’t help but feel that an enormous opportunity to gain significant competitive advantage exists for those organisations who are keen to invest in their people strategies.


EFFECTIVE TALENT MANAGEMENT INTRODUCTION The term “talent management” has become increasingly

Talent management is a broad and complex area, which

common in the HR world since McKinsey coined the

is becoming a recurring topic on the board agenda

expression “the war for talent”. There is considerable

of many businesses. During the RSG Debate, the

debate within businesses about what constitutes

participants shared their experiences and successes

“talent”, how it should be managed and the importance

within this arena with a view to uncover examples of

of talent in driving organisational stability, development

best practice and innovative approaches towards talent

and change. It was to discuss these issues that some of

management and the changing nature of the talent

the UK’s leading HR professionals joined RSG’s thought

acquisition process. It is based on these discussions

leadership Debate at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill in

that this white paper further explores the nature of

Mayfair, London. The group represented a variety of

some of the main challenges facing business as well

industries, from financial services and technology to the

as the approaches that can lead to effective talent

legal sector and NHS.


There is considerable debate within businesses about what constitutes “talent”, how it should be managed and the importance of talent in driving organisational stability, development and change.


SUCCESSFUL TALENT ACQUISITION RSG Debate participants emphasised the need for

a mere administrative function to developing into a

organisations to hire talented people in order to achieve

multi-channel sourcing strategy.

their strategic goals. Consequently, effective sourcing to secure the best talent is critical. Looking to gain

The creation of, and communication with talent pools

competitive advantage, businesses are re-evaluating

is an on-going activity, which, when managed well,

the way they source and engage with talent. Rather than

promotes employer branding and creates loyalty and

focusing on filling positions as quickly and cost-effectively

interest before a vacancy occurs. With this in mind,

as possible, it is evident that they are looking for ways to

organisations are likely to benefit from partnering with

improve the quality of the talent they attract directly and

an expert who understands their business objectives,

the subsequent experience of the candidates as they

creating bespoke sourcing strategies to attract the

move through the company’s processes. As such, over

best active and passive talent, as well as promoting

50% of organisations are moving away from solely using

outstanding candidate experience throughout the

job boards1 as a talent attraction tool.

process. It is critical to select appropriate marketing

Many of the organisations which took part in the RSG Debate are undergoing a significant cultural change. This is driven by the economic

“50% of organisations are moving away from solely using job boards as a talent attraction tool”.

climate, but also is due to clients’

channels and the tone of voice to promote vacancies to the external market to ensure a response from your target audience. Having analysed the pros and cons of

changing demands, the changing nature of business and

various sourcing channels such as social media, internet

the requirement to acquire different types of individuals

advertising, print advertising and recruitment agencies,

or skills. As stressed by Debate participants, developing

we at RSG concluded that effective recruitment cannot

a successful talent attraction strategy is of fundamental


importance in driving through the organisational shift

requirements vary from business to business as well as

that must follow. It is evident that talent acquisition has

department to department.

changed significantly over the past decade, from being

1. Aberdeen Group, 2012, “Strategic Talent Acquisition: Are you Prepared to Hire the Best?”





Despite the differences in roles and skills recruited and the approach to recruitment, RSG found that almost every recruitment challenge could be tackled by: Knowing what you will need to recruit and what “good� looks like. This should be done through effective resource planning and job analysis, with an eye on what type of person your business needs to succeed in the future. Being honest about the level of talent you need. Not every role requires high talent. Identifying critical roles within the organisation and focusing on filling these roles with valuable high talent. Understanding candidate behaviour - knowing where the best people look for jobs and how you can reach the right audience; knowing the difference in behaviour between active and passive candidates. Understanding which sourcing channels are available to you and choosing the right approach depending on the type of person that you are looking to hire. Developing a strong EVP (Employee Value Proposition) – the characteristics and appeal of working for you. This should accurately communicate why your employees enjoy working for you and, importantly, what makes you different as an employer. This should flow throughout your processes; from the systems you use, the emails you send, the interviews with hiring managers, your feedback and offer management. Utilising social media to engage with candidates and build relationships with the talent pool. Being aware that directly attracted candidates need more resource to manage them than agency candidates. The impact of poor management on directly attracted candidates can be greater than on agency candidates because they are likely to have made a greater connection with your EVP. Creating an outstanding candidate experience through consistent communication of your EVP, an efficient recruitment process and the enthusiasm and professionalism of everyone involved in the recruitment process.


