Advice for Employers and Recruiters

The High Volume Hiring podcast with Kevin Wheeler of The Future of Talent Institute

Shelby Konkel AvatarShelby Konkel
October 17, 2022

Welcome back to another episode of the High Volume Hiring Podcast, the podcast that features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high-volume hiring. 

The High Volume Hiring podcast

In this week’s episode, host Steven Rothberg, College Recruiter’s Founder and Chief Visionary Officer, interviews Kevin Wheeler, the Founder of The Future of Talent Institute, a consortium of organizations and individuals who explore emerging issues in talent management, staffing, recruiting, employee development, retention, and leadership development. Its members comprise a wide range of sizes, industries, and locations.

After leaving the corporate world over 20 years ago, Kevin embarked on a journey in coordination with organizations interested in looking at trends within the talent acquisition industry. Kevin joins this episode of the High Volume Hiring Podcast to discuss some of these trends, specifically different hiring tools/tactics and how these may vary geographically. He also shares some of the high volume hiring trends he has noticed domestically and overseas. Finally, Kevin delves into the shifting dynamics in hiring and how the overhiring that took place during the pandemic may have contributed to the downsizing of hiring that we are noticing today.

You can listen to the full episode here:

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Speaker 1: Welcome to the High Volume Hiring Podcast. I’m Steven Rothberg, the founder of College Recruiter Job search site at College Recruiter. We believe that every student and recent graduate deserves a great career. This podcast features news tips, case studies, and interviews with the world’s leading experts about the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to high volume hiring. Thanks for joining us. Today’s guest is Kevin Wheeler, founder of the Future of Talent Institute, the consortium of organizations and individuals who explore emerging issues in talent management, staffing, recruiting, employee development, retention, and leadership development. It’s members comprise of wide range of sizes, industries and locations. Kevin, welcome to the show.

Speaker 2: Wow, thank you Steve. Great to be here.

Speaker 1: So, future of Talent Institute, What did I miss? Where did it start?

Speaker 2: It started about 20 years ago when I left the corporate world, uh, and decided that, uh, we needed to have a more future look at what was going on in the spa in the talent space. Started to put it together with a couple of other people, and it’s gone from there. It’s just sort of grown organically, I guess you could call it. Uh, there’s been quite a lot of interest in it, and obviously everybody wants to understand the future and what the trends are, and that’s what we try to focus on.

Speaker 1: And the employers that are members, do they tend to be large, like thousands of employees, tens of thousands of employees smaller? What, what, what does a typical member kinda look like?

Speaker 2: They’re, they’re mostly larger firms, I guess I would say that they have enough hiring volume that it makes, uh, sense for them to be thinking a lot about talent. You know, if you’re only hiring one or two people, it’s not really a major focus area. And smaller companies are typically hiring very locally or smaller numbers of people, which means that their focus is not really into, you know, what’s the future trends and am I gonna go out of business without having people? Uh, but if you’re a big company, if you’re, you know, a global company, those are big issues for you. So that’s why they audience tends to be the larger firm.

Speaker 1: So what I’m hearing is when they’re larger, they can also pay much larger fees, and then that allows you to buy much nicer bottles of wine.

Speaker 2: <laugh> absolutely. <laugh>

Speaker 1: So,

Speaker 2: Of wine. There

Speaker 1: Are just, there’s so few. There’s, when, when, when you’re in that geographic area that there’s a massive shortage. Uh, I, I don’t know if those two things are connected, but, uh, <laugh>, So my my understanding from some of our previous conversations is that you’ve done a lot of consulting work in, uh, countries all over the world, um, for example, in Australia, and for firms that are employers that hire, uh, thousands of hourly workers, How do the tools and tactics used by those organizations differ from other and otherwise similar organization that just might be located in the us? So like, you know, what, what does the, the country difference make?

