Innovation, Collaboration and Win-Win: What Makes Recruitment Both Effective and Enjoyable (Pt. 1/2)

Market Insights

2021-05-12 15:34

In a rapidly evolving world like today, the only thing that doesn’t change is change itself, which applies in the human resources industry as well. To explore possible answers to the concerns of HR practitioners and company leaders, we launch “CI Live 2021”, a talk show that enables a dialogue with human resources executives and experts from established domestic and multinational firms. We believe their insights and hands-on experience in the domain will inspire us to find more possibilities. 

As the first episode, we’re honored to have Anne-Marie McCaughan, the head of GSK recruiting in China, and Gary Li, RPO GM at Career International with us. And enjoy the first part of their dialogue (video + text) as below: 

Gary: As we know you have been living in China for more than 10 years. How is your impression about your work and life here?

Anne-Marie: Yeah, thanks, Gary. I came to China in 2003, which is quite a while ago, so 18 years’ experience in China to my surprise really. I've had a really great experience in China. So at the time that I came, it was a little bit off the grid in terms of career choices, but the opportunities that were being presented for career here in China was really good. All of the industry was booming. The car sector was booming, tech was booming, and now we see changes in other sectors that are booming. But for me then, it was an important choice to come to China. It was a brave choice. I like excitement. It was exciting in those days. I think it has transformed quite a lot. Shanghai has transformed quite a lot.

So I've had a lot of experience. I've raised a family here which has given me extra experience, but I've also built a career from sort of scratch as well. So, that has enabled me with lots of opportunities to experience working life and personal life and personal growth. So I have had a great time here.

Gary: In a changing world like nowadays, how to build an agile workforce that remains responsive to business needs?

Anne-Marie: I've being doing recruiting for at least 10 years. If I do a rough total, you'd be looking at maybe responsibility for 10,000 - 15,000 hires in my career easily. That's a small number. So I think in my experience I've had the opportunity to look at things like workforce capability. To be successful in China, we really have to have a strong workforce that is capable, and I think we've seen that in all sectors. And one of the other things that are happening is the pace of change in China. There's a huge change comparatively with other sectors in other countries. We're seeing a bit of a trend with regards to exporting China methodology. It's so important to have good workforce on the ground.

So for me agile hiring has looked like proper recruitment capability, proper recruitment partnering, and discerning what the requirements are with regards to the business needs. How we match those requirements, and then we have the different types of hiring, different ranges of skillsets, that we have to hire in different ways. 

Gary: How to expand the enterprise's boundaries in recruitment via the aid of external resource, say recruitment process outsourcing (RPO)?

Anne-Marie: RPO as an outsourced model has been available in China for numbers of years. Also internationally it's been available. But one of the things that I'd call out, the RPO in China is quite mature. And Career International has 25 years’ experience in headhunting, but also 15 years in RPO, so I think RPO in China is quite mature as a model. So for me, the real change is the way in which the recruitment organization has changed over the years in internal recruitment talent acquisition. There's a real change with regards to the expertise that sits in internal: how we support the business, the sort of consultancy service that we offer to the business. 

And then I think what RPO brings to the table is real expertise around talent pooling and talent sourcing. We use RPO essentially to scale up our recruitment operation. So on the ground, internally, you have an account manager who understands the business, understands the requirements. And then we don't all have to work on that. A smarter model is to outsource that to somebody who also has capability in the external market and a larger footprint. 

So one of the things about partnering with good quality RPOs is they're already in the market. They already have the footprint. They already have the talent pace. So from that perspective, we can tap into that expertise quickly, and then we don't have to be experts at everything. So I think part of the new way of working is everybody has to collaborate better, not just in HR. It could be in other sectors of the business as well. Then we have a bigger ecosystem that supplies a fast response to the business. So these are the things that I think RPO helps an internal TA team develop.

But there is a lot of miseducation within organizations. So perhaps within HR and recruiting, there is a good understanding of it. But perhaps in the business area, there is a less understanding of this. But I think one of the key things that might burn RPO and burn any recruiting functions is bad delivery. There’re always stories about something that went wrong in some crazy city somewhere in China that the RPO didn’t deliver. And I’ve had that in my history as well, like being a head of TA when we couldn’t deliver onsite services and we couldn’t get the supply chain worked out. So I think there’ll be one lingering story. One of the things to remember about recruiting is you are almost as good as your last service delivery. So I think there is a topic around consistently delivering good service.

And then there is also a topic of branding around RPO in terms of understanding how it contributes to the business value. When I look at some of the benefits from having an RPO on site over, say in GSK for example, while I’ve only been there a year and a half, and it’s been running an RPO before me, and the benefits that we have from a time to hire, from a cost per hire, are year-on-year improved. The figure states this every time. So probably, we need more people like today who can say, look I’ve had really good experience year on year of working with RPO, who have helped us out of so many topics. We really have nice collaborations. I think with the people we’re working with, we don’t see them as a separate team. We see them as a combined team. They sit with us. They play with us. They eat with us. And when a project comes, they work 24/7 for us. So from my experience is that.

But I think there’s a lot of inclusivity that we have to introduce. We’re a combined team with the way in which we work. It’s not like somebody owns the target and we just throw it over there. And say hey, that’s not our responsibility. I think there’s a joint ownership of all the activities, and that’s happening in GSK’s case.