RSG Debate participants also felt that it is equally

(predominantly LinkedIn and Twitter and, increasingly,

important to ensure that your Employee Value Proposition

Facebook for graduate and intern positions) to promote

(EVP) is authentic and truly reflects your corporate

their employer branding, engage with talent pools and

values. Organisations are in danger of losing valuable

to source talent. Websites such as YouTube are used

talent if they discover a mismatch in expectations

to provide potential talent with an authentic insight into

after joining the organisation.

the organisational culture and its people, as well as to

The effectiveness and

alignment of your EVP and your corporate values can

showcase any exciting initiatives and projects.

be measured through the analysis of attrition levels at 6 and 12 months tenure.

Despite an existing perception in some organisations

“It is often tricky to find talent for certain organisations with damaged EVP - as soon as you mention the name to potential candidates, they lose interest! We have worked with a number of our clients to help them develop and improve their employer branding and assist them with promoting their key benefits to potential talent pools”.

that employer branding is owned by the Marketing

Steve Phillips, Client Solutions Director, RSG

The importance of EVP cannot be underestimated in attracting and retaining global talent. According to a Towers Watson study2, EVP can be an effective tool in creating the right balance between employee preferences and employer needs – leading to stronger overall performance and improved financial outcomes.








collaborative effort involving key employees to act

However, social media can also have a negative impact

as “brand ambassadors”, creating brand awareness

on a company’s EVP. According to SHL research,

and communicating the main company messages to

2010: “36% [2007 survey by Personnel Today said this

potential talent pools.

would be 55%] would tell their family and friends about their negative experiences and 10% would use social

Employer branding was considered to play an important

media to make their feelings known.” This means that

role in organisational talent attraction strategies during

in some cases your EVP had been damaged before

the Debate. The impact of social media on recruitment

your interviewer even got back to their desk following

is huge with businesses using social media channels

an interview.

If an organisation has damaged EVP candidates can swiftly lose interest. 2. Towers Watson, 2012-2013 Global Talent Management and Rewards Study”


With so many technological developments since this

the talent acquisition team, the business and marketing

research was conducted, it can only be assumed that

team is crucial. It also necessitates the need for the

these figures would now be significantly higher. How

talent acquisition team to ensure that their business is

would these figures translate in your business? This

fully engaged with multifaceted attraction strategies.

was the question a leading international law firm asked and used their analysis as the basis for their interviewing

With so much buzz and interest in social media, it is


understandable that some companies feel that they need to appear everywhere. However, just like with hard

The growth in the use of social media in recruitment

copy advertising, companies should focus on the social

is phenomenal; it is fast, efficient and cost-effective. It

sites that their target audiences are using. This helps

can, however, be a problem as well as an asset. Do

to create a clear and focused EVP as well as reducing

employers utilise multiple social media channels fully

unwanted traffic.

and are they reaping all of the benefits? According to Aberdeen’s talent acquisition survey3, nearly half of the

The Group taking part in the RSG Debate also

participants are using social media to simply broadcast

emphasised the importance of inspirational leadership,

jobs to candidates. This, therefore, creates the need for

especially at CEO level, in an organisation’s talent

employers to have a meaningful and results-orientated

attraction strategy. If you have strong, passionate

social media attraction strategy, including research into

leaders, talent will follow and will want to work for

their targets’ behaviour patterns, so that they engage

your organisation. There is a strong demand for new

with them through the right channels. It was stressed

leaders and attracting leadership talent is, therefore, an

during the Debate that to take full advantage of the

essential part of the talent attraction strategy. More and

opportunities that social media presents, it is important

more organisations face a shortage of strong leaders

to ensure that an organisation’s social media strategy

at both executive and general management levels,

is consistent and continuous, and not only used when

suggesting they need to either intensify their search for

recruiting for a particular role.

external talent, identify and develop their internal talent, or combine the two.