Speaker 2: I, I honestly don’t think there is a huge difference country to country. The tools in the tactics are pretty much the same. There’s, there’s local variations to some degree. Uh, you know, in a place like Australia, um, you’re mainly gonna be hiring what I would call regionally, locally. Uh, so, uh, you know, you’re, if you’re in Western Australia in the mining industry, probably 90% of your employees are gonna come from Western Australia, um, and might fly a few in from other places. But, uh, it’s more common to have a, a more local pool of labor, which is a problem because that population isn’t big. Uh, so if there’s a boom, that’s a real challenge for them in those areas. Uh, so in the US and all, we tend to be, um, we have a much larger population to tap into. Uh, it’s more dispersed, uh, and people are more willing to relocate and move, which makes it easier in a way. Um, historically, at least, and a lot of the other countries in the world, movement is not, uh, is not, doesn’t happen. Okay. People don’t just pick up and relocate to Switzerland from Germany, let’s say, uh, or from Netherlands to, to Germany. Um, it’s much less like they do, but on a much, much smaller scale. Um, so other than immigration where you have large numbers of refugees or people coming from economically depressed areas, you know, other than that, it’s, uh, people don’t move.

Speaker 1: I’m really glad that you used as a couple of examples, countries that are in the eu. Um, we’re we’re both old enough to remember the days before the eu. Yeah, sure. And one of the great promises of the EU, or threats, depending upon your vantage point, was that mobility of labor. I, I remember when that discussion was happening, there was, there was so much talk about people in Spain moving to Sweden. And like you say, it, it happens, but it’s really not much of a factor. I I hardly ever hear an employer talking about, you know, Oh, we’re opening up this new facility and we’re gonna start running a bunch of ads in Madrid because people are gonna like, pack up their families and, and move across the continent. It’s just, it seems very rare, right? Like, it, it’s more like maybe an executive might move and like you, you say a refugee or maybe you’ve met a spouse in, in university, but, but you don’t see mass migration of labor, uh, in the

Speaker 2: Eu. No, you do not. Uh, the only mass migration that’s really happened recently has been a lot of Polish people have moved to the uk, for example. Uh, so this, groups like that. But again, it’s been economic circumstances, opportunities are available. So, uh, they’ve voluntarily decided to move, uh, often without any job opportunity, uh, looking for one when they get there. But, you know, like you said, nobody’s opening a factory and saying, Let’s hire, you know, a thousand people from Poland to work in our factory. Right. That doesn’t happen.

Speaker 1: Yeah. If Amazon opens up a big new facility in G, they know that they’re not gonna be able to staff it with a thousand people from Portugal. Absolutely. They might have three <laugh> they’re not gonna get. Yeah. Yeah. So the, the job market in, in say, um, couple of other areas, um, Southeast Asia, Europe, um, do you, in, in talking with members of the institute or just your other travels research, do you think that the organizations that do that high volume hiring, hiring at scale, are they doing more or less of that than they were say, a year ago

Speaker 2: Starting to do less? Uh, I was just on the phone with some people in Singapore yesterday, uh, chatting, uh, I don’t know if you’ve heard of Grab, but Grab is the equivalent of Instacart, Uber, uh, Lyft, uh, it’s sort of all of those combined. Uh, it’s very large. It’s in all of Southeast Asia. Uh, every southeast Asian country, Malaysia, Singapore, uh, Australia, I mean, not Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, uh, and they recently purchased Uber. So they have the Southeast Asian, uh, Uber. They bought the rights of Uber for Southeast Asia. So they, they obviously are, they do a lot of, um, uh, delivering food. And during the pandemic, that was huge. And I think what’s going on everywhere with the high volume recruiting, especially in the food delivery services, is it’s going down, hiring is going down cause people are back out to restaurants and, and buying their own food.

Speaker 2: And so deliveries are going down, and therefore that kind of mass hiring has gone down. Um, it’s quite interesting, but you know, like, um, Uber is now making more money from riding rides than they were from food, which is exactly the flip of a year ago when they were making more money from food than they were from giving people rides. And I think that’s happening everywhere. So, uh, and talking to my friend, he said they’re just starting to, you know, decrease their volume hiring. So I think we’re seeing, seeing that around the world, a lot of the volume hiring in the last two years was pandemic driven. And I think we’re seeing industries where the pandemic delivery, like Amazon just recently said, they vastly overhired, uh, and they’re trying to figure out what to do with the thousands of people that really, uh, shouldn’t have hired. Right. Uh, and this is happening in lots of places.

