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The HR Leader in discussion with talent experts from Flow of Work Co and Reece Group

By Jack Campbell | |5 minute read
The HR Leader in discussion with talent experts from Flow of Work Co and Reece Group

The HR Leader sat down with Helena Turpin, co-founder of Flow of Work Co and Adam McKinnon, people and data analytics lead at Reece Group. They discussed their expertise in all things talent.

Shandel McAuliffe, editor at HR Leader: “How can we think about skills differently in order to tap into talent?”

Ms Turpin: “Forced a bit by necessity in the current climate, we're seeing some really fun examples out in the market of people thinking a bit differently about talent. My favourite example is a customer looking for people to make glasses’ lenses. That's a really specific and niche skill set, right? There aren't many people in Australia with the skills and capabilities to do this, and they were really struggling to hire, especially during the pandemic.”


She continued: “When they looked at the underpinning skills needed to make glasses’ lenses, it’s manual dexterity, it’s high attention to detail, it's a bit of perfectionism. When they looked at the role laterally, rather than trying to just poach from competitors and increase the cost of that profession for everyone, they actually worked out that sushi chefs were a great candidate pool to dip from. During COVID-19, when many restaurants were closed, there was an abundance of people with that skillset looking for work and they transferred over beautifully.”

Editor: “Adam, have you found thinking differently about where skills originate has worked for your business?”

Mr Mckinnon: “My own career has probably been indicative of that. I started my career as a psychologist. One of the things that you don't realise when you step into the psychology world is they teach you in an academic model and a lot of that academic training actually involves training and statistics. As a consequence of that, I've gained this familiarity with data and numbers.”

“In recent years, I've morphed into more of a data science career, just having that numeracy, that literacy with data over time. I'm not unique in that regard. I see a growing number of people making that transition globally, but I think it's indicative of: skills open our eyes to the opportunities that are available to us… I think that speaks to the point that there are many paths to the one destination,” outlined Mr McKinnon.

Editor: “Why do you think now is the right time to be changing how we think about talent?”

Ms Turpin: “Well, I think anyone in an HR role now will know how extremely difficult it is to attract and retain great people to your organisation. We’re experiencing the lowest levels of unemployment in Australia and New Zealand that we’ve experienced in the last 47 years.”

“I was looking at some of the ABS data recently on open job ads, and there’s something like a 14 per cent increase in open vacancies since February. Combined with low unemployment, it’s really difficult to attract and retain great people. So, I think we’ve got no choice other than to think about talent in a different way, if we want to keep hold of people and if we want to continue to fill those critical roles,” said Ms Turpin.

Editor: “What do you think the role of tech and data is in managing talent?”

Mr Mckinnon: “For HR organisations to be successful in future, they'll need to learn to manage two resources effectively: one is people, and we have a 100-plus year legacy of doing that in HR. The second is data, and we are very early in our journey when it comes to managing data effectively. Historically, we have outsourced responsibility for those activities to IT. But moving forward, data will be central to everything we do, because it enables us to personalise at scale.”

He added: “I think it’s a true partnership [HR and data] because many of the things that we're discussing today, involves managing complexity. The modern organisation has reached a level of complexity that exceeds human understanding, through technology and algorithms in particular. It's an opportunity to synthesise that complexity and make it manageable. More importantly, make it usable in an effective manner.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was recorded on 8 July 2022, and when quoted above, was slightly edited for publishing purposes. The full conversation with Helena Turpin and Adam McKinnon is below.


Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.