Welcome to the Recruitment Hackers Podcast. A show about innovations, technology and leaders in the recruitment industry brought to you by Talkpush the leading recruitment automation platform.
Max: Hello everybody. And welcome back to the recruitment hackers podcast with Max as your host, and today on the program, I'm delighted to be welcoming Jun Abo, who is vice president for talent acquisition at Transcom, based in the Philippines. Jun is someone I've worked with for a few years and I’m delighted to have you on the show. Welcome Jun.
Jun: Oh, thank you, Max. Thank you for having me. And I'm excited to be finally getting this podcast started with you.
Max: Yes. Yes. Well, it's a busy time of year for your industry, right? So September to November. It's a luxury to be able to get half an hour of your time, during this, what they call the ramp up period.
Yeah. 2020 is supposed to be the end of the world for a lot of people in recruitment, but it seems that for your industry, at least, things are holding up pretty well.
Jun: Yeah. More than pretty well, because like what you've said, usually September to December is our busy season. That's where we see a bulk of our hiring.
Coming into 2020 with all of the things that are going on. We thought that it's time for us to relax and slow down, and lo and behold, the demand has been greater than what we've seen in the past. So it's a busy time for us even busier than last year.
Max: 2020 is bigger than 2019.
Max: Your whole year?
Jun: Oh yeah.
Max: That's amazing. There are few, I mean, I've heard this from other players as well in the space. So first, to do customer care it's harder to hire in the US, and so some of the workers are going abroad, but you were giving me another perspective and we were speaking earlier saying that from your end, the supply is bigger. There's a bigger supply of talent than before, which got unlocked because of this year's events. Tell us a little bit about that.
Jun: Yeah. So traditionally, we would normally tap from three types of profiles. The starters, the shifters and the adapters. Starters are the ones that are fresh out of school. The adapters are those coming from different types of industries. And then of course you have the shifters who are coming from other BPO’s, moving or shifting from one BPO to another. What we've seen this year is that because of the virus, it impacted a lot of the industries. We are tapping more and more adapters and more and more starters.
We've actually partnered with local governments, in order to provide career fairs and employment to returning overseas Filipino workers. So you're probably aware that the Filipinos are one of the most robust when it comes to working outside of the Philippines. You find Filipinos almost anywhere in other parts of the globe. With the virus going on, a lot of those overseas Filipino workers are going back to the Philippines, and we're the ones now partnering with the government venture so that the work is offered to them. So it's a sort of a reverse brain drain. The ones who left before are now coming back.
Max: Yeah. I guess that for you. You know, back in 2019, you were investing a lot in the employee experience and you built that beautiful Transcom cafe, and a nice welcoming experience for employees, and this has, well I mean, the expertise of building a good experience remains true and applicable, whether you're doing it from a virtual work or an actual physical work office. And giving you an edge, you know, an employer that gives a career option for people who want to stay at home, an edge compared to traditional businesses that may be a little bit more, stuck in the old ways.
Jun: Oh, yeah. The candidate experience for us is always going to be key, especially in this market. When we were first designing our virtual recruitment process, we thought that technology can be the silver bullet that fixes everything. So we bought, we partnered with a company that provided us a chatbot, but it was vanilla flavored in terms of responses. It was very robotic. It didn't provide the customization that we need, that would make us unique. So when we looked at the candidate experience, we had a lot of detractors coming out of that recruitment funnel. So we ask ourselves, the first question that we often ask ourselves when we're looking at the recruitment technology is, what would it feel if we're the ones ourselves going through this, and thinking, and using this technology? If we were candidates, what's the candidate experience going to be like? If we're not happy with that own experience, leveraging that technology, then we're not going to be using it.
Max: Yeah. Yeah. It is one of the most painful exercises that anybody has to go through, which is applying for a job at your own company. And it's so painful. Nobody wants to do it. And so we keep postponing, and postponing, and I think that's universally true. I started using it as a sales technique by asking our sales team to apply for a job at every company. And then record the experience and send it to the TA director for them to check out, you know, see how long it takes to apply it to your company. But I guess in an organization, your size, you have to do those internal audits on a regular basis?
Jun: Yeah. I think one of the good things that we put in place as well, it's we have a candidate NPS, a tracking mechanism, embedded in our recruitment process. This is a way for us to measure how many promoters and detractors and passive candidates we have, based on their experience going through one of the recruitment processes.
Max: All right. I've always found the ultimate metric of course, is whether they're going to stick around, or whether they're going to take the job and stick around. It's hard to get a clean read on candidates because they all want the job. So they usually say nice things, even if the experience is subpar. So we always get like super positive data, but I take it with a grain of salt.
Jun: I it's true because if you look at BPO’s, especially in the past couple of years, the biggest driver of attrition, you can see it during the first 30, 60, and 90 days. Where on average, you'll see around 40 - 45% of hires attrition during the first 90 days. That's why usually in recruitment, particularly for us, early life attrition is part of our KPI.
