Attracting and retaining the best talent

2020 HR Report to the University

New career advertisement agency partnership attracts top talent and leads to significant savings

Search strategies for talent attraction in a competitive global market is vital to ensuring the right people with the right skills are hired for the right careers. As an academic institution, this means we are often looking for specialized skills and expertise not always available within the local job market. To complement the website exposure and online traffic we observe through our Careers website, departments may also choose to promote their position nationally or internationally to attract talent from a broader talent pool. This is where our Talent Acquisition team would work with an advertising agency.

In some cases, where there is a foreign national search, or for Canadian Research Chair positions, it can also be a posting requirement or legal immigration requirement to ensure we are compliant in our institutional processes. In other cases, departments may want to highlight their role in an industry-specific publication or through a membership-based site. In any of these cases, the university consolidates the costs, processes, and administration of these efforts through an advertising agency partnership to create the strongest operational efficiencies possible.

To find more efficiencies and cost savings within the recruitment advertising process, our talent acquisition team initiated a competitive search for a new advertising vendor. In early 2020, a new vendor, JobElephant, was engaged to facilitate all of the University’s external career posting advertising. As a result of this new partnership, the University is expected to save approximately $50,000 each year while improving our analytics and reporting to maximize visibility of our postings. Additional reporting will also improve access to pertinent records needed for immigration purposes to support departments with their international hiring efforts.

Supporting leaders in securing the most qualified candidates

Providing leaders with support and guidance during candidate recruitment and selection is an important human resource service function. Recently, the HR talent acquisition team supported the Vice-President Research and Innovation office in the recruitment for two highly strategic positions; both instrumental for implementing an innovation strategy. The team’s expert advice and experience was used in the development of a compelling job posting and attracting the attention of several highly qualified applicants. Though many applications were received, the team short-listed candidates to the five selected for the interview.

“The support we received from the Talent Acquisition team was timely, efficient, and professional,” says Deborah James, the Associate VP Innovation. “Their advice was meaningful, and brough new perspectives to the discussions, and enabled us to focus on what was important in our recruitment strategy and the selection of our candidates while saving a lot of time.”

The support of the Talent Acquisition team benefits the university by challenging our bias when it comes to recruiting the appropriate candidates and enabled us to focus on what is important in selecting the right individuals.  

Deborah James, associate VP Innovation

New tool helps hiring managers assess prospective candidates

Generating good candidate interview plans takes great skill and practice. To simplify the process and better use the wealth of experience of our HR community, we recently introduced the HR Interview Tool, an online application that helps hiring panels develop a comprehensive interview plan necessary for identifying the best candidate for the position based on competencies needed for each role.

This resource is available to HR professionals as well as hiring managers to provide consistency of standardized behavioural- and competency-based interview guidelines. They include various questions from 33 competency categories to choose from, such as:

  • diversity
  • leadership
  • customer services
  • communication
  • emotional intelligence
  • management
  • information technology
  • finance and budgeting
  • workplace safety

The tool also provides the ability to customize questions and formatting including two template models for weighted scoring options which ensure a fair and equitable interview process through panel scoring.

A strong and consistent interview practice is vital to ensuring the most qualified candidates are hired. In our current remote hiring environment, it has never been more important to provide a high standard for candidate interview experience. This interview tool empowers hiring managers to build a strong interview package through convenient remote online accessibility of this tool.

HR started an account with HireSelect, a comprehensive online platform that assesses the skills of candidates during the hiring process. Pre-employment tests offer wide-ranging benefits that not only streamline the hiring process, but also strengthen the entire organization by increasing the likelihood that new employees will be successful in their positions. Pre-employment testing can help ensure alignment between the employee selection process and desired business outcomes such as lower turnover, increased sales, and higher customer satisfaction. The most significant benefits a company may experience by implementing an effective employee testing solution include: higher productivity, increased employee retention and cost reduction associated with turnover, greater efficiency and reduced time spent on the hiring process, and increased defensibility through the use of objective, validated metrics.

Training sessions provided ongoing support to hiring managers and embedded HR professionals about how to write an effective job posting, RAD user training support, and the benefits of using assessments for hiring the right fit.

Optimizing the recall process to retain talented employees within the university

As a result of budget cuts faced by the U of A in 2020, a number of support staff were laid off. Article 20 within the NASA collective agreement provides disrupted employees with an option for recall, a process that allows them first opportunity to be re-employed in vacant or new positions at the same classification. Over the last 18 months, to improve the recall process for employees and the university alike, a number of new protocols have been introduced to ensure the higher-than-normal volume of disrupted employees received exceptional support through the recall program. Despite the hiring freeze and reduced vacancies, 26 recall candidates were successful in finding new re-employment opportunities so far. To better support the process, a new recall database has been developed to improve the efficiency of the process.

Improving the onboarding experience for employees new to the U

As 2020 unfolded, it became clear that it would not be possible to hold our traditional in-person new faculty and staff orientation event. In its place, an updated Faculty and Staff website was expanded with information for new employees. The new online resource greets new employees with a welcome from our President and Vice-Chancellor Bill Flanagan along with guidance for embracing the culture of working at the U of A.

“As a new employee to any organization, having access to high-quality and easy to use orientation resources to get you started is key,” says Kim MacLock, a learning and development consultant with HR. “In recognition of the unique working environment in which new staff will have joined us or transitioned to during 2020, we have greatly expanded the web-based resources for new staff, so that they have access to just-in-time information in order to set them up for success.”

It’s important to us that new members of our vibrant community feel welcome, are aware of the many resources and services available to them, and understand the history, traditions, and mission of the organization.

Manager guides for onboarding new employees have also been updated on the HR website.

“A comprehensive onboarding program will allow employees to feel at ease when starting their new positions with the university,” says Kendyl Galbraith, talent acquisition advisor with HR.

 At a time when so much is uncertain and new, the onboarding information will allow clear and concise direction on the employees' first few days, weeks, and even months as they navigate this new chapter in their professional lives.  

Kendyl Galbraith, talent acquisition advisor with HR

Learn more about onboarding and orientation.