The 50th episode of Talent & Growth saw Rekha Aucklah, Talent Acquisition lead at Armakuni join us to discuss how to reduce agency usage. In this episode we covered how Rekha has gone to market with direct sourcing techniques, what a positive candidate experience should look like and how direct recruiting can impact on the diversity of your hires. 

So, how can it? Read on to find out… 

I know that from when we first spoke, one of your challenges was creating a more diverse talent pool. What impact have you seen from going for the more direct approach rather than the agency approach? 

We’ve increased our diversity which is great. It’s something I’m very passionate about, regardless of whether it’s a remit that’s given to me or not. Although we’ve increased diversity. I haven’t necessarily gone about it in a conscious way. By that I mean that I haven’t gone to specific talent pools looking for a particular gender, ethnicity, neurodiversity or disability. All I’ve done is try to make the process as inclusive as possible and taken the same approach to my sourcing. 

We are getting there in terms of being able to make sure that we’re targeting wider pools. But as an agency recruiter, that’s probably one of the biggest areas where they can add a huge amount of value, but that’s not to say that they do. The focus is often on being able to fill a role as quickly as possible. Instead, recruiters should be aiming to provide an inclusive shortlist. They should be aiming to reach out to a broad spectrum of candidates, rather than the top ten people that pop up on LinkedIn, which all happen to be male. It’s just about doing the extra work. This could then be a huge area where agencies could add value.  

For us right now, we’ve definitely increased both out gender and ethnicity diversity and we’re working on some other things. I feel that if it isn’t already on the radar for agencies than it definitely will be over the next year or two. Even if it’s on the radar for agencies, they will be asked for it. So knowing how to source inclusive and diverse pools is going to add a huge amount of value.  

To hear more from Rekha click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

On Friday, as I watched Sky News for the impending news on the energy cap, it hit home to me how difficult a time we have ahead of us in the UK.

And I mean, REALLY hit home. As in slapped me in the face and said, “Paul, this is happening”.

I began my career in recruitment in 2008, which was the height of the “The Great Recession”. Having spent a few months on the dole before getting into the industry, I had no money anyway, so perhaps the significance of what was happening was lost on me.

Looking back, I definitely realise how lucky I was to remain employed through that year. I didn’t show any particular aptitude for recruitment early on and around half of the business was let go in my first year.

Members of staff would be called into rooms and would never return. The rest of us would keep our heads down and bash the phones, hoping we weren’t called out next.

We survived, came out of that difficult period, and my career grew as the market did.

The next downturn of significance for me was, of course, not that long ago – April 2020. I was in a very different position, working as the Managing Director of a leading recruitment business that had just had their best quarter in ten years and was expecting our best year EVER.

Then a pandemic called Covid hits us, and suddenly I am the one having to call people into rooms (virtual rooms this time) and talk to them about furloughs and everything else. A very dark period indeed, but one that taught me a lot about management, business, my values, and how I want to operate as a leader in the future.

And, of course, we came out of that, the market became buoyant, and we were then discussing the upcoming “roaring twenties” – a new period of spending and affluence.

And yet, here we are on the 29th of August, 2022. The energy price caps spearhead another pandemic – a cost of living pandemic.

Back in April, energy prices rose 54%. In October, they will increase by 80%. In January, they will rise again. In April, they will rise again.

That, along with inflation not matching wage growth, means that the country suddenly has less money.

A lot less.

And again, I find myself in a very different position. I am the Co-Founder of what is currently a two-person business.

We have no employees. We have no significant overheads. In a short period, we have managed to build a client base that should keep us relatively secure, and we are optimistic we can add to it.

And whilst I am an entrepreneur in his first year of business and I am worried about my family’s finances and personal situation, I also know that I am working in a more reliable sector than most which means I am more protected than most. I am also at a point in my career where I know that I can survive any belt-tightening that needs to happen personally.

But I am terrified.

I am terrified for the country.

Financial stress is ALREADY the cause of so much poor mental health, and now we are hitting so many people so hard that some quite simply may not survive.

Many people will need to make choices around food or energy and often go without both.

People will lose jobs.

Businesses may go under.

I am angry that this has been allowed to happen and fearful of the repercussions.

We must help each other. If we are in a position where we can help others, we must. We must look after ourselves first, of course, but then we must turn to those who need support.

Limit our waste. Donate to food banks. Donate to charities—check in on friends and family members who may not be in as fortunate a position as we are.