Max: How is that evolving in 2020? I would imagine the attrition is dropping because of the recession. But I would also imagine that perhaps, because you're dealing with a much broader talent pool and a lot of, as you call them starters, people who are new to the industry, they may not have the same preparation. They're not battle-tested so maybe more likely to drop out and realize “this isn't for me”.
Jun: Yeah. And that's exactly that, it's a mixed bag. So far it's still trending towards a good direction. Since we've started our digital journey. We've seen year over year 30, 60, and 90 days retention, improving. This year we saw an artificial improvement just because when we went on lockdown March, all the way up, you didn't see a lot of folks moving from one organization to the other. They'd rather stay put because of course job security. But when we started hiring, that's when we're seeing up to your point, the one fresh out of school without any call center experience, that's when they try it out. And then they need to find out for themselves, “well this is not for me”. Again, call center work, BPO work is not easy, especially during times like this when you deal with customers who are frustrated or angry or stressed. And at the same time, your normal support group is all virtual. You don't have your team leader deciding to support. You don't have your teammates to support you. They're all virtual. So it takes a different kind of employee to succeed in this type of environment nowadays.
Max: I'm wondering, I was going to ask you about automation and all that kind of jazz, but, now that you brought up frustrated customers, and since we're just a few weeks away from the first debate between Trump and Biden and a couple of months away from the election. I'm wondering whether your team has had to adapt to this unique political dynamic coming from the U.S, and notably whether from the customers to consumers... to talk to American operations only, because it's always a theme in this industry but, is that theme kind of dying down where people have accepted the fact that, you know, we're dealing with international businesses, or is it still something that you spent a lot of time training people on?
Jun: We haven't seen a lot of a backlash from outsourcing, like we did a couple of years ago. But we're still mindful in terms of — part of the training is culture training. We want to make sure that our employees are aware and can speak the weather, so to speak, and talk shop with the customers. But we haven't seen similar negative comments said about work being done from outside of the US, yeah. If we did it was like a couple of years ago, I think.
Max: Yeah. Back to the question about the work at home trend. Yeah. You were saying you've got an expanded talent pool to choose from. So does that mean you can be a little bit more selective on the type of people that you bring in and how is the prescreening and the selection process been affected by this broadening of the talent pool?
Jun: Originally, we thought that it's going to open up a larger talent pool for us, but it is also pretty restricted. So there's a couple of things. We have what you call, two challenges. The first one would be availability of bandwidth at home, and then of course a PC. There's a massive shortage of PCs all over the world where it’s taking 90 days to supply those PC’s as a workaround for us where we're trying to experiment on bringing your own device. So if you want to work at home, you have your own PC that meets the minimum requirements. And you have the minimum bandwidth, then you can apply for a work at room set up. But again the challenge is the PC. The minimum bandwidth requirement originally was 4 core wifi. Now we've downgraded it because not everyone has the ability to buy that kind of a spec of a PC. Then of course, the bandwidth. If you've been to the Philippines, the challenge with the bandwidth, especially the ones in the province. Bandwidth access is not as common as say the big cities like Metro Manila
Max: And in your industry, there's always a continuity plan. So if the internet goes down somewhere, you have to be able to pick up the business elsewhere.
Max: So I guess at some point, I know you're on the talent acquisition, so maybe you don't know about this stuff, but I imagine that. You have to kind of, does the internet go down for the whole country at a time? or region by region?, city by city? and how do you manage the workload?
Jun: So it really depends on which particular provider goes down. So there's multiple ISP providers. And if one ISP goes down, we would normally have backup with another ISP provider. The challenge is if it's a cable cut. So that means. the common cable where in all of the ISP would pasture or would get cut somewhere in the middle of the ocean, then you're screwed.
Max: Okay. So that's when you need to have an international operation because you're going to the other place. Okay. Yeah. Great. Well, maybe I'm taking a little bit of a step back from the day to day and reflecting on the evolution of the sector and for our listeners who are recruiters. Now taking a moment to think about, what are the skills required today that were not required 10 years ago. How has the profession specifically around high volume recruitment evolved for you in the last 10 years? What are the skills that you've had to hire for internally for your own team?
Jun: For my own team, actually, one of the things that we're looking for in recruiters, it's their ability to manage digitally candidates. Their ability to also work independently, because recruiters nowadays we've gone away from big and massive recruitment hubs. All of our recruiters are working from home. In fact, our recruitment hubs in all of our sites have been converted to different functional areas used by the site. It's actually used for teleconsults. So all of our employees coming in, they go through what used to be our recruitment hub, where they get teleconsultation with nurses and doctors, just to get checked. That's when they get screened before they're allowed up into the production floor. Now our recruiters are working from home. What we're looking for is their ability to work independently, the ability to manage candidates virtually, and again, manage their own time.
Max: That sounds fine, except that you're not going to be able to get, you know, I'm sort of a young university grads to have that autonomy, that independence, that experience that's required to work without close supervision. We might run into some problems a few years down the line. If we don't have these recruitment centers, which is an opportunity for the young recruiters to pick up the skills and learn from the elders. I've seen some initiatives from the sales side where they use software in order to record every call in order to facilitate that, and then do more calibration between people. I guess in 2020, you know, we have the luxury of hiring more experienced recruiters, but in the future. That'll be a problem potentially.