Speaker 1: Speaking of, of Amazon, it’s a probably a really great example because they just, they, they are so huge, they hire so many people. I mean, you talk about, you know, the poster child for high volume hiring, you, there aren’t that many organizations that do more, um, or do it better, you know, And certainly there are areas that they’re always striving to improve upon, and, you know, people might disagree with certain labor practices or whatever it is, but the fact remains, they have hired more people faster than almost any organization ever. And, uh, and they’ve really revolutionized through automation how they do that. Absolutely. Like when was the last time you ever heard about an employer saying, Oh yeah, you know, and I’m just making up this number to an extent, but you know, 96% of the people who work for us never had an interview. That’s just you, you know, that, that’s just like, what, How do you not interview people, but they, they figured out for those roles. We don’t need to, we don’t need to go through our online system and here’s an offer and here’s your start date. Um, and oh, by the way, you’ll figure out who your manager is after you arrive. Um, but the, when I saw the headline, Kevin, for the, for Amazon saying that they had vastly overhired, and I think it was something like 99,000 employees. Uh, so it’s not, Not trivial. Not

Speaker 2: Trivial <laugh>.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I, my initial thought was, okay, they overhired for head office. And so I was thinking this is, maybe this is probably similar to some of the stories we’ve been hearing from tech companies, where they hired every engineer they possibly could because they knew that some of them weren’t gonna work out. And if they tried to figure out ahead of hiring which ones were gonna be good and which ones were gonna be bad, they would be left with none. And so the better strategy was hire a whole bunch and then get rid of the ones that don’t end up working out, which was sort of brilliant, evil, all at the same time. <laugh>. Um, but Amazon, it, when I read, as soon as I got into the article, it’s like, no, this wasn’t just about head office. This was also about the warehouses where they have been starved for talent.

Speaker 2: That’s right. Um, absolutely. Yeah. It was mostly warehouse people. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1: Yeah. I

Speaker 2: Think this was the true,

Speaker 1: And so that the

Speaker 2: Lots of places,

Speaker 1: Yeah. And so you’re, it sounds to me like you’re seeing that as a, as a trend globally. And are you thinking that’s an, an indicator that whether we’re already in a recession or whether there’s a recession coming a long time from now, or whether a recession is just about here, that seems to be a pretty powerful indicator when, when employers start to slow down hiring at that kind of scale?

Speaker 2: Yeah, I think, I think it would be premature to say that there’s really been a recessionary scale down in hiring. I think what we’re seeing is a reconfiguring of the job market based on demand, consumer demand, mostly pandemic driven. So I think what’s happening is a lot of what we’re seeing is, uh, there’s two things. One is they’re the results of Covid and the things that companies did to cope with Covid, hiring lots of delivery workers, Amazon hiring tons of people because everybody had their surplus checks. And, uh, not just in America, but in other countries as well. And we’re buying all kinds of stuff. And now that’s slowed way down. So, uh, that’s a readjusting to meet that market. I think the other part of it is the, um, the startup industry, I think was vastly over, over hyped. I guess we had a little bit of 1999, 2000 for those old enough to remember boom or bust, uh, in the year 2000.

Speaker 2: Uh, and, uh, you know, it was a lot of money flowing around lots of money, and companies were getting millions and millions of dollars with, with very little idea of what they were gonna do with it naturally. And in many cases, seven or eight, uh, copycat companies all had lots of money and, you know, only one is gonna make it, or maybe two. So we’re seeing a readjustment in that market as well. So I think what’s going on with hiring is it’s just reached a more normal, or beginning to reach a more normal place. You know, where hiring is still going on. I’m not, I’m not ready to say we’re in a recession yet. I’m not an economist, I don’t know, but I don’t think we’re quite at that level. I mean, the job market is still very strong. The number of job openings is at record level still.

