Jon Porter doesn’t have a typical recruiting background. He started out as an accountant with KPMG and made his way through the advertising sector before finally landing as the Managing Director of PeopleScout in the UK and Head of EMEA Operational Delivery. Along the way, he was lucky enough to work with many organisations with diverse recruiting challenges – from the British Army and the Metropolitan Police to Lloyds Banking Group and Diageo. So, when Jon looks at talent challenges, he doesn’t just look at them as a recruiter; he views them through the wide-angle lens of the entire business, and he sees them as a storyteller.
Jon shared his story from PeopleScout’s London offices. He explained how the unique and ever-evolving challenges and opportunities in the UK and Europe will influence talent acquisition leaders around the globe.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the UK and Europe in talent acquisition right now?
The biggest challenge has been the uncertainty around Brexit since the referendum in 2016. Organisations have not had certainty around the future, and this has influenced decision-making around how to potentially invest and grow a business. The focus of government around the normal investment programmes has also been affected, as much of parliamentary time was focused on the many Brexit bills progressing through both Houses. It almost felt that the UK was on pause and we just needed to press the play button. After the election result of December 12, 2019, it now looks like some of that uncertainty has been removed. The newly formed government, now with a working majority, is pushing for a conclusion of the Brexit debate by the end of 2020.
What are the talent acquisition trends you’re seeing in the UK and Europe today?
There are some clear trends in the marketplace. The obvious one is technology. There is a fragmented and hugely diverse technology landscape in the UK and EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia), and leaders are looking at how to better navigate that landscape. How do they make the most of it – to drive efficiency, cost savings and better-quality candidates – and optimise the way they do things?
There is also a trend of organisations looking at multi-country programmes, with a focus around EMEA. Organisations seem to be looking at talent more globally and around the concept that talent isn’t limited by traditional country boundaries or geography, or even technology. It’s fast-becoming a boundary-less environment.
How is the introduction of Affinix™ to Europe fitting into and changing the conversation about technology in the region?
I think that our timing couldn’t be better. We’ve had loads of great feedback on Affinix since our September launch at our Resourcing 2025 event at the London Science Museum, and I think it’s because it provides a flexible solution at a time when organisations are still a bit cautious about how they’re going to evolve their technology solutions. Because Affinix is a middleware, it affords our clients the opportunity to get the great technology of the now, but also it provides them with security for the future. It’s a manifestation of now to next.
How do you tell a cohesive and relevant story when recruiting across borders?
Finding “space” in a busy talent marketplace is hard; differentiating one company offer from another requires a deep understanding of brand and channel. Developing target personas, and understanding how they live their lives and how to create a one-to-one dialogue is essential. At PeopleScout, this approach and understanding is in our DNA. It’s how we think.
When looking at cross-border campaigns, we first consider the message – the employer brand promise; the value exchange between the organisation and the candidate – the deal. This message needs to be authentic across all borders. It needs to reflect the lived experience of employees within the organisation. It can be aspirational; however, it can’t be an exaggeration of the truth. That can only lead to unfulfilled expectations, reduced engagement and increased attrition.
The art of the storyteller is to deliver a consistent, overarching message while accommodating the nuances of the countries in which it needs to be delivered. The language, tone, imagery and cultural touchpoints may change, but the essence of the promise remains consistent. Good recruiters understand how to bring the story to life in conversation with candidates and yet remain true to the organisational narrative.
What are some of the lessons from the UK and Europe that leaders in other regions should be paying attention to?
Many organisations have a structured view around their approach to talent and where they think hires might come from – whether it’s specific geographies, sectors or universities. I think one of the things that we’re doing in Europe – which does seem to be a message that’s landing elsewhere – is that we need to be more open-minded and a bit more conscious around things like social mobility and inclusivity.
Organisations are looking past the barriers of geography, society and technology. They’re seeing that talent is going to be pivotal to the evolution of business. That’s driving a mentality of embracing talent without any boundaries and taking a more progressive and equitable view of talent.
What are you most excited about for the future of talent acquisition?
The speed of change in talent acquisition is going to accelerate. Technology is absolutely going to fuel that acceleration. Clients are going to have greater and greater expectations, requiring more dynamic talent acquisition strategies. That will be driven by the fact that talent will be even more of a differentiator for organisations.
We’re also going to see employer brands and employer value propositions (EVPs) play an even greater role in the hiring process. The EVP is going to become the cornerstone of the people agenda – so, not just recruiting, but also learning and development, organisational design and more. How does the EVP play into the culture and behaviors of the organisation?
Additionally, the vast majority of jobs that will be created five to 10 years from now probably don’t even exist today. So, there will be the evolution of new job roles, new technologies, new demands from organisations and new challenges in the world and political landscapes. This makes talent acquisition an exciting place to be.