Jun: Yeah, no, I agree. Yeah. And I think it's an area of opportunity. One of the things that we're working with our own learning and development team. We recently rolled out Transcom university. So it's a learning management platform. We tried creating micro learning courses, targeted for recruiters. So they can upskill themselves, given what are the things that they need to learn, and what are the things that they need to do better. And it's all available through their mobile phones.
Max: Transcom university. Everybody's got one of those one these days, we're launching Talkpush Academy. We hope some of your recruiters will take our new training course, which is being released this month actually.
Jun: Oh, looking forward to it!
Max: I mean, autonomy is always good to have. What do you think, who are the recruiters that are going to be able to perform well 5 or 10 years from now? What are the skill sets? How is the profession going to evolve further?
Jun: I think the way I see it, it's a combination of AI, which is augmented intelligence for recruiters. The more we incorporate social media. The public persona of candidates, and the ability of AI to filter that available information. That's what will allow the recruiters to have basically tons of information available to them. Even before they start the interview. And then from there, the competencies that you're looking for, you interview or you touch base on those competencies that you're looking for. It's amazing how much we often forget that there's a lot of information we put out there on our social media. Right now there's not a lot of companies that are using social media information for recruiting as a basis for selection. But I think that's going to be a trend a couple of years from now.
Max: Oh, we know about Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn. Are you looking for people's profiles elsewhere? Are you going to their TikTok pages?
Jun: As long as TikTok is no longer banned in the US.
Max: Oh, I thought they had a local TikTok, a Chinese TikTok. Yeah. Okay. So it sounds like you need more recruiters who are comfortable with data, and well, are you hiring at the moment? Should we be making a service announcement for Transcom?
Jun: No, not yet. We're good. But just adding to that, it's recruiters who are comfortable working with data, recruiters who are also marketers, because what we realize is that recruitment as a role, as a career has shifted. Before it was mostly an administrative task in nature, but now it's really more of selling marketing and branding from a recruitment standpoint. So that skillset in marketing, whether virtually, digitally or the traditional way of marketing, that's also going to be a key competency that we're going to be looking for in recruiters.
Max: Yeah, on one hand, it's costing less money to gather leads than before. Yeah. But it does require more expertise in a way, cause it used to be, you just bought a few ads on a job board and that was the extent of the advertising and marketing expertise that was required. Now, are you training your team on the aspects, like how to buy ads on Facebook and things like that? Is that part of the onboarding?
Jun: Yeah. So one of the things that we put in place within recruitment, is we have our own digital marketing team. So we have a team that manages all the ad buying on Facebook, social media and on Google. We have our own branding team that creates all of those contents and videos that's really meant for talent acquisition, and they partner with our own communications and employee branding team.
Max: Yeah. That's like a digital agency within Transcom.
Jun: That is exactly it.
Max: That sounds expensive, that sounds incredibly expensive. How did you get them to agree to that investment?
Jun: Well, look at it. When I first joined Transcom 2015, we were doing the traditional way of recruiting. I had around 119 recruiters. In Manila, in Bacolod , and Iloilo. I was recruiting on average, probably around 500 - 600 per month. Fast forwarding to now, my total head count is around 52. So I've reduced my headcount significantly. Focus on specialized skill sets. And then expanded our sourcing capability because it's all about sourcing, right? The more candidates, the more quality candidates that you can bring in at the top of the funnel, the more candidates that you're able to then onboard. So I initially presented them my business case. And it's a good thing that our regional CEO, Michael Ansell is a big believer of digital transformation. He saw the need for us to pivot from the traditional way of recruiting, to the more digital and advanced way of recruiting. So he fully supported it. And in a span of three years, we started moving in hiring based on the desired skill set. So when the virus hit and the lockdown affected the Philippines in March, we were one of the few companies that was really already a hundred percent digitally ready to be recruiting.
Max: You said you were a few years back at 500 hires a month. Is that number roughly the same? So you're able to do the same volume with half the team?
Jun: No it increased. Now I'm doing around 650 to 700 on average.
Max: Okay. So we're talking about like a 30% increase in output with more than 50% reduction in headcount. So yeah. Sounds like your CEO should be happy with that. And that does justify some investments into the digital factory we talked about. Congratulations! Thank you for sharing those numbers with our audience, and sharing your story. Where can people get a hold of you? I believe you've got a very cool nickname.
Jun: No, so you can reach me at LinkedIn. Look for Jun Abo. I am Transcom’s Fairy Job Father. So LinkedIn with me and I'd be more than happy to interact with you there.
Max: Awesome. Thank you Jun. And thank you for your time. I wish you a strong end of 2020, and talk to you soon.
Jun: Thank you, Max. Thank you for the partnership.
Max: That was Jun from Transcom sharing some trade secrets on how he has turned his talent acquisition team into experts in social media and sourcing. Hope you enjoyed it. If you'd like to see more content like this, and you'd like interviews from the high volume recruitment space, please subscribe now and share with your friends. Until next time.