Most HR professionals on the hunt for tech talent understand how tough it is: there is simply not enough of it to go round, meaning that it’s very much a candidate’s market. A chat with Dublin-based Marie Moynihan, senior vice president, global talent acquisition, at Dell, confirms that this is a global issue. For an organisation the size of Dell, the problem is magnified tenfold: on average the company hires 20,000 external team members annually, across some 180 countries. The bulk of these roles will fall into the ‘tech’ category.
Dell prefers to undertake direct hiring and will only use external agencies in select markets such as Japan – hence the size of Moynihan’s team is around 500 people spread across the globe, and the team’s use of the latest technology is critical to filling roles.
“The team is responsible for sourcing the best talent, for developing an authentic, compelling employment brand and getting that message out there,” says Moynihan. “Then of course the team facilitates the selection and the offer process. A big part of it is ensuring we provide a great candidate experience along the way.”
The talent acquisition function at Dell is facing some daunting challenges.
“The biggest challenge we’re facing is one that’s facing the entire tech sector, and that is that the demand for tech talent – including sales talent – is very much outstripping the supply,” Moynihan says. “One of the reasons for that is that most companies across all sectors now are going through a massive digital transformation of their core product and service offerings, so they are competing alongside the tech industry for this limited pool of talent.”
The hurdles don’t end there. Moynihan says the industry is evolving at such a rate that many of the required skills are brand new, and the education sector is struggling to keep pace. “Data scientists, cybersecurity specialists, user experience designers – these are roles that didn’t exist 10 years ago. Now these skills are in high demand, but the talent isn’t necessarily there,” she says.
The third key challenge is that the pool of candidates is not as diverse as companies like Dell would ideally like. “Seventy percent of employees who work in the tech sector today are men, so we really need to see more girls opting to take STEM-related subjects at university so they can move into the talent pool later on. That is a big issue, and it’s really not changing at a fast rate,” says Moynihan.
A plan of attack
So how is Dell tackling these issues? Moynihan says that, firstly, the company knows what candidates are looking for in this sector. She cites research from the likes of LinkedIn, which paints a clear picture of what people want from their workplace.
“They want challenging work where they feel they can personally make an impact; they’re looking for a culture and values set that is very open, respectful and flexible. They also want to constantly learn and develop their careers. Our focus is very much on targeting talent with messages of how all this can be achieved at Dell.”
Moynihan adds that Dell is at the epicentre of this digital transformation and is having an impact on all the major trends in technology. This also means the company is able to ensure employees gain exposure and experience in a rapidly changing landscape. “When we talk to candidates we talk a lot about their career progression opportunities, not just a specific role,” she explains.
In addition, Dell is a leader in flexible work arrangements and ranked number six on the Forbes list of the Top 100 companies for remote jobs. Over 50% of the Dell global workforce work outside a traditional office space at least once a week.
“That’s a big selling point for us and it helps in attracting the best talent regardless of where they sit,” says Moynihan.
From a professional development perspective, Dell provides a significant amount of internal development to ensure team members can upgrade their skills and gain new certifications in the technology field – all of which can be undertaken while employees are working. In addition, close collaboration with universities aims to develop the right kind of curricula for these new skills. At an even earlier stage, partnerships with schools aim to showcase STEM-related careers, particularly to women.
“We have to remind girls that IT is not just for geeky guys, so we go to schools and show videos of the work environment and interviews with people who are doing really interesting jobs,” Moynihan says. “We ask at the beginning of these sessions how many are considering tech jobs, and out of 50 people maybe only four put their hand up. At the end of the session one hour later, 25 hands go up. It just shows that you’ve got to get out there and show people what it is really like to work in this sector.”
Talent acquisition in a digital age
Few areas within HR’s remit have been disrupted so radically by technology as talent acquisition. Moynihan says technology today is an “essential ingredient” to attract and hire talent.
Breaking talent acquisition down to its component parts, on the attraction side the big change is social media. “Social media platforms are now critical to, firstly, getting your brand messaging out there, and secondly, your specific job postings. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Glassdoor, Indeed are all platforms that we are heavily invested in, and additionally we’ll use localised platforms such as WeChat in China, which is their Facebook equivalent.”
In terms of pipeline talent management, Moynihan says a scalable applicant tracking system is crucial. Dell uses Workday, which Moynihan says is great because it integrates everything from the minute a candidate applies through to retirement. “You’ve got all the data on team members right across the employee life cycle in one place,” she says.
A candidate relationship management system, or CRM, is also vital to maintaining relationships with talent who might not fit today because there is no suitable open role for them – but they might be great talent for the future. It’s important to stay connected. Dell uses Avature for this purpose.
Dell also utilises InterviewStream video technology for live interviews. In addition, for some entry-level roles candidates will be asked to respond to questions on video in their own time. Onboarding is administered online – forms are filled out and submitted electronically, and new hires can view videos on the culture at Dell.
In short, Dell is one global giant that is – rightfully – utilising the latest technology to engage with talent.
The future of recruiting
Where does Moynihan see talent acquisition moving to in the future? From the attraction perspective she feels the trend is very much towards existing team members being talent ambassadors and advocates for the employer brand. “Ensuring they have a good experience and are talking about that experience socially has never been more critical,” she says.
She also believes talent acquisition will be one of the earliest HR functions to adopt AI and machine learning technologies. “I see great opportunities for this technology to help funnel the most relevant talent for opportunities that arise, thus reducing the sourcing component of the recruiting role,” she says.
Indeed, the role of the recruiter in time may become more like that of an account manager. “They’ll focus on qualifying roles upfront, provide expertise in the selection process, and manage the customer experience, both for hiring managers and candidates. They’ll then use big data and analytics to improve the process,” Moynihan says.
These insights will fundamentally change the work of recruiters – mainly by forcing them to focus more heavily on the candidate experience, which will increasingly be viewed like the customer experience: tailored and highly personalised.
“People want a more personalised approach, an Amazon-type approach,” says Moynihan. “They’re not getting that today in the candidate market, but I believe that’s where it’s heading.”
She adds that, on the diversity front, technology may also help to remove bias from decision-making. For example, we might start seeing candidates using avatars instead of photographs or videos of themselves.
“There’s a world of possibilities emerging in this space, and it’s all about personalisation, being real, being authentic. These changes are also impacting who we hire into the talent acquisition space,” says Moynihan. “It’s not necessarily just about HR skills; we’re looking for people with marketing, social media and sales skills.”