However, does using social media in this way take away from some of the benefits highlighted earlier? Engaging

Talent attraction is only the first step in an integrated

with your candidates fully and meaningfully requires

talent management process. Subsequently, talent

resources that some companies do not have available

needs to be selected, retained and developed through

to them. In such circumstances, resource realignment

an integrated approach. According to Aberdeen Group4,

may be necessary. Another question is, who within your

as leading organisations evaluate integrated talent

organisation should be involved in the engagement and

management, they find a natural synergy between talent

how do you ensure consistent messages? Candidates

acquisition and succession planning. When aligned,

are keen to engage with the team and manager they

these processes can help organisations improve their

will be working with. This is where alignment between

organisational growth and readiness through a unified

3. Aberdeen Group, 2012, “Strategic Talent Acquisition: Are you Prepared to Hire the Best?” 4. Aberdeen Group, 2013, “A Unified Talent Pipeline: Integrating Succession Planning and Talent Acquisition”


talent pipeline that meets both current and future talent

businesses in theory want to take a more strategic and

needs5. However, in many companies these processes

aligned approach to recruitment, in reality are they



willing to invest time, budget and resource to take this

talent acquisition, and HR generalists, Learning &

approach? It could be a tricky balancing act when you

Development or Organisational Development functions

are under pressure to recruit.




own succession. RSG Debate participants stated that strategic talent The RSG Debate highlighted that often recruiters have







to fill vacancies without a clear understanding of the

experience can significantly improve organisational

internal talent available or the organisation’s future

performance. Employers, therefore, must ensure that

requirements. Clearly, recruitment in isolation is not

their talent acquisition strategies are aligned to their

effective. However, increasingly businesses expect

overall business goals. According to Aberdeen Group’s

their recruitment partners to understand their business

research7, 45% of organisations have a reactionary

needs, corporate culture and competitive pressures

approach to talent acquisition while only 3% have a long–

in order to give strategic advice to hiring managers.

term approach that aligns with business objectives. This

According to the research conducted by RSG in

presents a real opportunity for businesses to differentiate

partnership with APSCo6, a huge opportunity exists for

themselves and gain competitive advantage in the

recruitment organisations and Heads of Resourcing to

acquisition of the best talent. However, as identified

set themselves apart if they can meet this challenge.

above, with budget and resource pressures, this level of

Do these two groups have the skills, behaviours and

forward planning may be hard for companies to grasp.

business penetration to be able to meet this challenge,

Boards, therefore, should consider investing in their

or does the industry need to further develop in order to

talent management and acquisition teams in order to

give clients what they are looking for? In addition, while

capitalise on future talent.

While businesses in theory want to take a more strategic and aligned approach to recruitment, in reality are they willing to invest time, budget and resource to take this approach? 5. Aberdeen Group, 2013, ibid. 6. RSG in partnership with APSCo, 2011, “Indepenent Analysis into Perceptions of the Recruitment Industry” 7. Aberdeen Group, 2012, ibid.


MANAGING GLOBAL TALENT One of the questions at the heart of the RSG Debate was: “How do you manage global talent?� The Debate participants spent considerable time sharing their views and experiences on this challenging topic. Evidently, talent management becomes very complicated for businesses operating in multiple markets, cultures, labour






globalisation of talent management is a trend that we expect to continue as companies expand internationally, with different markets presenting attractive business opportunities. What do international businesses need to do to attract and develop the very best employees on a global scale? Clearly a one-size-fits-all model does not work when there are so many complex issues to consider. However, companies that are showing signs of success are taking core principles, processes and policies and adapting the detail to fit individual organisational needs. UK principles tend to be the easiest to adapt when companies are using UK law as the basis of their legal system, e.g. in Anglophone environments. Cultural alignment is one of the most challenging areas to adapt, particularly in relation to gender, race or religious inequality. Asking some countries to adopt principles and policies that are not aligned to their culture will alienate them from the central business. In these situations patience and restraint are called for, as well as a watered down version of policies and processes.

Asking some countries to adopt principles and policies that are not aligned to their culture will alienate them from the central business.


INCREASING GLOBAL MOBILITY IS COMPLEX RSG Debate participants confirmed that international

environment - their role should be purely academic.

mobility is an increasingly common feature of today’s working environment. It is evident that global competition

When combined with an aging work force, where older

for talented people is tough worldwide with many

employees retire taking with them crucial, difficult to find

employers experiencing a talent shortage. There is also

skills, this represents a real resourcing challenge.

an increasing mismatch between the skill sets employers seek and the available talent. A leading international

During the Debate, considerable time was dedicated

employment agency estimates that 31% of employers

to discussing issues associated with international

worldwide find it difficult to fill positions because of talent


shortages in their markets8. Furthermore, 65% of global

international businesses have to deal with a wide

companies are having problems finding employees with

range of considerations and complexities during the

the skills they need9.

