Home Human Resources News Tim Campbell MBE: What The X Factor teaches us about spotting talent

Tim Campbell MBE: What The X Factor teaches us about spotting talent

by LLB Editor
20th Sep 13 8:52 am

The London Loves Talent Awards chair on why talent is easy to spot but harder to retain

Tim Campbell MBE, chair of the first London Loves Talent Awards, is the 2005 winner of the Apprentice and founder of Bright Ideas Trust. Last year, Tim was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise culture.

As many of our clients are gearing up to start recruiting thousands of young people into their businesses through their apprentice and graduate programmes, much of the focus falls on their performance during the recruitment process.  Psychometric assessments, presentations and situational judgement tests are on the lips of many a recruiter at the moment. Personally, I am a bit more focused on their television habits. Many of them, like me, will be watching one of the most popular reality shows out there – The X Factor.  Now before you sigh, this is not a piece pontificating about the erosion of patience amongst the millennials who all want success overnight but more an understanding of what some of these talent shows can show us about talent solutions.

I don’t know about you but I can’t wait for the car-crash-Karaoke weekend episodes of the X Factor which has returned to our screens. Not only because I wish that I had the vocal skills of some of the goose bump-inducing talent that is unearthed by the rather torturous selection process, but secretly (until now that is!) because of the shockingly bad auditions some candidates give (where are their friends we constantly ask?!) and because of the power it gives.  Yes the power *cue evil laugh and holding little finger to corner of mouth*. The very clever format of the show allows for the public to join in on the task of becoming spotters of the best voice in the country and ultimately judges helping to decide who is going to have the nation’s next number one single and start a potentially very successful career.  And most of the time, as a collective, we are pretty good at picking the right people to progress to the next rounds and eventually be crowned the winner.  We instinctively know what good sounds like. 

This process is replicated most obviously in HR departments around the world. Now the comparison between Gary Barlow or Nicole Scherzinger and some hiring managers may not be immediately obvious (!) but the act of spotting talent is, especially within the emerging talent space where face –to-face interviews still carry so much weight in spotting future potential and assessing what great looks like.  I think many of us can recall that feeling of interviewing someone and knowing that they are perfect for the role as the answers they are giving to the panel tick off every positive indicator that is being assessed. 

However, for me the real magic doesn’t happen in the interview room or on the audition stage of the show.  The true ‘magic’ is in the generation of a pipeline of suitable candidates that could get the job in the first place.  For me shows like the X Factor highlight the importance of two elements of the recruitment process: an impactful attraction strategy and a clearly articulated employee value proposition.  On attraction, understanding where the target market for the role you are recruiting for is critical. This may be obvious to many of us, but here at Alexander Mann Solutions we are still amazed at the amount of money spent on fairly standard adverts placed in totally inappropriate publications.  Spending £15,000 on broadsheet adverts may be appropriate for some roles but given youth online activity there may be more bangs for your buck advertising online via Spotify, for example.  Leveraging the power of your brand is also essential.  Now we can’t all be a Vodafone or Rolls Royce but if we can emphasise how our brands make a difference in the world and how the applicant can contribute to that, these are proving as important to Gen Y as overall remuneration.  The employee value proposition has to be very clear regarding what the applicant gets for bringing their capabilities and potential to the table. The salary and benefits will be high on the checklist for candidates but they will also need to see what the career progression opportunities are.  Case studies and testimonials from your internal ‘celebrities’ who have advanced along similar paths will really impact potential applicants.  Bringing previous winners back onto the show is not an altruistic Simon Cowell act!

Love it or loathe it, over the next few months the X Factor global brand will attract on average 10 million television viewers per show and most interestingly over 200,000 applications.  With a ratio 200000:1 I will never moan about volume resourcing again.  So from an attraction perspective the show is doing something right.  Employing a clear EVP, relevant advertising channels, transparent assessment process involving relevant stakeholders coupled with high profile case studies displaying what good looks like should all be a part of any talent attraction strategy. Watching the next series I am definitely as interested in the process that got the eventual winner to apply as I am in their selection at each stage of the selection process. 

Tim Campbell MBE, chair of the first London Loves Talent Awards, is the 2005 winner of the Apprentice and founder of Bright Ideas Trust. Last year, Tim was awarded an MBE for services to enterprise culture.

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