From wading through paperwork in the 1980s to navigating the challenges of the fast-paced, modern world, Sarah Hamilton-Gill FCIPD, has been at the forefront of digital change in HR. As the former Group Talent and 360 Director at Thomas, she spearheaded the development of the 360 Degree Feedback Assessment for the company and is now the managing director of GlobusHR Consulting Ltd, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with their HR needs as well as coaching other HR Professionals to move successfully from Corporate to HR Consulting.
Here, we speak to her about what drives her passion for excellence in recruitment, the changing trends across the decades and how technology can support a brighter future for job seekers.
You’ve worked in HR since the mid-80s, what’s changed since then?
In my earliest roles, I worked for Sainsbury’s and Dorothy Perkins, without any access to the internet or mobile phones. Back then it was a completely different world. We did things the old-fashioned way, relying on laborious paperwork processes, phone calls and spreadsheets. Since then, there’s been a phenomenal boom in technology, which has helped make recruitment processes slicker and far more effective.
I’ve also worked through two major recessions, as well as the Covid pandemic. While recruitment was badly hit specifically in 2008, the HR side of my business wasn’t really affected and I was lucky because I was still very busy. One lesson I have learnt while working through these crises is that it’s important to remember that times of economic crisis lead to developments in innovation. It’s during difficult periods we see a renewed focus on increasing efficiency, which becomes part of good practice moving forward.
What made you want to work in the field of psychometric science?
My passion is to make sure people are treated with respect during recruitment so that they can unlock their potential and find a role that truly makes them happy. It’s seeing people succeed and grow in their careers that drives my own.
Psychometric testing plays an important role in this by supporting the positive recruitment practices that I am so passionate about. It speeds up the knowledge you can gain from a candidate and improves their overall experience to make for happy, healthy hiring. Through the use of detailed, user-friendly feedback, the tests can create a more holistic and respectful recruitment process, where candidates can be treated fairly and find the roles best suited to them.
During my time at Thomas, I brought in the 360 Degree Feedback Assessment product in 2012 and spent three years rolling it out across the international business. It was great to leave a legacy behind that had a lasting impact on best practice in development.
What have been the biggest challenges in recruitment in the past 40 years and what needs to be tackled now?
Lack of diversity in teams is a big issue facing organisations. Even when technology is used to anonymise candidate applications and interviews, the final decision still comes down to people. And unfortunately, unconscious bias in hiring is still a big problem. To encourage diversity in the workplace and remove unconscious bias, we need to combine training for hiring managers with new technologies to introduce new ways of working and approaches to recruitment.
I’m a firm believer that job seekers should always be treated respectfully during recruitment, which doesn’t always happen. Fair, transparent recruitment processes will ensure the right person gets the job, and that unsuccessful candidates have a positive experience they can learn from. Lengthy interview processes with limited feedback, and even ghosting, are becoming more common, which is something the industry desperately needs to tackle.
Are there any key developments that stand out to you as a game-changer in the industry?
A lot of recruitment agencies have combined technology with psychometrics to create an integrated, streamlined recruitment process, which is beneficial for both managers and candidates. Other new trends include applicant tracking systems, which are growing in popularity with SMEs, as well as gamified onboarding processes, video interviewing and recruitment chat boxes.
The use of social media for job hunting has also increased, though this can be a double-edged sword. LinkedIn is a great way to connect with employers, but it can lead to informal hiring, where best practice isn’t followed. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram can also affect unconscious bias. With access to personal content, hiring managers can judge and make a decision based on a candidates’ social profile, which is unfair and not an accurate representation of what they can bring to the role. While a great milestone for the industry, it needs to be used right for it to actually be effective.
Final question - what’s next for HR and recruitment?
After the introduction of remote and hybrid working during the pandemic, I can’t see us going back to the way things were. There’s a huge demand from employees for flexible working and I think it will be hard for companies to turn them down. Since lockdown, people have been looking for more from life. Whether that’s starting their own business or even a new hobby, this complete change of working patterns has allowed far more freedom. And it’s not something employees are going to give up easily.
Online working is also helping solve the diversity problem. For instance, enabling people who are housebound with a disability or those living in remote locations to apply for jobs remotely, means they can work for companies in big cities as they will have more flexibility to work wherever suits them. That said, there will be challenges ahead.
While the older generation are settling well into remote working after years of experiencing office life and etiquette, younger people who are at the start of their careers will need a more hands-on approach with their development. This sudden shift to remote working has taken away the opportunity to learn valuable life lessons which can be found in office environments, which may have a negative impact in years to come.
Either way, companies must spend the next few months building a hybrid working plan that suits all involved. Only can they then make the most of the current situation and embrace the change successfully.