selection and management process where international






roles are concerned. Potential obstacles that must be These challenges occur despite there being a record

considered include adaptability, cultural sensitivity and

number of college and university graduates and relatively

family circumstances. Therefore, organisations need to

high levels of unemployment in some global markets.

provide their international assignees with the necessary

This is possibly explained by the fact that the required

support, such as cultural and language training, as

skill level is changing and the educational institutions

well as developing their transferrable skills for future

are failing to produce an adequate talent base to meet

placements in order to ensure that they are successful

the changing needs of the global employers. In fact,

in their roles. They should also understand and consider

some institutions go as far as saying that it is not the

the challenges of balancing careers and family life.

place of universities to prepare students for the working

International mobility is an increasingly common feature of today’s working environment. It is evident that global competition for talented people is on the rise. 8. Manpower, 2010, “Talent Shortage Survey” 9. Towers Watson, 2012-2013, Global Talent Management & Rewards study “The Next High-Stakes Quest. Balancing Employer and Employee Priorities”


Organisations need to provide their international assignees with the necessary support, such as cultural and language training, as well as developing their transferrable skills for future placements in order to ensure that they are successful in their roles.


In a report conducted by the Chartered Institute of

More than half of the survey12 respondents reported

Personnel and Development (CIPD)10, it was found that

difficulties retaining talent. The same study confirms that

working on an international basis for a period of time

when selecting candidates for international assignments,

brings definite benefits to the career and development

business needs are consistently cited as the most

of an individual. However, there is also a significant

popular criteria. Global businesses may be overlooking

amount of disruption for both the employee and their

other equally important factors. For example, only 16% of

family. If these disruptions are acknowledged and

companies consider family circumstances when making

carefully managed by the organisation, the benefits for

selections. And yet family and personal circumstances,

both the employer and the employees will be enhanced.

or a family’s inability to adapt to the host country’s

It is therefore essential that all the issues are carefully

culture are often reported as the primary reasons for

addressed before an employee actually starts on an

failed international assignments13. Irrespective of these

international placement.

difficulties, only 35% of organisations taking part in the survey14 have developed special programmes to

Typically, successful global brands find it much easier to

promote international mobility.

attract the required talent. The culture and values of the organisation have to appeal to people and be something

In addition, employees often come back from their

they want to be part of. As indicated by the Debate

international assignments feeling demotivated and

participants, increasingly global businesses focus on

disillusioned by the organisation’s lack of interest in

selection based on cultural fit and mentality, as well

the experience they have gained; in some cases they

as traditional job-related skills and experience. Brands

return to find there is no job for them to go back to.

such as Accenture, BP and IBM, used as examples

Ernst & Young indicate that most companies have failed

during the RSG Debate, have global mobility embedded

to address the long-term trend towards globalisation

in their philosophy. By joining them, you are signing up

in their talent management programmes15.

to an international career and should be prepared to

two thirds of survey respondents (63%) say that their

be deployed anywhere. Towers Watson in their Global

organisations lack standard policies for managing the

Talent & Rewards study found that companies which

careers of international assignees, or do not know if

have highly effective global EVPs (Employee Value

their organisations have such policies. Nearly one-

Proposition) have three times as many highly engaged

third (32%) say their organisations have no consistent

employees as those with low global EVP effectiveness

talent management strategy for internationally mobile

(58% versus 16%)11.

employees, while almost half (47%) place little or no


importance on helping returning expatriates reintegrate The subsequent challenge is to retain and develop this talent, especially when their personal circumstances or career developments necessitate a change.

10. CIPD Factsheet, 2011, “International Mobility” 11. Towers Watson, ibid 12. Towers Watson, ibid 13. Towers Watson, ibid 14. Towers Watson, ibid 15. Ernst & Young, 2010, “Managing Today’s Global Workforce”

into the organisation.


