Reach The Tipping Point: How SABMiller Began Its Talent Acquisition Transformation

June 12, 2014

It all started with a blank slate and a full pint glass. Nearly 8 years ago, Jennifer Candee walked into the doors of SABMiller plc as the Head of Talent Acquisition to build the function for this large multinational company.

At the time, SABMiller plc – the second global leader in the beer and soft drinks industry with more than 70,000 employees across 80 countries -- had no talent acquisition strategy and virtually no recruiters. Recruitment being handled by HR generalists prior to the creation of the talent acquisition department.

The company was widely decentralized with different markets all using different ATS’s, allocating their own budget and communicating an unclear EVP. While the organization appeared ready to be influenced toward a new direction, resistance was high and direct sourcing was unchartered water.

Any other talent acquisition veteran would have put down their beer and walked out of the pub but Jennifer didn’t. She recognized that there was no grand template that works for all organizations and started looking for a tipping point - the point that gets organizations to move forward and accept change. Then she realized that often talent acquisition leaders must actually BE that tipping point.

“We talk about ‘strategy’ as this large ominous concept,” Jennifer explains. “But yet, sometimes this is about small changes creating big impact. What it takes to make the pendulum shift might not be a boulder, but a pebble that gathers speed as it rolls down a mountain and creates a seismic shift.”

SABMiller

One such “small” but impactful program Jennifer implemented was a direct sourcing model. This model was key in shifting the mindset from hiring for current positions, to building a pipeline of engaged future talent. Currently, direct sourcing is one of the five pillars of SABMiller plc’s model for the entire employee lifecycle.

Flash forward 7+ years and many pints later, and SABMiller has hit recruiting critical mass. The company talent acquisition team boasts 12 managers, has successfully influenced direct sourcing in over 20 markets, and has stronger integration with talent management. Also, they ensure the other markets are aligned on global strategy through an annual Global TA forum where collaborative global goals are established.

Although this was SABMiller’s tipping point, they still have pebbles that are gaining speed to drive their talent acquisition transformation forward. Right now, Jennifer and her team are focusing on the future by developing global talent pipelines for key functional succession gaps, enhancing candidate engagement strategies, and aligning to a digital TA social media strategy. “Once you arrive at the place first imagined, the bar is pushed farther and the landscape will have changed,” says Jennifer. “Are we anywhere close to done? No, the journey has just begun but the groundwork has been laid.”

So how can you become the “tipping point” for talent acquisition transformation at your organization? Jennifer shares 5 tips on how to start this seismic shift:

1. Recognize the organisation’s readiness for change. 

When Jennifer started, she did an internal SWOT analysis to evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that talent acquisition faced in the organization. What this revealed was excessive cost and lengthy processes with external headhunters and the misunderstanding that it wasn’t feasible to find talent without agency usage. Education of key stakeholders and a successful pilot of the direct sourcing model, showed that this mindset could be turned on its head.

2. Identify the “pain” threshold for talent solutions with key stakeholders.

Ask key hiring mangers about their experiences with recruiting. If they cite a lot of pain points and frustrations, you can use that as an impetus for getting exec support and resources.

3. Sense-check potential talent strategies.

Take a step back and think if the risks and results make sense to the larger goal and organization.

4. Secure a senior champion.

Leadership backing will drive your project forward and motivate the organization to support you.

5. Willingness to pilot a new strategy or direction.

Try something new and break the status quo. It doesn't work out every time but when it does the rewards are huge.

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