In our latest Talent Leadership interview, we have caught up with Jonathan Harvey, Managing Director at Pelham Street and former Global Head of Talent and Culture at Barclays PLC.

Jonathan has over 28 years’ experience as a senior Human Resources executive. His most recent role was Managing Director and Global Head of Talent and Culture at Barclays
PLC, where he advised the Board, Chief Executive and senior executive team on leadership, succession and culture. Prior to this Jonathan held a similar position at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ) in Australia, where he held global responsibility for Leadership, Talent, Learning & Diversity.

Jonathan has published articles on the importance of Boards effectively planning for CEO succession and in shaping the culture of the organisations for which they are stewards. He has been invited to speak at numerous conferences, including the New York Federal Reserve Bank at their annual Culture Conference in 2017 and again in 2018.

Jonathan is now a Managing Director of Pelham Street, advising senior leaders in relation to matters of leadership, culture and effective succession planning. His passion is helping organisations and individuals out-perform through world-class leadership.

What do you view the role of Talent Acquisition to be in an organisation and how has this changed in recent years?

JH: With competition for talent ever increasing and workforce needs evolving at a pace never before seen, the role for Talent Acquisition and the professionals who work within has become increasingly important and strategic. Whereas TA once may have been viewed as reactive and transactional, organisations now need it to be proactive and strategic.

The role of the TA professional now and in the future is an exciting and challenging one. They need to be a genuine business partner, demonstrating a deep curiosity for the business and where it is heading, they need to understand the changing technology landscape and they need to understand the important influence of purpose, culture and branding, as candidates increasingly choose organisations based on these factors.

What is your view on how TA functions can best support their firm’s diversity agenda?

JH: The business case for building diverse teams no longer needs to be sold. The challenge now is to discover, attract and underpin the success of diverse candidates. There exists a tension in the system however with many TA functions measured on time to hire and external search firms similarly driven to close searches quickly.

These metrics can unintentionally discourage diversity as to unearth and attract diverse candidates inevitably takes more time. TA’s role therefore in supporting the diversity agenda is two-fold in my view. Internally it must lean-in by challenging the conventional wisdom of the business/hiring managers where it exists and externally it must hold external partners (where relevant) accountable for presenting lists that reflect the diverse talent in the marketplace.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing TA functions in the current market? How have TA functions had to adapt?

JH: One of the biggest challenges facing TA functions is unquestionably the increasing competition for the best talent, coupled with the fact that top talent is more mobile, has more choice and is more discerning than ever before about the companies they want to work for. In addition, the nature of work and jobs is changing at a rapid pace, with flexible, part-time and contingent work models and even AGILE organisation design becoming increasingly common. The traditional model of a ‘full-time five days a week” job, whilst still the norm today may become a thing of the past quicker than we think.

Responding to these challenges, TA functions and professionals need to understand the needs of the business and workforce today and tomorrow, requiring TA professionals to be genuine business partners, throwing up two challenges. Firstly, for some this is a new skill that needs to be encouraged and developed; and secondly, it requires dexterous navigation of and collaboration with the broader HR organisation as sometimes generalist HR business partners fiercely guard their relationship with the business.

To what extent should TA be responsible for the success of candidates they help to place?

JH: In my time as Chief Talent Officer for two global banks, I have observed that TA often views its job as done once the successful candidate lands at their desk and the broader talent organisation, often focussed on assessing potential and 9-box matrices (the latter of which I’m not a fan), tend not to start tracking executives until they have been in role for a year. This leaves a critically important gap, being the support of new hires through their transition which is often littered with complexity and hurdles that can trip them up.

I believe that if a new hire fails or fails to deliver as expected in their first 12 months, it is usually a failure of the organisation rather than the individual. Consequently, I believe TA has an important role to play, in conjunction with the hiring manager and HR, to ensure appropriate mechanisms are in place to support successful transition and in so doing, mitigate risk and accelerate performance. My current firm (Pelham Street) supports many senior executives across different industries, often through these critical transition periods, helping them navigate challenging agendas, a different culture from what they might be used to and shaping their team, organisation and strategic priorities.

What trends are you seeing in new technology (data analytics etc.) in TA?

JH: HR has been something of a laggard in adopting data and analytics to inform decisions. It should by no means be the only input and I’m still a believer in the importance of face to face interviewing (albeit since Covid, I no longer feel as strongly that this has to be physically proximate) and of human judgement.

That said new and emerging technologies and AI are becoming an increasingly important and differentiating tool (supported by human judgement) in the ‘war for talent’. Algorithms are devoid of human bias (whether conscious or unconscious) and I believe can have a big impact on the diversity agenda as well as more broadly. The challenge is two-fold. Firstly, decision makers need to not second guess the data, applying flawed and sometimes biased filters instead; and secondly, the challenge for TA professionals is to up-skill themselves to both understand the technology landscape and become comfortable in interpreting data and using it to influence and inform decisions. All of this presents a brave new world for the TA function and those who work within it and an opportunity to become a more strategically critical function than it has ever been before.

Thank you Jonathan Harvey for such an insightful interview!

Come back soon to see more in-depth interviews addressing the key topics shaping the global talent acquisition market - and if you have any suggestions of topics or people for future interviews, please send them to emily.ivey@leathwaite.com

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Leathwaite recently undertook a global survey of Talent Acquisition leaders within corporate & in-house recruiting with the aim of better understanding the needs, frustrations and challenges faced by the group responsible for ensuring their organizations are attracting their most valuable asset: talent.

The results of our survey speak of a function in a period of transition, and a market that has not yet coalesced around a single operating model for the digital age.

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