PROGRAMMES TO ACCELERATE CAREERS OF HIGH-ACHIEVERS Talent management strategies should include advanced

rewards and underestimate the importance of EVP that

development of “high fliers” whilst at the same time

is vital in a highly competitive global market as it helps

managing the expectations of other staff. A number

to attract and retain high-performers by achieving the

of employers now have “top 250 global fast track” or

right balance between employees’ individual needs and

“top 100 fast track” talent programmes to accelerate

organisational requirements.

the careers of high-achievers. For example, PWC have Emerging Leaders Programmes, both in the

Furthermore, there are a number of sensitivities

UK and globally, which aim to create networks of

associated with managing fast track talent programmes.

emerging leaders. As discussed during the Debate,

It can involve difficult conversations with employees who

these programmes involve a tough selection process

do not meet the employer’s expectations and, therefore,

whereby chosen candidates are being continuously

are not selected as “high potentials”. If this process is

assessed, some of whom opt out at the outset as they

not conducted by HR professionals, it is essential that

are unprepared to make certain career commitments.

they prepare and train business managers to handle such conversations.

The prevailing sentiment from the RSG Debate participants was that it is essential not to marginalise the

It was stressed during the Debate that, in line with good

employees that either opt out, or are unsuccessful in the

HR practice, there should be a role for people who are

selection process. Companies must adopt an inclusive

not aspiring to the same level and they should still be

approach to talent management that encompasses the

managed properly and feel valued. As such, the quest

diversity of skills, experience and backgrounds found

for talent management should not detract from the need

within the workplace.

to keep the entire workforce motivated, especially as the way in which organisations manage staff who are

Employers face a real challenge in uncovering how

not considered “high-achievers” will have a bearing on

to keep this valuable talent energised and motivated.

overall talent acquisition and retention. It should also be

The recent Towers Watson Talent Management Survey,

remembered that some individuals may choose not to

which included 1,605 employers globally, found that

join high performance programmes because of personal

companies not only have difficulty attracting talent

circumstances, which may change in the future.

but also struggle to retain high-potential employees critical to increasing their global competitiveness16. The research also found that not all employers are taking advantage of opportunities to attract and retain highvalue employees. They focus too much on financial

16. Towers Watson, ibid.

There are many sensitivities with fast track programmes.


WOMEN ON THE BOARD: ATTRACTING AND MANAGING FEMALE TALENT The Grant Thornton International Business Report17


Research conducted by McKinsey &

for 2013 has shown that, while figures have increased


found that 64% of women in the US

promisingly since 2010, just 24% of Senior Management

saw a lack of female role models as a barrier to their

roles are currently filled by women. Similar results are

development, as well as finding that the majority of

also registered by the Women on Boards Report18 which

highly qualified women were less ambitious than their

illuminates that only 17.3% of FTSE 100 companies

male counterparts when aiming for top roles. Bearing

have female Board Directors (as of March 2013). These

in mind the constraints associated with senior roles in

results are staggering considering that women comprise

terms of both availability and flexibility, it is no surprise

more than 50% of the UK’s population and nearly half

that men are more often found reaching for high level

of the working population. So why don’t we see more

jobs given the current social environment, which

women on the board?

predominantly places the responsibility of childcare and domestic duties upon women’s shoulders.

The overarching feeling from RSG Debate participants was that the societal ‘double burden’, which still

The one area of business which flips the status quo on

predominantly rests upon women, may lie at the

its head is that of Human Resources, which continues

bottom of why many women feel they cannot aim for,

to attract and retain a female majority. There are many

or accept high level roles. Typically such positions

suggestions surrounding this area as to why more

require employees to display unfailing availability and

women work in HR, including the ‘naturalistic’ view that

total geographical mobility – assets which the majority

its perception as the ‘soft side’ of business appeals

of parents (women in particular) feel they are unable

more to women than men. However, the conclusions

to commit to. Support for this argument is evident in

drawn from the McKinsey research would argue that in

The Women on Boards Report, which shows that while

fact it is the significantly higher number of female role

male and female graduate entry into the workplace is

models in the HR sector that perpetuates women’s

relatively equal, beyond junior management positions

attraction to it. Interestingly, despite the fact that 72%

there is a marked drop in the number of females who

of HR roles are filled by women, just 40% of Directors

are promoted to senior level.

are female, which suggests that the effect of the ‘glass ceiling’ remains as seniority increases. This may also

The effect of a male-dominated environment on women’s

partially be due to women returning to the workplace

perceptions of their own capabilities should also be

at a lower level following a career break, or simply not returning at all.