Speaker 2: Uh, and that’s true pretty much everywhere in the world right now. But it’s re it’s readjusting. So there’s gonna be a lot of people in those startup industries and in the, the high volume, uh, industries that we’re distributing goods and services, they’re gonna feel impact a lot. But I don’t think it’s really affecting, uh, manufacturing. I think manufacturing is still trying to hire more people, lots of job openings and factories Right now, uh, Intel is still hiring people. So I mean, these companies are still in, in higher mode. Um, so it’s mainly the service and distribution industries, uh, and some of the high tech startups.

Speaker 1: I had a conversation, I think it was just last week with a pretty big employer who basically said, Yeah, you know, know we really have not been trying to hire people for the last year because we just knew it was a waste of time and money. But now that talent is available, they were talking specifically about electrical engineers, software developers, et cetera, that they just, they couldn’t justify going out and hiring, um, pretty junior full stack developer for $250,000, but that’s what they felt that they needed to do six months ago, where now some rationality has, has returned. Those, those folks are still well paid. Um, and we have some of them, and they definitely earn their paychecks, <laugh>, but uh, but there comes a point where you just say, it doesn’t make economic sense Exactly. To, to have that person. And I remember when you mentioned earlier, you know, 99, 2000, I remember there was a, there’s a company at that point that we worked with that just said, you know, we’re, we have this huge understaffing problem, we need to hire, I don’t remember what it was, 10, 20 people, but we’re not even advertising because we’re gonna spend money on advertising and it’s not gonna lead to applications.

Speaker 1: And if we don’t get applications, we’re not gonna hire people. So why spend the money? And they were Right. Right. Yeah. Um, just, just because you have the need doesn’t mean that you’re actually gonna go out and try to hire people.

Speaker 2: So I think there was some over-hiring that was actually taking place, uh, to your point earlier, just it’s so hard to find these people. If I find two of them, I’ll hire ’em both, even though I’m not even sure what I’m gonna do with both of them. Right. Uh, so it’s a little bit of overhired Google, others have out Google. Just this week the CEO announced that, you know, while we’re not doing layoffs, we have to work more efficiently and we need greater productivity from our employees, which is basically saying that we hired too many people who aren’t busy enough. Right. <laugh>. So, um, yeah, so, you know, and I think we also haven’t got put p factor in a little bit the power of automation and, and automation and Amazon’s case and the warehouse cases and so forth. Robotic is playing a role, and they don’t like to admit that, and they’re not really talking about that, but they’ve made several major acquisitions in the last year of robotic companies and, uh, that’s all designed to automate the warehouse.

Speaker 2: So ultimately they’re gonna be reducing their hiring because of that. And I think even in software development and programming, there’s a lot more automation and AI playing a role than we really appreciate right now, which, and part of that was driven by the scarcity of talent. And, you know, when you can’t find talent, then you start focusing on technology, right? And saying maybe this technology can replace people. And so maybe some junior level people, mid-level people, uh, ordinary, like programmers are already being automated out of their jobs. So there’s a big, there’s a big shift going on everywhere and in every industry I see there’s a realignment of skills with needs with where they’re going, uh, more of what I’d call right sizing. Uh, and I think we had a lot of hyper sizing, if you wanna coin a word, um, for the last couple of years out of fear of the talent shortage, uh, and the pandemic, uh, people had lots of money, so why not hire, uh, and I’m not gonna lay anybody off during the pandemic kind of a thing. Uh, so lots of things are just shifting mentally, psychologically, uh, automation, there’s a lot, a lot of balls in the air.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And I guess I, I guess a word that came to my mind is hoarding, Uh, that there, there was some hoarding going on, a talent that there wasn’t, the organization didn’t need all of it, but they made a pretty rational decision that, like you say it, we don’t need both of these people, but we better hire both because there’s a good chance one of them will quit, or we’ll find out that one of them is just not well qualified, not well suited to the role. There’s also, um, and you haven’t mentioned it directly, but part of the upheaval that, that I, I would think you would agree with is just the whole distributed workforce, not necessarily remote. A lot of companies opening up offices overseas to take advantage of lower labor rates, better talent pools, et cetera. Um, or just the remote work. You know, you see Airbnb basically saying, You wanna work in our office? Great. You wanna work in rural Wyoming, Great. If you get the work done, we really don’t care where you get it done, uh, to an extent. Right. You can’t, you can’t go to North Korea and, and expect them to send you a paycheck. Um, but otherwise <laugh> otherwise, pretty much true. Um, but

