Amy Bush, President, Sevenstep
If your organization is revisiting your approach to talent acquisition (TA), you are not alone. Every day, we hear from business and talent leaders who recognize challenges ahead but struggle with the complexity of the forces at play.
Nearly every company today struggles with a shift in the market for talent. That shift has resulted in as many as 4.8 million more job openings than hires in the US, a record imbalance in worker supply and demand. The workforce situation in the UK is nearly as challenging, with a roughly even 1:1 ratio of vacancies versus job seekers.
To compete for that limited supply of workers, organizations wrestle with several trends that have grown more urgent in the wake of the COVID-19 disruption. Changing demographics, evolving demands for skills and a stronger sense of worker values put more pressure on companies to get more thoughtful about how they connect to the talent they need.
The good news is that the issues are not impossible, and experience has shown us that fundamentals matter.
With that in mind, the following is a quick look at workforce strategy fundamentals that can help companies prioritize a path to more effective talent acquisition. Can your organization fully deliver on the following checklist of statements? Probably not. But understanding the gaps can help you position your TA function to lead in an uncertain and competitive future.
1. “We know the real cost of workers for given skills.”
2. “Our job requirements are aligned to reach the best talent.”
3. “My TA function is responsive and flexible.”
4. “Our employer brand helps us attract and retain talent.”
5. “We have a measurable DEI strategy.”
6. “We have a tech stack to empower and grow with us.”
7. “My organization has 'total talent' visibility to all possible workers.”
Given these conditions, cost assumptions that worked in the past cannot be taken for granted now. There’s too much at stake: the risk of extended vacancies, unfinished work, stalled innovation and the loss of business opportunities for companies in highly competitive industries. How do you know the right cost to attract workers without overpaying for the talent you need?
Break down costs in detail: Successful TA strategies will require an ability to break down factors such as cost of skills and location, utilizing current internal and market data sources to arrive at a realistic view of the wage range for attracting the talent you need.
Implement a data aggregation and analytics capability: The key to gaining such visibility is to apply the right technology to aggregate data and the AI-driven analytics capability to parse and interpret data with complete flexibility.
Focus on turning data into intelligence: Sevenstep’s data analytics platform Sevayo® Insights is an example of the advanced workforce intelligence capability needed to support an informed cost-of-talent decision. Many technologies are emerging that can aggregate data, but an analytics capability, not just data aggregation, is essential to gaining meaningful intelligence.
To compete for talent, organizations will need to eliminate unnecessary requirements that prevent potentially qualified candidates from applying and instead revise job postings to attract skill-based workers. A needless requirement may not only put you at a disadvantage, but it may also cause you to lose the very candidate you need.
Re-examine responsibilities: In the current and future market for workers, the goal is to broaden your talent pool, not reduce it. Evaluate all job descriptions, ensure that each requirement is essential and eliminate responsibilities that do not connect to the core mission of the role. Be sure to question on-site vs. remote work, hours-per-week and non-core functions.
Remove qualification barriers: Like job requirements, qualifications also deserve evaluation. Years of experience and degree requirements eliminate many qualified workers, particularly in IT fields.
Reconsider training-up as an option: Be willing to hire the right person for the job, even if it means investing in training. An objective TA partner can prove valuable in driving a consistent review of requirement definitions and helping you evolve them over time.
The “right talent, right cost, right time” principle applies today, even as organizations rapidly adjust to rising wages, emerging skills demands and frequent, sudden shifts in business conditions. Unfortunately, TA struggles to deliver on these goals as internal teams shift from being reduced during the height of the pandemic to being under-resourced in current conditions of high demand. In many cases, organizations are even considering reducing their TA functions again. As a result, recruiting teams often lag behind business demands in terms of team size and capability.
Bring TA out of its silo: Talent acquisition is not an HR challenge; it is a business challenge. Forward-thinking organizations recognize the need for shared ownership of talent outcomes among all stakeholders (including all parts of the C-Suite and operations). Active participation in TA strategy across the business is critical when it comes time to quickly adjust to changing workforce needs.
Organize for scalability: Growing or reducing an internal TA function can be a painful process. Success in an unpredictable business environment hinges on a talent strategy that enables organizations to quickly add or reduce resources for fluctuations in hiring volume. A Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) partner can help an organization act rapidly in scaling TA resources, but simply adding people to the team is not enough. The most effective RPOs stand out for their ability to ensure a consistently high performance during times of change.
Build for capability: When demand for a new skill or role arises, how quickly can a company respond? Training, access to an ecosystem of recruiting talent and resources and quick deployment of people to drive new strategies are all part of the answer. While many recruiting partners can deliver on simple scalability, fewer have the infrastructure to shift their recruiting focus on the fly.
Fail to make your employer brand stand out from the crowd, and you risk losing out on acquiring the talent you need. A recent Forbes survey found that “nearly 30% of enterprise talent leaders say a weak employer brand [impacts] their ability to hit hiring goals. A full 69% of respondents say that employer branding is the top place they’ll be investing their budgets this year.”
Understand your employer brand: The authentic employer brand is the perception of your company as a place to work. Marketing can help emphasize what is true about your brand, but it cannot turn your organization into something it is not. Is your organization known to provide a stable but unadventurous career path? Or are you a great employer for risk-takers? A brand assessment process helps document that perception and identify where it differs from values often held by your targeted talent.
Meet candidates where they are: Need to sharpen your message to emphasize the fundamental values you provide for your workers? A page about your corporate values on your company website will not move the needle. Instead, focus on developing and executing a communications strategy that delivers an authentic message, in the words of your candidates and employees, through the media channels that matter most to your audience.