17. Grant Thornton International Business Report, 2012 18. Women on Boards Report February, 2011 by Lord Davies 19. Mckinsey & Company “Women Matter”, 2007


The societal ‘double burden’, which still predominantly rests upon women, may lie at the bottom of why many women feel that they cannot aim for, or accept, high level roles.









debate. At the RSG Debate it was deemed that quotas

confidence of their female employees by focusing on

were an inappropriate method of ensuring more women

providing quality mentoring and networking programmes.

are on the board because any member of staff, whether

As the McKinsey Report22 highlights, this would help

male or female, should obtain their position because

to increase women’s awareness of the limitations they

they hold the right skills and ability - not because of their

impose on themselves, thus enabling them to manage

gender. In addition, quotas hold a sense of tokenism

their careers in a male-centric environment.

by suggesting that women in top roles have only made

programmes would be particularly beneficial in areas

it there by fulfilling a Government target. Furthermore,

such as engineering, which don’t attract high numbers

utilising quotas does nothing to alleviate the dehydrated

of female employees, by helping to gender-neutralise

pipeline of talent that precedes board level. As Louisa

the perception of them. However, ultimately changes

Peacock writes for the Telegraph20, there is no point

need to be made in both business and wider society

putting women at board level and fulfilling a Government

in order for there to be a real impact on the work

target, just to realise in a few years time that it has had

environment for female employees. As McKinsey writes,

no effect on the other levels in the workplace.

‘greater participation by women in corporate senior


management will require social environments that are It is important for businesses to consider increasing career

more supportive of working women’.

flexibility for both males and females. Fundamentally, there is no reason why a woman’s career path should be negatively impacted by the requirement for career flexibility, which would in fact enable both genders to manage the work-life balance more effectively. In order to retain and develop the very best talent, companies should be in a position to offer ‘personalised career paths’21, which would prevent females from dropping out of the talent pipeline and simultaneously encourage them to progress up the career ladder.

20. “Why we must never, ever introduce quotas for women on boards”, Telegraph Online, 10th April 2013 21. McKinsey & Company, ibid 22. McKinsey & Company, ibid

Quotas are an inappropriate method of ensuring women are on the board because any member of staff should obtain their position through skill and ability alone.


YOUNG PEOPLE - THE UNTAPPED TALENT POOL Young people are widely considered an undervalued

deem as ‘basic’, such as writing a tailored cover letter,

market, yet many businesses don’t know how to

completing a CV or knowing what to wear and how to

effectively tap into the undiscovered talent that dwells

behave at an interview. The process of applying for a job

in the school-leaver and graduate sectors.

In some

can also be a demoralising experience, particularly due to

ways there has been erosion over the last 20 years in

a lack of feedback offered from prospective employers.

the youth development activities that companies used

A large majority of school-leavers are unaware of how

to offer. Tighter margins and tougher targets mean that

to structure a job search, often taking a one-size-fits-all

managers want to use their often limited headcount

approach to their CV and sending the same application

for experienced hires. They are deemed easier to hire

for a number of different vacancies. This results in a

and need less support to be effective. However, as

cycle where businesses receive an excessive number

mentioned earlier in the report, with an aging population

of irrelevant CVs for which they simply cannot provide

this is not something that is sustainable.

individual feedback. The lack of feedback means that young candidates do not learn how to improve their

During the RSG Debate, it was suggested that another

application and so do not increase their chances of

problem facing both employers and young people is a

success in the future.

mismatch of expectations. Employers are expecting too much from young employees in terms of their experience








and skills and young applicants between the ages of 16

considered one of the greatest hindrances employers

– 24 are unaware of what is expected of them in the

face when recruiting young people. Typically employers

recruitment process and working environment.

want to take on young people who have a substantial amount of hands-on work experience, yet in many of

In a report conducted by the Chartered Institute of

the more competitive industries, obtaining a wealth

Personnel and Development (CIPD)23, it was found that

of experience before graduation is extremely difficult,

for the majority of young people facing unemployment

particularly if internships, apprenticeships, or work

(currently 1 in 5 in the UK), the recruitment process

placements are not offered as part of a student’s

is a daunting one. While there are numerous support

studies. It is a bleak situation that many graduates find

systems in place for

students who wish to attend

themselves in: no job, no experience; no experience, no

university, across the board there is a staggering lack of

job. While a lack of experience by no means equates

guidance given to those who take an alternative route.

to an applicant being unable to fulfil a job role, many

Students who don’t go to university leave the education

recruiters fail to give young people the chance to prove

system unprepared for the transition into the workplace

themselves, thereby missing out on an entire talent pool

and are often ill-equipped with the skills employers

of potential.