I am sure as the country gets its head around the situation it is in, more ways and opportunities to help others will become clear.

And if I put on my professional, optimistic hat, there is an opportunity here.

There is an opportunity for businesses to look after their people, help them through these tough times and not only do a damn good thing but also cement authentic relationships with them, which will lead to high retention and general good vibes all around.

On Friday, I posted this –

Just some very top line ideas.

But I would love to hear what other businesses are doing to help their people.

What innovations have you come up with to protect the people who work in your company?

What basics are you getting right?

What will your business be remembered for when people look back and talk about how you handled this crisis? 

PLEASE…share these ideas with me. And I will use this platform and any others to share them back to the community so others can be inspired and take action.

We must stick together, share ideas and do our best to look after ourselves and our people.

In other news…

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I made sure I took more than a few snaps when I visited the venue of our very first Talent & Growth event and this is one of my favourites – the Iron Throne. As a huge Game of Thrones fan, I couldn’t resist.

Warner Bros. Discovery London will be the host of our live event on 19th October – an event for all things talent attraction and talent retention, presented by The Animo Group.

We have four AMAZING speakers lined up – and I will be announcing them in the coming weeks.

We will also be raising money for Mind with this event – all funds will go towards this incredible charity.

If you would like to register your interest in attending the event, please do so here –

In episode 45 of Talent & Growth Shereen Daniels Managing Director of HR Rewired joined us to discuss how businesses can start to stamp out racism. 

We covered the differences between conditional vs transformative business cultures, how businesses can start improving their culture and stamping out racism and how you can identify racism in your business and processes and we’ve outlines some of the ways you can do this below. 

What are some of the things that business owners need to look for in their business or processes to identify racism? 

I would say that the first thing is to start with yourself, which is hard. So the first thing is, be honest with yourself and ask ‘what is the relationship that I have with racism?’ Think about when someone talks to you about racism, what is your reaction? Why do you react that way? You’ve got to be curious first, because it’s very important that you then role model. Show others how to look inwards, role model vulnerability and doing the work, even if this means being uncomfortable.  

The slight differences with me is that I did this publicly. People saw me learning, they saw me learning about black history that I didn’t know. But they also saw me being tolled, being attacked, moments where I was really upset and witnessed how I dealt with that. That is leadership. So if you want to ‘uncover’ and racism, first you need to understand that you’re looking for. 

Then you can start to look at what your data tells you, both quantitative and qualitative. What are the experiences that your colleagues are telling you? If you don’t have black colleagues within your business, that’s fine, but what about your supplies or partners? What are their experiences? Ensure that these people are open so share their experiences- don’t expect to be able to mine them for information because you want to. 

Once you have started to understand the experiences of people, you can ask yourself, ‘What does my board structure look like?’ Think about how you can diversify your board, consider how you make decisions, who is in your network and where do you go when you are looking for advice or someone to collaborate with. You can start to make some really intentional decisions by starting to ask yourself better questions.  

It’s my job and the job of my team to not tell people what to do, but to help you ask questions so you can make informed and intentional decisions. We’re disrupting our patterns of behaviour because the patterns of behaviour that we all have are due to being socialised into this system. We’ve got to disrupt it somehow.  

If you want to listen to more from Shereen then click here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

I have said PLENTY on LinkedIn of my advocacy of working models in which businesses encourage people to feel empowered to work where they wish to. Whether that’s at the office or home – it’s not about where. It’s about giving people the trust to have a choice.

I encourage collaboration in person when you can, and I think businesses should encourage and enable that where possible for those who want it (like me!).

But the choice and balance of work/life should be a priority focus for businesses.

Because I believe that a happy and balanced workforce is a productive workforce.

I have said all this so much that I decided I wanted to stop for a while for fear of sounding like a broken record. But over the past few weeks, this string of events happened, which led me to feel the urge to chip in once again:

Firstly, this podcast – The Diary Of A CEO with Steven Bartlett: E162: Malcolm Gladwell: Working From Home Is Destroying Us! on Apple Podcasts

This podcast naturally made me angry as it seemed to miss all the good remote working has done for the world and how it benefited people’s happiness, work/life balance and feeling of inclusion.

Somebody who shared my anger was Hannah Litt – she wrote a passionate comment in response to this posted podcast, which led me to reach out to her. We will run an episode of Talent & Growth to discuss How To Use Remote Working To Create An Inclusive Culture. Stay tuned for that.