Focus on the candidate and worker experience: The perception of your organization is shaped by the experience of your workers and the people who apply to work for your organization. And when it comes to worker perception, the little things matter. Where in the application process are candidates left without clear direction? What are the roadblocks that slow career growth? Get intentional about finding those issues, and then be proactive about addressing them.
Leverage an objective partner: Whether you are collaborating with an RPO provider or another specialized resource, bringing an objective, expert partner to the table goes a long way toward connecting your employer brand to improved hiring outcomes. Often, such partnerships make the difference between one-off branding projects and a sustainable employer brand that grows with the organization well into the future.
While companies have made great strides in embracing DEI as a core value, many continue to struggle as they try to turn that commitment into meaningful change. This struggle is not surprising, as achieving tangible improvements in DEI requires transforming the many small unconscious biases that limit the representation of diverse groups in the candidate pool or the workforce. The devil is in the details, so a DEI initiative must cover all facets of strategy, from universal vision to detailed execution.
Establish a detailed vision at the leadership level: An effective DEI strategy requires people to change how they approach many everyday decisions — and change is not easy. That is why leadership embrace of the DEI effort is essential for helping everyone in the organization commit to that change. A DEI expert can provide guidance to ensure that executive commitment is visible and communicated across the organization.
Create a DEI strategy emphasizing detailed goals and data-driven performance: There are many touchpoints in the TA process that influence diversity in outcomes, whether screening resumes, sourcing in places where diverse candidates can be found, interviewing or final hiring decisions. With precision measurement, a strong data analytics capability can pinpoint where imbalances may be occurring in the recruiting process.
Establish an active approach to shape DEI outcomes: Using data collected through the TA function, organizations can intervene where needed to ensure the diversity focus remains strong throughout the hiring process. Setting expectations with all stakeholders, talent advisors and hiring managers alike helps drive a meaningful effort to eliminate unconscious bias throughout the process.
Build training and education into your culture: DEI is not a one-time initiative or project. Awareness, education and reinforcement of DEI principles are essential for sustaining meaningful progress. Dedicated DEI leadership, continuous internal education programs and the establishment of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are all examples of practices that make DEI an integral part of an organization’s culture.
Today, many organizations fail to provide the transparency, intelligence and consumer-like experience that candidates, employees and hiring managers have come to expect. Often, the digital tools are available to deliver, but the strategy to put those tools into place is lacking. A holistic approach to the TA technology stack, supported by a partner with the digital ecosystem to apply the right tools and solutions, can position an organization to remain competitive as available tools evolve.
Establish data-driven intelligence: When it comes to making decisions about targeting talent, costs, measuring performance and improving outcomes, data makes the difference. Bringing data into a single environment is only part of the equation. The second part is an analytics capability that provides context to answer detailed questions that drive meaningful outcomes. This capability is rarely practical for companies to build in-house. A highly advanced RPO provider, however, can provide that capability and work to find needs-specific solutions, as no two companies have the exact same requirements.
Empower the recruiter: Without advanced machine learning tools, the recruiter would have to perform at superhuman levels to keep up with the volume of work associated with the job. From analyzing resumes and screening candidates to maintaining contact with candidates in the application process, many AI-driven tools are now table stakes in supporting an effective recruiting function.
Deliver a consumer-like experience: Is the proverbial “candidate black hole” (where applicants are left wondering for months about the status) still part of the application experience? Are users asked to cut and paste resumes into unfriendly fields? These are a few examples of the candidate experience that the “candidate consumer” is no longer willing to tolerate in an environment where job-seekers can quickly turn to alternative opportunities.
Build for flexibility: One of the most frustrating technology issues for many companies is the inability to easily integrate new technologies into an existing tech stack. The time to gain buy-in, the lengthy involvement of IT, security issues and the overall costs may cause TA decision-makers to put off adoption. A talent solutions partner brings a technology ecosystem to the table that eliminates many adoption challenges.
The most competitive TA functions question traditional assumptions about worker type and location. Instead of starting with “we need to hire an employee to fill the vacancy,” they begin with “we have a vacancy. What is the best way to address it?” By doing so, they position themselves to see all possible talent available for a particular job. Once they establish the intention of bringing all worker types into the fold, the next challenge is bringing information about those candidates into a common view.
Culture, process and technology all contribute to what is known as the “total talent” view of the workforce. It is an ambitious goal that often fell short of delivering value in the past. In today’s environment, however, total talent is quietly arriving as a practical option for many organizations, thanks to advances in TA and contingent workforce practices. Like any advance in business practices, achieving that total talent view requires distinct outcomes related to people, process and technology, along with a “journey” mindset.
People drive the vision: Shift hiring manager expectations to include a wider choice of worker options. Likewise, bring together HR (traditional TA decision-makers) and procurement (extended workforce decision-makers) to collaborate on talent needs.
Processes must be flexible: Bridge typically siloed TA and contingent workforce engagement processes to enable flexibility in deciding on worker options.
Technology brings the vision to life: Applying technology that brings all talent options into view is essential to a practical total talent function. Workforce intelligence based on a single view is a capability now possible thanks to advances in AI-driven flexible talent platforms.
The journey is larger than a project: Total talent capability should be approached as a journey informed by practical near-term goals and long-term vision. An experienced talent partner is essential in providing the objective guidance to make that journey a reality.
We have found this checklist to be a solid place to start when thinking about aligning your talent acquisition strategy to a changing world of work. It helps you ask questions that can lead to real improvements in your company’s fitness in acquiring today’s top talent. Our client experience has shown us that these questions can inform strategies that rise above the complexity and unpredictability of today’s challenges to drive both immediate impact and long-term value.
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