AKINYEMI: When recruiting, HR must have an idea of the firm of tomorrow

Thursday October 31 2019

Every HR practitioner must know the strategic direction of the business as well as that of the industry. SHUTTERSTOCK


I recently had the privilege of speaking at the 23rd Human Resource Conference hosted by the Institute of Human Resource Management at Sawela Lodge in Naivasha, Kenya.

I shared on the importance of knowing that the future of every organisation or entity lies in its talent. To transform organisations, the journey must start in the mind because yesterday’s thinking will not deliver tomorrow’s results. Even the HR curriculum has to change to handle the 21st century workforce.

Every HR practitioner must in a sense be bilingual. By this I mean that they must be able to speak the language of the business and the language of their internal customers.

They must know the strategic direction of the business as well as that of the industry? Organisations have been known to fail if their strategic direction is at variance with that of the industry at large. If the HR Function does not understand this, recruitment will be flawed from the roots.

Yahoo was the pioneer of many things we now take for granted as the norm on the Internet. The truth is that when Yahoo was pioneering these things the industry was new and not well defined.

As structure began to emerge the very nature of the industry was changing with it. Yahoo started off as an Internet marketing company whose business model was based on generating traffic in order to attract advertisers.


This cannot compare with the heavy algorithms used today to ensure that Internet platforms are smart.

Today’s platforms like Facebook and Google are super smart platforms that get to know their customers. This is why if you search for a wrist watch on any of these platforms, in the twinkling of an eye you will be bombarded with promotions of every kind of wrist watch.

The platforms are intelligent. They know and understand what drives you. So, when Yahoo should have been hiring coders and programmers they were hiring marketers. By the time they realised what was happening, it was too late.

Similarly, the pioneer of travel packages and the premier tour company in the world, Thomas Cook collapsed recently.

At the time of their collapse they had 560 stores in the United Kingdom alone. This means that long before online travel, Thomas Cook was on the scene with a big-head start. In essence, Thomas Cook had the opportunity to become Trip Advisor and Air BnB combined.

However, they did not see it because when they should have been hiring coders to put their business online in a smart way they were hiring shop attendants.

The honest truth is that timeless brands exist because they had transformational thinking and one of the expressions of this thinking is that they hired right. The obvious ones are brands like Rolls-Royce, Rolex and Gillette, which are in the hundred-year age group but are still relevant today. They saw ahead and hired right.

A KPMG Report says that the HR core competency of the 21st Century will be to transform, lead the employee experience and drive the shape of the workforce that will lead the business to where it needs to go next.

My question is, does the HR practitioner of today know where the business needs to go next? A business’s ability to disrupt or lead rests on its talent.

If you do not know where the business is going, you will recruit for the past thinking you are recruiting for the future. Every business is evolving, has been evolving and will continue to evolve. What is different is the rate of evolution.

Nokia started off in 1865 as a single paper mill operation. From that humble beginning they ventured successfully into cable, paper products, rubber boots, tyres, televisions and eventually mobile phones. They were only able to achieve this because they had the foresight to recruit right.

The key message is this; if you do not know the strategic direction of the company, then you will recruit for where the company is coming from and not for where it is going.

Once this is done, such organisations secure their irrelevance in future and because of the simple act of recruiting for the past, they have lost the future.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks