Talent Acquisition: Now & Moving Forward, Observations & Best Practices

Over the last month, I’ve attended a couple of major talent acquisition events and heard lots of TA providers and leaders discuss the current state of talent acquisition and what the future may hold. The observations below capture the some of that current landscape, some of best practices and ideas heard and what’s coming.

Proactivity is the Goal, But Not the Norm

TA leaders understand the compelling need and strongly desire to become more proactive in their approaches to TA initiatives. But, for most practitioners, the day-to-day hiring urgencies drive these well-meaning plans into secondary status or even drop off ‘to do’ lists altogether. In many cases, the TA leaders still have to work too hard to get the business strategy and direction from business leaders. Without this critical information, TA can’t effectively understand and build the talent pipelines necessary to successfully respond to their businesses. Overall, this means not enough time to hire all the people they need and not enough quality candidates coming through their standard TA processes.

Shrinking Leadership Talent Pools

This situation is exacerbated by the prevailing demographics of baby boomers exiting the workforce. That trend is accelerating with economic conditions improving. This huge cohort group is leaving a gaping void of the necessary leadership experience and inherent and invaluable intellectual property that may not get captured before they walk out the door.

This leadership gap is also confirmed by the fact that most organizations’ succession plans reflect not near enough “ready now” successors for leadership roles. This significant and expanding leadership gap is both a TA challenge and a leadership development condemnation. This external hiring pressure for these key roles apply enormous pressure to find top external leaders with the right capabilities and , more importantly, the right cultural fit for their organization.

Best Practice: Best-in-class organizations are working hard to proactively court external talent for key technical, leadership and mission critical roles. And, they are urgently developing the best internal talent to step up when needed. These companies are also predictably superior in their strategic workforce planning processes, i.e. they are intentional in projecting & filling their key talent needs. Inertia (the motion part) is their friend and not their enemy.

Too Many Reqs., Not Enough Quality Candidates

With the overwhelming requisition loads for most recruiters so high, sourcing for passive and “stereotypically better” talent is difficult at best. Recruiters want to create robust talent funnels, but either time constraints, urgent demands or heavy req. loads take away this valuable talent resource. Most job postings only access 15-20% (at most) of the real and qualified talent available. Therefore, in most cases, recruiters are screening and handing desperate hiring managers “the best of the bunch” of mostly active job seekers. Not exactly “move the needle” type talent. If this becomes typical, the average talent level within an organization has to go down. And, that spells trouble for when the CEOs and leadership steps on the gas, and the talent engine sputters and simply cannot deliver the business results required.

Best Practice: In better organizations, where better recruiters and hiring managers hold out for the right talent, the time-to-fill metric spikes higher creating pressures from above. But, the better organizations do realize that quality talent trumps speed of hire and do not succumb to lesser talent acquisition metrics. It’s all about quality hires, people!! In my early days in recruiting, I learned a valuable lesson – hiring managers will forget how long it took to find a quality hire, but they will not care how fast you hired a mediocre performer.

New TA Technologies Exciting, But Process Improvement Still Needed

Everyone is trying to learn how to better and more efficiently leverage all the current and new TA technologies to speed up and tighten the sourcing and screening processes. There is broad consensus in wanting better yield from the technology tools and applications already in place. But, integrating new tools with existing ones is still a work-in-progress. Getting righteous reporting and clean and actionable data are still challenges for many HR and TA organizations. TA leadership wants and needs actionable data to make their business cases for new investments and for measuring TA performance.

Best Practice: New TA productivity tools and apps can automate much of the initial TA processes for sourcing and screening. Organizations are still trying to figure how best to leverage these new tools well while at the same time assuring a terrific candidate experience for their applicants. Positive candidate experience and recognition has become differentiators for top TA organizations.

TA Delivery Now & In the Future

TA delivery is becoming more challenging to do completely in house. Most organizations are embracing the outsourcing of many of their business and HR processes. And, there are internal financial pressures to reduce fixed costs as much as possible to be able to respond nimbly to the uncertain business climate today and into the future. Variable cost models of delivery are being explored throughout organizations. Companies are identifying their core competencies and looking to outsource processes which do not fall into their core competencies. This is forcing HR and TA leaders to objectively assess all their processes with this scrutiny to determine what stays in and what should or could be outsourced.

Best Practice: Most organizations of scale are partnered with one or several recruiting process (RPO) partners. They use these trusted TA partners to:

  • augment their current TA capabilities (surge capacity, focused TA projects),
  • hire ‘veins of homogenous talent” across their organization (such as sales),
  • take on the organization’s full TA process (from req. generation through onboarding), or
  • execute various segments of the TA process (such as source & screen or talent pipelining).

The better organizations have substantive SLAs (Service Level Agreements) to manage these powerful partnerships effectively. Better organizations strive for world class recruiting results both internally and with external TA partners. They reserve the option to turn on or off, scale up or down the resources of their TA partners as their business dictates.

Many organizations, therefore, are moving toward or adopting a “hybrid” recruiting model which leverages both internal TA resources as well as trusted external TA partners to flex as their businesses flex.