23. CIPD ‘Employers are from Mars, Young People are from Venus’ Report, Research Report April 2013



Martin Marafko, 17 Winner of the Bristol Young Student of the Year Awards 2013 “My experience of career guidance at school was very basic.

I attended mock interviews, but still felt

very inexperienced and unprepared for attending real interviews. When I first heard about the Bristol Young Talent Awards, I jumped at the chance to enter, especially when I saw that you could gain work experience with

The RSG Bristol Young Student of the Year awards is

companies such as RSG and Atkins.

a six-month competition for 16-19 year old students aimed at developing employability skills in young

The competition illuminated just how competitive the job

people. The competition is free to enter and is open to

market really is. I was under the same misconception as

all state schools, colleges and academies in the Bristol

most young people are: good grades equates to a good

region. It provides young people with tangible business

job. Now I know that work experience, confidence in

experience by getting them to work directly with local

the workplace and knowing how to promote yourself

companies. Throughout the competition students have

against your competitors are the most important skills

the opportunity to work in real life business situations

in getting ahead. You don’t get taught these skills in

with the support of leading professional mentors.


In addition to the awards, students have the fantastic

As a young person who has experienced school-

opportunity to apply for a scholarship worth £15,000 at

level career guidance and come out the other side of

BPP University College. Paid work experience as well

the Young Talent Awards, I believe that schools in no

as cash prizes are also awarded to the winners to help

way prepare students for working life. Career paths,

them along their career path.

particularly for the most competitive jobs, aren’t made clear enough and therefore students have no idea what steps they can take to achieve their goals. We leave school physically and psychologically unprepared to enter the work place. If I were Education Minister, I would introduce regular work courses that allow students to take up regular and varied work experience placements, as well as teaching them how to prepare, dress and present themselves at an interview.”



Therefore, schools should liaise with local businesses to

current level of career guidance offered to students.

ensure that focussed work experience placements are

Many educational institutes state that they offer career

created, which take students through the entire process

guidance programmes, but their quality and value to

of applying for a job and entering the workplace.

students is questionable. The lack of effective career

Furthermore, it is essential that these placements

advice in schools is seen as a contributing factor to

conclude with insightful feedback that the student can

those who are unaware of what employers expect from

then use to improve their future job applications.

them or what opportunities are available.


career advisors cannot be experts in all fields; however

Secondly, it was agreed that in the majority of instances,

RSG Debate members involved with youth development

the recruitment process can be tailored to suit younger

programmes cite examples of extremely misleading

applicants. RSG has found a significant positive effect

advice given, particularly regarding the legal industry.

in the attraction and recruitment of young people if the

With the development of the government and industry

employers involved in the recruitment process are of

led initiative Plotr (the one-stop shop for career

a similar age. Put simply: young people recruit young

inspiration and preparation), it is hoped that there will

people. Furthermore, standard competency based

be improvements in this area.

As part of the National

interviews are unhelpful as young people cannot draw

Curriculum, schools should be continually assessed

on past experiences, meaning employers don’t get a

on the career guidance they offer in order to motivate

true reflection of the potential they have to offer.

them to improve their services. The basics of job application should be instilled in students before they leave the classroom to help alleviate the stress of job hunting, which will simultaneously improve the quality and relevance of job applications. RSG Debate participants were also unanimous in the belief that work experience should once again become an essential part of the curriculum. Utilised in conjunction with solid career guidance, work experience placements would offer a practical outlet for students to apply the skills learnt within the classroom.

The education system needs to address the current level of career guidance offered to students.


On the other hand, strength-based interviews, where

young people to gain truly valuable, hands on experience

candidates suggest how they would work in different

within the workplace. Such programmes will allow

situations, allow employers to gain an understanding

students to become familiar with the work environment,

of how the applicant can be trained and developed.

gain experience of the job application procedure and

Companies should also review their talent attraction

help them to build connections with employers. In

strategy to ensure they utilise the many tools social

addition, they will illuminate more possibilities and

media has to offer. In addition to being highly cost

career options to those students who do not wish to

effective, social media allows businesses to attract

attend university.

a wide network of talent as well as enabling them to specifically target the people they need.

