Jonathan Stewart, Director of TA APAC at Kantar, Singapore

“Work closely with your corporate marketing teams to align messaging, utilize platforms, understand and engage with your audience” – Jonathan Stewart, Director of Talent Acquisition APAC at Kantar, Singapore

Jon is the TA Director for APAC at Kantar and based in Singapore. Originally from the UK, he began his career in Recruitment Advertising and Employer branding before moving into in-house Talent Acquisition. He moved to Asia in 2008, working in Macau, Hong Kong and most recently Singapore and has gained experience across multiple industries, such as banking, technology, chemicals, IT and market research. Jon enjoys balancing the transactional with the strategic side of recruitment and in particular has an interest in HR transformation, change management and utilising new and emerging technologies to optimise delivery.

In an interview with SCIKEY, Jonathan speaks on how recruitment departments have geared up to become the new marketing arm how marketing and branding helped their team to build Talent Acquisition strategies for the company. He also shared his thoughts on what new HR skills are required in the age of AI and automation.

In your opinion, how have recruitment departments geared up to become the new marketing medium where do the gaps exist?

I started my career in marketing and recruitment advertising over 20 years ago. As far back as I remember, there has always been a distinct lag between the tools and platforms available to consumer marketing and those at the disposal of TA. That is no longer the case, and TA can now avail itself of CMS and marketing tools, which allow it to develop candidate personas, send targeted communication and pipeline and stream talent. It is up to us now to develop the skills to leverage these platforms.

How your marketing branding experience has helped you building Talent Acquisition strategies?

Candidates these days are hiding in plain sight – on social media and other accessible channels, so I no longer see the principal TA challenge as one of sourcing. Instead, as recruiters, we need to focus more on developing our expert networks and building a better understanding of the talent markets in which we operate, who is ready to move when and what their motivations are. Therefore, a recruiter needs a strong and authentic personal brand and ideally also a strong and compelling corporate brand. TA is a sales function built on marketing fundamentals.

You have been into TA space for almost 2 decades, how has the journey been so far? How has the landscape changed in terms of talent in these years?

I’ve been fortunate to work in several different industries and across different geographies, but what is clear is that, while the number of applications has increased, the right talent has become more scarce and more competitive. Skills such as digital or consulting are in huge demand across all industries, for example, and desired by multinationals and local start-ups alike. Add to this the different generations working today with their different approaches, drivers, and expectations and you have a very complex landscape that necessitates multi-layered strategies to attract and retain top talent.

What focus areas strategies do you recommend to recruitment teams to become future extended marketing arm for the company?

Work closely with your corporate marketing teams to align messaging, utilize platforms, understand and engage with your audience. Utilize alumni networks and referral programs as effectively as possible for low cost and high tenure hiring. Use the entire network of your hiring managers by involving them in the process and leveraging their networks.

How has the role of a recruitment team has evolved in the past decade? What will the new HR skill set look like in the age of AI and automation?

I have been around just about long enough to have seen the rise of the internet and job boards, which for TA was an application multiplier. Almost overnight, candidates could fire off one hundred applications in the time it used to take to write/type one. Response handling has been a challenge for years, as we have sifted through the haystack. With automation capabilities these days, we can start to employ machine learning and AI platforms for the heavy lifting – to screen and handle our inbound response, allowing us to focus more on ensuring an excellent candidate experience. As AI and automation become embedded into what we do, we will start to see a greater emphasis on what humans do best, namely cultivating a network of stakeholders, selling, and narrative building.

What talent challenges do you foresee in the workplace of the future in the Research industry? What challenges would the HR function face in particular?

Like most industries these days, there are tremendous opportunities for disruption and utilizing new and emerging technologies to enhance what we do and how we do it in research industry. That means bringing in new skill sets, backgrounds, and capabilities at all levels of the organization. How successfully we attract, embed and retain these new employees will be the difference between success and failure.

Having diversity hiring strategies, What are the recent initiatives you have taken to bridge the gaps?

Firstly and foremostly at Kantar we are strongly committed to having a working environment in which a diverse and inclusive workforce can thrive. So, this means embedding into our culture policies such as flexible working and work-from-home and holding regular ID training to raise employee awareness and to help develop a better understanding of others. We have also committed to a hiring process which is equally fair and which allows us to assess candidates in an open-handed way; anonymizing data where possible, using objective assessment tools to test hard and soft skills, carrying out hiring manager interview training to enable them to identify and avoid unconscious bias and taking an open approach to compensation discussions backed by external benchmarks.


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