In regards to the concerns of using RPO from the internal, I think RPO actually increases on-site recruited capabilities. RPO frees up the recruitment head, the recruitment team to be the talent expert. So if you have a good RPO working with you, you’re then free to engage with the business. You’re free to engage with the topic. You’re not losing time, searching through databases, searching for candidates, making those phone calls. If you’re a qualified recruitment consultant, should you be spending time doing that? These are the questions that have to be asked. Or could you be freed up your time doing market mapping, market insights, competitor analysis, salary review, etc.? I think that’s a bit old fashioned. GSK is not old fashioned. Other companies I’ve worked for are not old fashioned. We have to be ahead of the game and look at things like cost, productivity, how we do things, and better ways of working. And that’s a win-win for us with RPO on site actually. There is a misconception but I hope I can clear up some of them today.

And then with regards to one message communication to the external market, if you have an internal talent acquisition team and then you’re going to turn to head hunters, you’re telling a different story each time they go to market. I think that’s counterproductive. So, by having one onsite provider that has responsibility for one key core aspect for hiring, you can have a close collaboration. That means that they can say the story’s the same. It’s a smoother operation. 

And then, I can talk more around process. What you talked about the way it doesn’t work because we don’t have a clear process. Nobody actually does the proper work of sitting down, partnering with the team, partnering with whoever is responsible for the BU, putting together an accurate process, who is going to take responsibility for what, who owns this part. These types of thinking tend to exist in the big organizations, but also exists in the RPO. The RPO are really experienced of going into an organization, setting a goal, knowing how to do it, forecasting what the results would be, and then having the tracking method to say how the results are. 

So I think leveraging both teams’ expertise, having that early set-up function, doing it properly and the work around mapping that out, and then tracking results and what might be an issue with clear communications, then it can work very well.

Gary: Have you tried any novel talent acquisition via the aids of technology? And how does that work?

Anne-MarieYeah we have. Whether it would be campus hiring, or experience hiring, or sales force hiring, my team is really on their game in terms of how to do this and how to go to market. So yeah, in the last year or two, we’ve been putting some efforts in how we go to market. We have a clear strategy. One of the things that we’ve put together with the support of the regional HR team, the global HR team, and then the local recruitment team, is what we want to have. How do we want our voice to sound? What do we want to say externally? What’s the strategy around how to attract people? Like good quality people, whether it would be medical people, oncology people, sales force hiring, marketing, brand managers… How do we go to market to attract those people? We have a best-in-class framework. It’s pretty traditional from a marketing concept. It’s the beginning of the funnel. And then it’s commitment which talks about engagement. How do we gather followers and engagement from candidates? And then we have hiring as the commitment in the end. 

So we’ve been playing around with traditional channels like career site. LinkedIn would be another one. I think WeChat is a traditional channel in China. Although it has very interesting functionalities, I would call it a traditional recruitment channel. But the innovation part is around the functionality you can do in WeChat. It’s such a fantastic channel for branding, engagement, communications, but also for activities in the way people can interact. 

So what we’ve done last year was quite exciting. We had a lot more advertising on the new media channels such as Bilibili. We did some advertising on TMall. We also did obviously traditional advertising on WeChat. But we did some things with as well which was pretty cool. So what I see there happening is a lot more live interactions. I love this media. And you can put brand, leadership, people that represent our brand and engagement together in a little neat package and then you can advertise it. And the audience that you get can interact online through communication is so large. So you reach a really large audience on Bilibili, or on TMall for example. 

So this has been our new experience. The team has been really brave to go on and do live broadcast. We’ve been doing night-time broadcast, day-time broadcast. We tried all them. So now, we have, at the end of that year, a real understanding of what they can deliver for us: what they can deliver for advertising, what they can deliver for engagement, what they can deliver for hiring… So the other area that we’re quite strong at is measuring results. We have a really nice view of how it all worked: the cost of it, the impact, and also the fun of these things. So the other thing that GSK likes to have is to be innovative. We also like to have fun, and to be doing what’s current. 

(to be continued.)

Speaker's Profile

Anne-Marie McCaughan

Anne-Marie McCaughan is currently the head of GSK Greater China Recruitment, she is an accomplished, inspirational and forward-thinking talent acquisition leader who has built or supported exceptional teams that deliver any scale of high-end recruiting in competitive fields such as Tech and Digital, Consumer and Industrial and Healthcare across multiple geographic markets working within that challenging environment. Anne-Marie always leads her team to use the smartest methods and techniques to run an efficient recruitment operation to secure the company’s talent acquisition strategy.

Gary Li

Gary Li is currently the General Manager RPO at Career International. Also a member of the Sino-German Research Association, Gary holds a Master's degree from RWTH Aachen University. He used to be engaged in macro policy research at China Chamber of Commerce for Import & Export of Machinery and Electronic Products under China’s Ministry of Commerce.


Over the past 10 years, Gary has accumulated rich management and practice expertise in human resources and consulting services. He has provided recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) service to hundreds of established multinational and Chinese enterprises, and has implemented tens of thousands of projects about recruitment organization structure, recruitment capacity building, recruitment process optimization and talent placement. Gary specializes in areas including pharmaceuticals, industry, chemicals, IT, consumer goods, etc. He also boasts in-depth insights into the challenges and solutions of talent placement for enterprises at different life stages.