1-on-1 with James Witcombe: Medibank adopts deliberate approach as recruiting goes virtual

This interview is part of a 1-on-1 series featuring TA Leaders across Australia to see how their teams have responded to COVID and what they believe the next 12 months will look like. Click to read my chat with Ryan Biggs (AFCA) and Tim Bartley (Grill’d Healthy Burgers).

Medibank is one of Australia’s most recognised brands and for those in the know, their employer brand has been very strong and appealing for many years.

However, the pandemic has created challenges never seen before and we all know there is no playbook for what we are going through. For the first time many of us have been asked to make significant decisions in a short-term frame with little data that will have permanent impacts.

Today we chat with Andrew Retschko, Talent Acquisition and Engagement Senior Executive at Medibank, to find out what he and his team are doing to manage through this crisis and beyond.

James: Andrew, give us some sense of the volume of recruitment Medibank undertakes each year?

Andrew: Medibank hires roughly 1,100 new employees each year plus approximately 300 contractors. These numbers are driven by some of our higher volume recruitment drives such as annual premium review, and telehealth peak periods. Over the past three years, we have acquired two Health businesses, so this has also added to recruitment requirements.

James: The healthcare sector has been put under huge strain this year, what flow on effect has that had to your TA team this year?

Andrew: As a team we have faced huge challenges, when COVID first appeared we needed to recruit over 600 temporary nurse and mental health professionals in the space of three weeks; essentially this meant a whole new way of recruiting that forced us to break down our existing processes and systems to allow us to move so fast.

More generally over the past six months, one of the biggest shifts is how we build relationships across the business; in an office environment there are many incidental opportunities to strike up conversations and make joint decisions but working remotely means we need to be more intentional in setting these conversations up more formally.

James: Now that we have passed the six month mark since the pandemic hit us in Australia, on reflection have you found that the “hard to fill” roles have become harder, or easier?

Andrew: I am lucky to be part of an extremely talented team, so while it sometimes feels like “hard to fill” roles are getting easier, I don’t want to take away from the exceptional work the Medibank TA team delivers.

We have certainly seen a spike in application numbers and with our commitment to providing the best possible candidate experience, these volumes of applicants can make recruitment processes more complex.

More generally though, I feel like the art of recruitment, that is finding the perfect candidate, is still essentially the same. It takes determination, persistence and creativity to make sure you find the right person to join Medibank.

James: Andrew with application numbers jumping, have you made any changes to your approach to candidate experience this year?

Andrew: We are constantly evolving our candidate experience. I believe there is always room for improvement, so it is essential to consistently revisit your approach.

This year we have not made any huge changes, but have looked to refine and develop specific areas. Obviously the impact of COVID has shifted the candidate experience to be entirely virtual, but as a team we have sought ways to make sure we are maintaining and fostering personal connection.

James: What will be the biggest difference to how your TA function operates in 2021 compared with pre-COVID?

Andrew: Recruiting remotely means we miss many cues that previously helped us shape hiring decisions; this is good and bad as some potential areas for bias are removed, we now know that many conversations with candidates via video calls will have disruptions and are understanding that interviews may need to be rescheduled as many people are having to juggle a lot more this year.

So I think in 2021 we will deliberately be more conscious of how we assess which candidates will add the most to our culture and align with Medibank values.

James: And finally, what has “surprised” you (in a good or bad way) in all these changes?

Andrew: Like many people, I am surprised by how quickly I have changed my view on what is important within the realms of work.

With the Medibank Talent Acquisition team, through working entirely from home, with flexibility, we have achieved incredible outcomes that have genuinely added value to the business, the surprise is how easily this transition has occurred.

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