As Head of Consulting at i-potentials, Julia has her fingers on the pulse when it comes to trends in talent acquisition. In this interview, she explains what organizations are struggling with the most - and how her team’s consulting approach differs from that of typical recruitment consultancies.
Hi Julia! You joined i-potentials in early 2017 and became Head of Consulting shortly after. How does your consulting work differ from the classic recruitment consulting?
The label “recruitment consulting” is, unfortunately, a bit misleading as in most cases it refers to recruiting more than it does to consultancy. The classic scenario there is: You’ve got a vacancy that needs to be filled and you want to outsource the recruitment, so you call a headhunter. What I do, however, is focussed more on giving companies the right push so that they can acquire and retain talent themselves. Since we always approach recruiting issues in the context of the organization, I often say that we actually do strategy consulting with a focus on talent.
What kind of issues do companies approach you with?
For the vast majority of clients, the acute pain is that it’s becoming more and more difficult for them to hire and retain talented people - but they are unsure about what to change. And this is not at all specific to a particular industry, company size, or brand. Talent acquisition is a major concern across the whole economy.
So, what can these organizations do to improve their talent acquisition?
The quick wins often lie in optimizing the recruitment process as a whole. However, as we dig deeper into the organization, we often uncover other issues such as leadership deficits or a company culture that emphasizes very different values than it advertises. Of course, all of this influences how a potential candidate perceives the attractivity of an employer, which means it can also become the focus of our consulting project.
What do your consulting projects typically look like?
There is no such thing as a typical consulting project for us, which I’m really glad about. We always start out by investigating together with the client: What’s the core issue in your recruiting and where do we have the biggest leverage to improve your talent acquisition in the short, middle and long run? Based on that we decide what we tackle first and on the suitable tools. We often start with a 1-day-workshop, sometimes with a series of management trainings. With some companies, we go through a long process for several months when it comes to implementing larger strategic projects.
You have been at i-potentials a little more than a year now. Would you share a highlight from this first year?
Thankfully, I can think of more than one highlight from this first year! But if I need to only choose one, I’d say our project at adidas, where we were part of a very ambitious and strategically relevant recruitment project where several 100 positions with a digital focus needed to be filled. There we did everything from process optimization to KPI definition and setting up agile teams. I was mainly involved in the operative part of the project management and it was really cool for me to see one’s own impact on such a project.
You have worked in classical management consulting before you started working at i-potentials. How did it occur to you to move into this new field of talent acquisition consulting?
What I liked about my “classic” consulting job was the variety of clients, industries, and tasks. So that was something I really wanted to stick to. However, I was looking for a better work-life-balance than you normally get in a consulting job.
Recruiting had always been interesting to me because I could see its potential to really influence the strategic direction of a company. That’s why I chose to do consulting in that field: Recruiting and organizational design to me are the keys to successfully growing a business. I was so lucky to call i-potentials right at the time when they had decided to extend their scope from executive search into consulting, which we have built up over the past year. To me, my job is the best of both worlds - especially since I get a lot of freedom to create impact and to be a part of exciting projects.
Since you are not just our Head of Consulting, but also our Inhouse Knowledge Manager: Which sources would you recommend to those who want to expand their knowledge on talent acquisition?
It’s hard to choose one, but if you’re looking for a place to start, I’d recommend the book “Work Rules!” by Laszlo Bock, Google’s former Senior Vice President of People Operations - it’s one of my favorites. A very inspiring and insightful read for HR business partners as well as company executives.