Then, Apple announced this: Apple tells staff to come into the office for at least three days a week | Apple | The Guardian

Again, for me was a real shame that such a pioneering business was taking this approach.

Then I saw a fantastic post in Recruiting Brainfood by Ethan Sherwood Strauss, which summed up so much and made me feel good about the world again. But it also encouraged me to write my own opinions on it – yet again 🙂

Read it here – Work From Home Is Good – by Ethan Strauss (

From my experience, the new world of remote working has changed my life so much for the better. It has positively impacted my mental well-being, my happiness and my productivity. I spent a considerable amount of my life in the rat race, hours upon hours on busy trains and whilst I feel I was successful in that part of my career, I was miserable and living an unbalanced life.

After being raised professionally on a diet of long office hours and soul-crushing commutes for so long, I couldn’t see how anything could ever change. Even when I started feeling burnt out and recognising why I could not see how to stop the machine I was in for me or my workforce.

Recruitment has always been about face-to-face office time, bustling sales floors and being able to see your people do the work they do. Historically, it has been an untrusting profession where if you can’t see your people, your first thought is that they weren’t working.

And then Covid hits, we are all forced to stop the machine and hey presto – a new world is born.

A world where people realise they have been spending too much time on trains and not enough time with their children.

A world where people realise that they have been spending too much time in the office and not enough in the fresh air.

A world where people realise they have been spending too much time with colleagues and not enough time with friends and family.

A world which suddenly meant that those with disabilities or neurodiversity, which affected their attendance at the office, didn’t feel like they were missing out on career opportunities that others had – because the playing field was now even.

And perhaps most significantly, after we got out of the economic hole of 2020, a world where productivity and results rose to high levels even though people were still working at home.

And as that market picked up last year and the war for talent increased beyond anything we have seen before, businesses shouted from the rooftops around how they emphasised how vital the wellbeing of their people was and that work/life balance was a must.

The power was in the hands of the candidates.

But now, the market tightens, and we begin to head into a recession.

Fear is setting in amongst the workforce around money, bills, inflation, energy costs and everything else. And I believe this fear is being exploited as those same companies banging the remote working and mental well-being drum are now pushing people back into the office to justify their office space costs and give operational managers an increased sense of control.

This decision is short-sighted. Because guess what, the market will shift again, candidates will be in control again, and the companies who genuinely care about their people’s happiness and mental wellbeing will stand out like an oasis in a hot desert.

Even now, I advise any candidates out there who are being forced back into the office to be cautious and protect their position but also to be curious – look around and see if there are any companies out still hiring and who can offer you the conditions that you need to look after your mental wellbeing, happiness and your family.

The remote working argument wages on. I implore those who have options to use them. Be smart but be bold.

In other news…

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As a huge Harry Potter fan, I was thrilled to have a snap of me heading into Platform 9 3/4. What’s the relevance? This snap was taken at Warner Bros. Discovery studios which, thanks to the legend Michael Carter, will be the venue for our first ever Talent & Growth live event, hosted by The Animo Group.

We promise an evening of thought-provoking discussion and learnings for anybody involved in Talent Acquisition. We have four excellent speakers who will help us be a little better at our jobs. Further news to come on that, but for now, lock in 19th October as the date and register your interest here and now with this Typeform link:

In episode 46 of Talent & Growth we were joined by Asif Sadiq MBE, Senior Vice President, Head of Equity and Inclusion, Warner Media International. In the episode we covered how to create an inclusive culture in our businesses, the importance of active listening and how businesses can diversify their talent pipeline. 

We’ve picked out some of the critical foundation to help you make sure your business environment is inclusive, you can read them below. Enjoy! 

We’re talking about hiring diverse talent, but presumably before we do that we need to ensure that our business is an inclusive place and people want to stay within it. So for you, what are the critical foundations to getting that element right? 

It is important to hire more underrepresented, diverse talent into organisations. But it’s critical that it doesn’t stop there. We need to view it as a cycle of recruitment, retention and progression. We also need to think about ‘cultural add’ and not just ‘cultural fit’. We want people to bring different perspectives and to have different lived experiences. What we do after day one is the most critical point. Usually we talk a great game, hire diverse talent and say all the right things; show them all the right brochures; we tell them to ‘live your authentic self’ whilst also telling them how we do things here. That piece has to chance.  

