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By Tony Brookes, Sales Director, Vacancy Filler Recruitment Software

Finding the right personnel for any   business is rarely an easy task – but most companies would agree that it is one of the most essential. The insurance industry in particular did not, until comparatively recently, have much more of a problem in this area than other organisations, but that has changed in recent years.

According to a report by PwC, nearly 60% of insurance CEOs believe skills shortages are a threat to growth and nearly 50% say that it’s getting harder to recruit and retain good people in their industry. More than 30% have been unable to pursue a market opportunity because of talent constraints. 

Talent in Short Supply

The desire to expand into emerging markets, changes in insurance products, the increasing use of technologies such as predictive analytics, changes in demographics and many other issues all mean that finding talent who can add value in a changing industry is becoming more and more difficult.   In addition, the insurance industry is often perceived as less exciting for bright graduates to enter than some other professions and the numbers taking more advanced professional examinations is shrinking.  Companies who want to succeed need to devise a clear strategy not just to attract but also to retain the right people, as well as developing the skills and aptitudes of those they already have.

Too many insurance companies do not get the right quality of candidate applying, or those that do, take up another offer – or else the candidate, once hired, either does not stay or does not live up to expectations.  As insurance companies are already suffering from a shortage of experienced professionals at all levels, many have been forced to spread their search for candidates beyond the insurance industry.  A clear talent management programme needs to be in place that is aligned firmly to business objectives in order to retain these precious assets once recruited – high turnover of staff is a real issue in financial services.

Banks are also facing similar challenges, according to a recent report from Deloitte, who recently surveyed more than 200,000 business students globally.  They found the popularity of a career in software and computer services has risen by 4.1 percentage points between 2008 and 2015. In comparison, banking fell by 4.3 percentage points during this time. Based on current trends, software and computer services will overtake banking in popularity by 2022. The research shows that business students rank careers in fast-moving consumer goods first (14.44%); banking second (14.41%) and software and computer services third (9.61%.) 

Unfortunately companies often lose some of the best applicants right at the outset of the recruitment process. Many candidates still have a poor experience when applying for jobs – and indeed throughout the entire recruitment process.   A bad experience can damage a relationship with a promising candidate and even an entire brand – candidates are not afraid to share their impressions online.   The recruitment experience starts from the first view of the website and the careers page right the way through the entire recruitment process.  And while some companies have become very effective at communicating well with potential hires throughout the experience, this makes those who are not communicating well look even worse.

Good recruitment means of course defining the brief at the outset, but online recruitment systems are now being widely adopted by companies to help manage the process from then on.   These platforms normally provide an applicant tracking system (ATS) to promote the role(s) on offer, and the candidate journey should focus on the engagement with the potential employee so that throughout the various stages the corporate brand and the overall impression given to the candidate is a positive one.   Such systems automate a great deal of routine work, including personalised acknowledgement of communications from a candidate.

Mergers and Acquisitions

One way of solving financial service  industry issues such as the need to take on board new technologies and enter new markets is through mergers and acquisitions.   In its report Insurance 2020: A Quiet Revolution – The Future of Global Insurance M&A, PwC predicts that ‘the next few years will see a quiet revolution in global insurance M&A.’

However, in an M&A scenario, managing issues such as avoiding job duplication and having to make redundancies can be challenging.  Restructuring programmes rarely go exactly to plan.  Cuts sometimes go too far and at some point, staff may need to be re-hired, perhaps for slightly different roles.   Sometimes the people a company wants to retain are the very ones who leave, due to uncertainty about the future, perhaps a loss of morale in an organisation going through significant change and the ease of finding another job elsewhere.  There are other employee recruitment and retention factors such as natural churn, early retirement and essential roles that still need to be backfilled.

And then there is staff re-deployment.  Re-hiring, re-training and re-skilling programmes are cheaper and more cost effective that hiring an outsider and a great deal more motivational too.  However, re-deploying staff is not very different from hiring externally including assessing candidates for eligibility and suitability, shortlisting, interviewing, sometimes testing, and offer management.

In the last four to five years, the way business applications and IT systems are now deployed has been a silent revolution.  Many organisations can implement a base system in 7-10 days.  This agile approach means that as the system can be implemented very quickly the returns are also very quick.

A business case for an integrated recruitment process using an online recruitment system includes internal and external recruitment process efficiencies, reduction on dependency on agencies and expensive job advertising, improvement in the quality of candidates as the net can be cast more widely and the process is more efficient which means fewer good ones drop out along the way, consistency and alignment to the strategic HR and wider organisational objectives and better management information and compliance reporting.

Some things those considering these systems should look for include:-

  • Ease of  use,  quick to implement, agile, requiring minimal training
  • Integration with careers pages, Job Boards and Social media to eliminate the need for expensive advertising
  • A choice of online application forms or CVs
  • Online shortlisting and scoring against essential and desirable criteria to ensure hires are made with no bias,  all notes regarding candidates are made online
  • Automatic but personalised candidate communications resulting in significantly less manual intervention
  • The option of video interviewing
  • Integrated background and criminal records checking
  • ‘Onboarding’ where new starter information is collected, employment contracts generated details posted to electronically to the HR and payroll system and departments notified about the new starter
  • The facility to accumulate a ‘talent pool’ of retained candidates who may be suitable for future roles thus further reducing the time to hire and re-advertise costs.

Retail Merchant Services, the largest independent card processing provider in the UK, is an example of a company that has found an online recruitment system very helpful. With over 240 employees, Retail Merchant Services receives more than 15,000 applications every year in addition to 6,000 candidates who are pro-actively approached by its in-house recruitment team.  With a fast-paced growth trajectory forecast across the business, Retail Merchant Services recruitment requirements are also set to grow.

Prior to implementing the Vacancy Filler system, Retail Merchant Services used a manual process to recruit candidates, which was heavily reliant upon Excel tracking spreadsheets and a hardcopy filing system. As the company has grown, recruitment needs have increased substantially and the manual process was becoming too time-consuming, particularly with a team of recruiters managing multiple vacancies.  The company decided to automate the process, evaluating a number of recruitment software suppliers.

Vacancy Filler was chosen because of the functionality, job board integration and customisation  the solution offered, and  within a week of going live the system managed over 50 candidates.  The flexibility provided by the Vacancy Filler software allowed it to be tailored to existing processes, meaning its impact was immediate, negating the requirement for the recruitment team to undergo retraining to be able to operate the new system.

Colette Lamb, Recruitment & Talent Acquisition Manager at Retail Merchant Services, said: “We were looking for a solution that could grow with us and streamline our recruitment. We wanted our candidates to be able to get maximum value from our website, and we needed access to reports on advert response, time to hire metrics and candidate engagement.”

She continued: “The seamless integration with our existing careers page was one of the main reasons we purchased the Vacancy Filler system.  For us, it is critical that the Retail Merchant Services’ brand – something we have spent a long time developing and nurturing – is maintained throughout the user experience.”

The need for a good recruitment and talent management strategy in the financial services sector has never been more vital and will remain key to the success of this industry going forward.



 Talent in Banking report 2015, ‘The sting in the tale – Are banks attracting the right talent?’

(This article was published in Finance Digest Magazine, April 2017)

“Original publication in Finance Digest Issue 1
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