Speaker 2: Pretty much you’re right. And I think it’s really interesting. There’s been a lot of talk recently in the financial press about, you know, I’d probably say 50% of CEOs hate the idea of remote work, right? They really don’t like it. And, and they’re doing everything in their power to encourage coerce, <laugh>, whatever, people back to the, back to the physical workplace. And I think the fear of a recession, I hate to say this, but I think a lot of it may, some of it may be simply, uh, these CEOs playing the fear card.

Speaker 1: Mm.

Speaker 2: Get people back to the office again. Uh, and, and maybe the press is somewhat aligned. I’m not saying this is the deliberate or conscious thing, All right? Yeah. I don’t think there’s any conspiracy here, but I think it’s just sort of a syndrome. I dunno what you wanna call it, but, you know, I’m a ceo, I don’t like people working remotely. I’ve always hated the idea. Uh, and now I can say, Well, this is a recession, Ive, maybe I’ll have to lay some people off. People are gonna say, I better get back to the office cuz I don’t wanna be one of those people that are laid off. Right? Yeah. So I think there’s a lot of that going on right now.

Speaker 1: Yeah. E e exactly. That happened, uh, well, not directly to me. Um, but, um, 187 years ago when I was graduating, I, I worked for what was then a Fortune 50 company, Honeywell, it was headquartered, um, where I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and at the time we had something like 80,000 employees and almost immediately after I got there, um, and, and please don’t tease me about this being a causation, it was definitely correlation, but almost immediately there was like a 10 or 15%, um, uh, a cut across all departments. So no, it wasn’t because Steven went to work there that we had to lay off 10% to the people. It was, it was a coincidence, but, uh, <laugh>, but, uh, sure it was. Yeah. Oh, there we go. The, I like asking my boss. It’s like, you know, is this gonna impact us? You know, and I was worried about my paycheck, I mean, as, as, as any person should be.

Speaker 1: And he’s like, No, I’ve been here long enough. This happens every three or four years. And it’s much easier for a manager with a department of say, 12 people to let the lowest performing person go when they’ve been told they have to let somebody go. It’s nothing personal. Kevin, you’re great. You do a great job. I wish we could keep you, but there’s the door, don’t slam it on your way out. And it let the less courageous managers, um, make the decisions that they really should have made probably six months before. And, uh, so some of these, some of the right sizing is due to that. Yeah. Um, absolutely. Well, Kevin, be, before we leave off for listeners who want to, um, get in touch with you, um, learn more about the institute, where should they go?

Speaker 2: Uh, you can go to a future of website, or you can send me an email at k wheeler future of

Speaker 1: Great. And it’s Wheeler, w h e e l e r? That’s

Speaker 2: Correct.

Speaker 1: Cool. I got that right. So hey, we all, we all do one thing or Right. We all do one thing right. Most days. Well, thank you so much for joining us today on the High Volume Hiring podcast. This is a co-production of Evergreen Podcasts and College Recruiter. Please subscribe for free on your favorite app. Review it five stars are always nice, and recommend it to a couple of people you know who wanna learn more about how to hire the best people at scale. Special thanks to our producer and engineer, Ian Douglas. I’m your host Steven Rothberg of Job Search Site College recruiter. Each year we help more than 7 million candidates find great new jobs. Our customers are primarily Fortune 1000 companies, government agencies, and other employers who hire at scale and advertise their jobs with us. You can reach me at Cheers.

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