We need to create an inclusive working environment that creates a sense of belonging. Employees need to feel that they can bring their true, authentic self, they don’t have to code switch or feel impostor syndrome – all those things that we know don’t help innovation. They have to come in aligned to the group thinking that they can challenge and have the psychological safety to say or give a different opinion. That’s what we need for innovation, creativity and problem solving. We need people to bring different perspectives but it’s really important that the working environments are ready for it.  

Going out and recruiting diverse talent or putting the ads out there is probably the easiest piece. But if you don’t live up to it, you’re worse off. You’ve then over promised and under delivered.  

And if you are looking to diversify that talent pipeline, what should we do or what should businesses be?  

Firstly, we know there is an equity necessarily in processes – so it’s about creating equity. It’s about levelling the playing field and giving everyone that opportunity and access to come through the recruitment process. It’s not about favouritism and tokenism, thinking that a job must be filled by someone of this diversity element and so on. It never has been and never should be. We always aim to hire the best talent but we know for a fact that they systems in place don’t allow the best talent to come through.  

We end up having time constraints around hiring because we need to fill positions quickly. Therefore, we divert to our biases of people we know. So to really identify and bring more talent in we must look deeper, we must create more equity. We need to reconsider the whole process: where we advertise, how we write job descriptions and how we put them together. Does the language we use have a gender bias or are we using words that mean something to all of us? Within the recruitment process, some organisations have psychometric tests and we need to consider how these are assembled. I know for a fact that when I was in the police service, to pass the psychometric test I had to think like a straight, white man of a certain age group in order to pass it. Their ‘good’ was based on the sample groups that they’d used for the test, which may not have matched what I thought was ‘good’.  

Then it’s looking at the hiring managers. I see many companies doing a great job of attracting talent and taking them through the process, yet when it reaches the hiring managers final decision, they hire someone that they are more comfortable with. To truly succeed you must break down the whole process from beginning to end. Look at where the gaps are, truly identify what are the touch points and what are the areas that you must focus on to adapt and drive change?  

If you want more for Asif you can listen to the full episode here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.

Joining us for episode 44 of Talent & Growth was Chad Sowash one half of HR’s most dangerous podcast, Chad & Cheese. 

In the episode we covered what should our tech stack look like for hiring, what sort of recruitment marketing strategies show we be focusing on and the title for this blog, how should our tech stack affect the candidate experience, read on to find out what Chad had to say on the matter. 

Let’s say that we’ve got our tech stack correct. How should this affect the candidate experience? 

First and foremost, it should be about the candidate experience, then the recruiter experience. It’s harder today, at least it is here in the US, to find recruiters than it is to find software developers. This has led to recruiters now being pickier about the different types of positions that they take, because they can. No recruiter wants to be in a position where they have 30,000 tabs open and completing an endless list of menial tasks; they want to be able to be more human.  

Generally, recruiters get into the sector because they like people and want to be able to help people find the next job or that sought after career that really pushes them forward. Recruiters care. But, it’s hard to care when you don’t have enough time to personally deal with the candidate and make connections.  

So, at the very least, it should be incredibly easy for a candidate to give you their information. Question whether you still need clients to create an account. It’s no longer 1999 and people make purchases online every day as a “guest” to avoid inputting information to create an account. Your candidates will be giving you their information anyway through uploading their resume or CV. Make this initial process as painless as possible.  

Next, consider the experience of the recruiter. We begin to talk about scale and have individuals voicing concerns that they will have too many candidates. That is, once again, why you should be imploding your current process and taking a look at new tech stack. If the tech is right, it should be able to ask the right questions (but not too many) to push out the individuals who do not meet the requirements, then prospectively ask them if they want to apply for something where they do meet the requirements.  

But at this point we are still speaking in linear terms – talking about one job, one application process, one recruiter. But that’s the wrong way of looking at things. All of these candidates are being thrown into a black hole; it is our job to focus on their experience and maybe not getting them the job that they initially applied for, but helping them to discover what other opportunities they could be an ideal applicant for. We help them to see the many specks of light that are out there. Looking at it from the recruiter side, we again focus on the recruiter experience. You need to ensure that you are giving them something where they can be more human and do what they really yearn to do- help people. If you’re not allowing them to do this, you could lose them. 

If you’d like to hear more from Chad you can check out the full episode here. 

On Talent & Growth we speak to talent leaders about the challenges they face and their solutions for attraction and retention. If you’re interested in hearing about how companies are building a more diverse talent pool, how you can attract top people from the big players, ways to create a more inclusive interview process or learn about the latest and greatest automation software to make your life easier, then this is the podcast for you.