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The Incremental Journey to Talent Acquisition Transformation at Colliers EMEA

How does a company’s talent acquisition function tie in with talent management? And can talent acquisition (TA) move the needle on transforming an organization’s overall talent strategy?

That’s the remit Ben Handyside, Director of Talent Management for EMEA, was presented with when he joined Colliers in 2020. The company had already implemented SmartRecruiters two years before, but its hiring practices were still inconsistent across its 119 offices and 42 countries in the region. “Everyone got excited in the first phase of SmartRecruiters implementation, but in the second year, usage dropped off,” Ben said.

In a quest to hire better people, improve retention, and help employees develop their careers in Colliers’ decentralized talent framework, the company embarked on a holistic effort to transform talent management. “Talent acquisition was one pillar of a broader group that was put in place to drive greater levels of consistency and maturity in talent management overall,” Ben explained.

After digging into the data, Ben and his team saw gaps in the company’s adoption of SmartRecruiters. Once he connected with his SmartRecruiters representative, the lightbulbs started to go off.  “I quickly realized that the power of the system is its simplicity,” he said.  “It’s easy to use. But when you combine that with the relationship and the ability to discuss and analyze the data, it enabled me to understand where we needed to go strategically.”

SmartRecruiters covered the more tactical pieces of the talent acquisition transformation in our success story, How Colliers Reduced Agency Spending with SmartRecruiters. That document tells the story of how consistent hiring practices combined with recruitment marketing, a CRM, and the company’s employer branding efforts resulted in a massive improvement in the company’s ability to make direct hires. But behind the scenes, the story is more nuanced – and profound. Yes, you want your company to save money, but you also want to make better hires because those are the people who will be driving revenue for the business in the future. 

Putting all the pieces together that contribute to making better hires requires a shift in thinking among executives, hiring managers, and recruiters across the organization. Here’s how the partnership with SmartRecruiters helped the Colliers EMEA talent acquisition team achieve an organizational mindset shift.

A Vision for Talent Acquisition

The most obvious gap was a need for awareness and education – but the need went deeper than that. “There was a need for consistency in approach, but also alignment to vision and an appreciation of what talent acquisition can deliver.”

With the vision in place, it became Ben’s mission to position talent acquisition as a strategic enabler for the business. “Talent acquisition itself can impact the bottom and top line,” Ben said. “People don’t think like that in many businesses. They just kind of think ‘why can’t you hire me someone? Why is it taking so long?’”

When talent acquisition is positioned at the center of an organization, hiring managers become more involved in making thoughtful hiring decisions. “Recruitment is an enterprise sport,” Ben said. To make true change happen, though, Ben’s team had to educate not just the HR community, but also the senior leadership team. Data proved to be the key to the success of the transformation.

Improving Data Literacy

Data has the power to educate, but people need to understand what the data means and how to ask more questions of it. Stakeholders may be experts in one type of data, but data literacy for talent acquisition is an acquired skill set that evolves over time. Stakeholders needed time to get up to speed and understand the impact of adjustments to hiring practices, and Ben had to slow down his expectations that change could happen overnight. 

Conclusions that may be obvious to an expert take time to land in others, especially if the data indicates a need to adjust old ways of thinking and behaving. After a series of monthly stakeholder meetings, Ben said, “The questions started to change and shift, which meant they were getting comfortable in their understanding.”

If recruitment is an enterprise sport, the work of a total talent transformation is another type of team sport — one that’s supported with compelling reports. “Data proved to be foundational in driving awareness and understanding where our gaps were,” Ben said. “When you talk to people and ask a lot of questions, you start to get interesting answers. You also start to see the big picture.”

Data Facilitates Accountability

Supporting the new vision of talent acquisition for Colliers requires that everyone using SmartRecruiters utilizes the system properly. “The philosophy of ‘do the basics well’ drives a different level of performance,” Ben said. Once utilization started improving, Colliers could see cost savings in terms of reduced agency spending. 

When people are held accountable, they’re more likely to adopt new processes. The immediate availability of data in SmartRecruiters, plus the regularly scheduled reporting meetings helped Colliers’ hiring teams see that their daily actions could add up to a big impact. “What fascinates me about SmartRecruiters is that you can go to the day, the hour, the second of an intervention,” Ben said. “It gives us the ability to understand the trends in our recruitment business, diagnose how well things are working, and identify where the opportunities sit. It’s also really intuitive, so you can’t get it wrong.”

Talent Acquisition Moves the Needle on Total Talent Transformation

Hiring people at a lower cost was just the beginning of the TA transformation at Colliers. Improvements in quality of hire and retention are where the real transformation lies. Colliers had already noted that its employer branding and recruitment marketing helped attract a different caliber of people to the business. The real result showed up downstream: Colliers saw a 25% year-over-year increase in retention for first-year hires. 

Starting with talent acquisition, Colliers achieved a total talent win: they attracted better people, kept candidates engaged to the point of hire, and successfully engaged them as employees.

People + Technology = Hiring Success

We asked Colliers how to summarize the factors that contribute to the achievement of hiring success. Ben’s first take was, “Ensure the product is simple to use because then people will use it.”  But it wasn’t just the system that facilitated a major change in the way Colliers attracts and manages talent. He explained, “the real value lies in the combination of people and technology.”

Mentioning his SmartRecruiters customer success manager, Ben continued, “As your relationship evolves, you start to talk a lot more about what really matters to your business and begin to formulate a workable strategy.” Sometimes you don’t know what’s possible until someone shows you — and sometimes, you need to know the boundaries of the system to make your efforts successful.

“SmartRecruiters is the best system I’ve used,” Ben said. “It’s a best-in-class system, and it’s backed up by support. That human, interpersonal relationship is really important.” 

Lessons from Colliers

Where your company starts and where it needs to go may differ from Colliers, but these lessons apply to anyone looking to save on recruiting costs, improve hire quality, and increase retention of new hires.

  • Align talent acquisition with the overall talent strategy
  • Create a vision for what TA can achieve
  • Enlist a best-in-class talent acquisition platform
  • Partner with your technology provider to get the most out of the system
  • Hold stakeholders accountable with metrics to ensure system adoption
  • Back up results with regular reporting to stakeholders
  • Be patient as stakeholders gain data literacy
  • Connect TA and HR metrics to measure the downstream impact

A full-scale talent acquisition transformation is an evolution – and we’d love to partner with you to get started. For a deep dive into how you can lead more strategically, download our ebook, A Seat at the Table: A Guide to Leading a Strategic Talent Acquisition Function.

Lee Ann Prescott