However, some of the organisations represented in the RSG Debate, do offer work experience and feedback

With regards to feedback, it remains unrealistic to

programmes and have found it difficult to engage with

expect that individualised comments can be provided

schools and colleges regarding work experience. They

to all applicants. However, as suggested by CIPD24,

found a surprising lack of interest from schools and

automated emails should be utilised to acknowledge

colleges, particularly outside of London. Considering

the receipt of an application. Similarly, unsuccessful

the resource, investment and commitment needed

applicants could receive an email listing the most

to run work experience programmes, this feedback

‘common’ reasons for not obtaining an interview as well

is disappointing. As mentioned previously, some

as advice on how they can improve. For those applicants

institutions have said that they do not feel that workability

who make it through to the interview/assessment

skill development is the responsibility of educational

phase, constructive feedback should be given to help

establishments. In order to gain maximum advantage

young people improve their skills and encourage them

for young people, a greater balance of responsibility

to try again.

between employers and educational institutions needs to take place, with both sides improving their support

Finally and perhaps most importantly, more graduate schemes,





placements should be created by businesses to allow

24. CIPD, ibid

and commitment in order to develop future talent.


There is still considerable opportunity for most businesses to create a cohesive, intergrated talent management strategy aligned with their business objectives to enable them to reap the benefit from their investment.


CONCLUSION The RSG Debate provoked much opinion and raised

As Ernst & Young state25: “In today’s global market,

a number of critical issues in the area of talent

people success consists of aligning your company’s

management. As it drew to a close it was apparent that,

vision, values and strategy with its management of

despite the diverse range of organisations participating

people and integrating the key components of your

in the Debate and their unique circumstances, most

talent management programmes so they form a

businesses face similar talent management challenges

coherent whole”.

to which there are no easy answers or quick fixes. If you would like to find out more about the services It is evident that although businesses have made

RSG provides, please contact Mike Beesley, CEO, RSG

significant progress in raising the awareness of talent


management and have taken steps towards its successful implementation, a lot of organisations are still

If you are interested in taking part in future RSG round

not fully embracing the talent management challenges.

table debates, either as a lead speaker or a participant,

There is, therefore, still considerable opportunity for

please email

most businesses to re-evaluate and create a cohesive, integrated talent management strategy aligned with

If you would like to comment on this white paper please

their business objectives to enable them to reap the

use the Twitter tag #RSGdebate.

benefits from their investment.

25. Ernst & Young, ibid


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Nicky is a global resourcing specialist with extensive

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Jayne Mee, Director of People and Organisation Development at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

Steve Pratt, Interim Executive Human Resources Following graduation with a degree in Business Studies, Steve spent the first few years of his career in HR with Nestle and Ross Foods before moving into Electronics,

Jayne’s expertise as a commercial HR Director has

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mentor for the Prince’s Trust and the RSG Bristol Young Student of the Year, as well as volunteering for Hearing Dogs for Deaf People where she has worked for the CEO and Senior Team.


Ross Crook, EMEA, Head of Resourcing at Ace Group

Mark Boorman, HR Director at IPL

Since April 2012, Ross has been responsible for all

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and HR outsourcing. In his career to date, Mark has

of Executive Resourcing at Barclays Bank, as well as 3

demonstrated his ability to perform as a permanent

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the diagnosis, design and implementation of the best,

Matt Collington, Interim HRD at Avis Budget Group

value-add HR solutions and holds particular success in establishing start-up HR teams, change management and organisational development.

Since graduating from the University of Lancaster, Matt has developed an impressive record of generalist and specialist positions in HR in a variety of companies including Mitel, GE and Airbus. With experience in

Helen Norris, Head of Business Partners at Nationwide Building Society

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Helen moved to Nationwide in 2012 from her position as

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a Global Head of HR at HSBC. Her dedication to driving

to CEO level, Tactical and Strategic Recruitment and

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Charlotte Sword, Head of HR Ops at Wates Group Ltd

environments within the international blue-chip financial services and telecommunications sectors. Throughout her career, she has managed direct and virtual teams

As a commercial HR Director, Charlotte has extensive

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and Financial Services. Over the past 20 years, she has achieved a demonstrable record in building and leading commercially focused HR teams and now specialises in Talent Management and Change Programmes. Previous to working at Wates Group, Charlotte held the position of Group Head of HR at Royal London and has also held HR Management roles at Rothschild and Caminus.





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