Workers are one of the most important resources for any organization looking to grow in an increasingly competitive market. In today’s tight labor market with a near-record unemployment rate of only 3.6%, the lowest since December 1969, the fight for attracting top talent is more crowded and competitive than ever before. Time to hire is increasing, cost per hire is growing, and the skills gap (especially in tech) still exists.
As the number of job openings continues to increase, it leaves business leaders in a challenging position. After all, to grow and succeed, they need to attract and retain top talent, and doing that is becoming more difficult. With organizations using different types of workers (full-time employees, non-employees and even robots) to get work done, getting a handle on their entire workforce acquisition process becomes imperative. For some employers, almost half of their talent comes from non-employed workers. One technique that savvy HR departments are working on with their managed service providers (MSPs) is to build total talent pools – actively managed databases of past employees, independent contractors, freelancers and contingent workers who have had successful experiences with the organization. This emphasis on sourcing passive candidates, combined with building strong employee referral programs focused on employer brand, aims to provide businesses of all sizes with new avenues to access skills in an easier and faster way.
While this all sounds reasonable, the reality of actually building reliable and sustainable talent pools that cover all types of workers (employed and non-employed) is a bit tricky.
Talent Pipeline vs. Talent Pool
A talent pool, in short, is simply a pool of qualified candidates that employers can immediately draw upon to fill an open position. It provides a way for organizations to effectively group and categorize talent (like “UI/UX workers based in Seattle”), rather than having a single messy database. However, no matter how great the talent pool is, the fact of the matter is that we’re still dealing with passive candidates so the success rate is not going to be as high as it would be with active job seekers.
A talent pipeline is a proactive, process-driven approach that identifies, qualifies and nurtures passive candidates. A talent pipeline is a structured representation of the candidate lifecycle that allows HR to see at what stage the candidate sits and understand what must be done to bring them closer to being hired.
Framework for Building Your Talent Pipeline
Building and adopting a total talent pipeline is not a small feat, especially for organizations with highly complex workforces. Beyond requiring a top-down commitment to become talent-centric, continuous investments and expertise are necessary. A holistic and proactive model is a journey, but here’s a high-level framework to get started.
1.) Build your Strategy
An effective talent pipeline will address both your short- and long-term talent needs, so you need to establish common expectations, define your needs and do your research. This, similar to how marketing creates buyer personas, means creating candidate personas – semi-fictional representations of your ideal candidates. It also includes developing a comprehensive fact base across the existing organization that covers both centralized and decentralized spend.
Building an organizational talent pipeline means breaking down silos and working together to integrate talent strategies. To position the organization for agile response to workforce needs, companies need to rethink how work is being done and develop a more holistic and strategic view of talent acquisition and management. This means working across the entire talent supply chain – employer, suppliers, MSP, vendor management system (VMS), etc. – to create an integrated, blended and flexible talent model. The siloed approach between full-time employees and contingent labor currently used in many organizations results in missed opportunities to improve talent quality, optimize costs and strategically design workforces. It ultimately comes down to aligning people, processes and technology.
3.) Build your technology stack
Most workforce technology has been designed for engaging/hiring full-time employees or for sourcing/managing contingent labor (there’s rarely an overlap). However, with the growing urgency to move towards total talent management, many technology providers are making it easier than ever to integrate different platforms – vendor management systems (VMS), applicant tracking systems (ATS), freelance management systems (FMS), human resource information systems (HRIS), e-procurement, etc. – to obtain an integrated workforce view. There is a vast array of talent-related technologies that organizations currently use, and if they lack a unified approach to talent acquisition, the investment in these solutions and the benefits they can deliver is greatly minimized.
4.) Develop analytics
Don’t forget about analyzing the performance of your talent pipeline. Since this approach requires a shift in thinking and a fair amount of effort to put together, you need to ensure that your strategy is producing the returns you require. Metrics to consider tracking include time to hire, cost per hire, conversion rates (from one candidate stage to another) and retention. When building your technology stack, consider an analytics platform that can tie the disparate systems together as this is critical to an integrated model.