Do organizations know more about their inventory and customers than their current and prospective workforce? The answer is a resounding yes for many companies. This simple question reveals quite a bit about the opportunity to better support the organization’s strategic business directives. What role can the talent acquisition function play to support today’s evolving organization? The mission and organizational value contribution is steeped in delivering a people response to the company’s strategic directives – either by supporting the pursuit of business opportunities or solving business problems. The mission is to understand and anticipate the organization’s talent needs in order to secure the right mix of talent with respect to knowledge, skills, abilities, potential and cultural fit at the right time to ensure business continuity. The talent acquisition function is a business solutions provider. This also implies that the talent acquisition function, along with talent management, has the greatest depth of knowledge within the organization with respect to finding, engaging, assessing, presenting, and securing talent in the context of the organization’s culture and operating environment.
Designing a strategy to service the organization’s talent needs has become increasingly complex. Shifts in the business climate decrease predictability and require the organization to be more agile and develop the ability to quickly identify changing talent needs to support the pursuit of new opportunities. The persistent introduction of new technologies, which often open new talent channels, requires the talent acquisition function to assess structure, roles and resource allocation more frequently to recalibrate quickly and develop a response capability to deliver results. The ability to evaluate which vendors, technologies and channels are “right-fit” to support the talent strategy require clarity, discipline and a new set of skills for the function. Agile thinking, curiosity and comfort with risk are required skills for talent acquisition leaders. Achieving clarity around the organization’s talent philosophy is critical to realizing alignment across the HR function, allowing talent acquisition to move quickly and unencumbered. An example of this is the resistance and / or lack of understanding around the value of social media. On one end of the spectrum doubt and fear persist, which is comparable to the response when the Internet arrived and offered up an opportunity for mainstream recruiting use. On the other end of the spectrum is the over zealous who partake in what I’ve referred to as “socializing” job postings and reducing an important strategic element to tactical application by seeing social channels as one more place to push out jobs without taking the time to understand either the nuances or risks.
Talent Acquisition as Talent Broker
If we agree that the mission of talent acquisition is to effectively resource the organization to solve business problems, support the pursuit of business opportunities, enable effective competition and sustain an appropriate level of momentum then an opportunity exists to assess how effectively the organization is resourced. Determining the current state of talent acquisition – talent philosophy, structure, resources, and technology, will be required to effectively develop the response capability to serve the organization’s needs.
Developing a talent community strategy can answer many of the organization’s resource needs. Depth of knowledge around the existing workforce and external talent market work in synergy to frame an effective strategy. Insight into the composition of the existing workforce – succession planning, skill gaps, competencies, employee interests and potential inform external recruitment needs when aligned and recalibrated with the strategic business plan. Identifying needs around skills, experience, level, geography and cultural fit offer a starting point. Developing a talent plan that identifies the type of talent – employee, contractor, contingent, or temporary, is what will further support the organization’s agility needs and allows the talent acquisition function to operate as a Talent Broker and business service provider. Today’s approach to managing this talent mix is often fragmented and doesn’t serve the organization, business leaders or Talent effectively. Designing a strategy that supports building a holistic community that allows Talent to identify the type of work relationship that interests them advances talent acquisition’s contribution in servicing the organization and delivers a more robust view into available talent. This approach also recognizes the shifting preferences of the workforce. Desire to have greater flexibility, mobility and choice in how and when people work and what they work on is increasing. Operating from a Talent Broker model allows leaders to have a single point of contact to find the right resource to support their business needs.
Extending the Value of Community Management and Brand Engagement
The competition for flexible “project talent” will increase as organizations seek to achieve workforce strategies that are sustainable and adapt quickly and easily to shifting business needs. The influence of social technologies, ease of access to networks and desire to connect has made Talent a shared global resource. Keeping talent engaged and interested in your brand and business is not going to get easier. Building a holistic community strategy is a natural extension of sourcing. Leveraging smart, targeted reach to identify and attract targeted Talent into a community relationship is just the beginning. The artistry and value comes through developing strategies around engagement to keep Talent connected. Extending sourcing to include initial screening to assess for skills, cultural fit, interest and readiness to join the company provides recruiters with a valuable community from which to re-partner with sourcing when business needs arise requiring a talent response. Tracking deployment against active projects and accumulated experience results in rich and valuable talent profiles that not only allows recruiters to respond quickly to hiring managers but to also be proactive when working with their business partners on anticipated needs. However, Talent needs to be kept engaged and continuously reengaged. By pursuing an integrated community management approach that intersects with sourcing and recruiting, the talent acquisition function evolves to a new level. Crafting relevant communications and designing opportunities for Talent to further engage with the brand through co-creation programs, “idea labs” or collective innovation projects is what can differentiate the brand and a recruiters ability to learn more about Talent and identify key contributors. The talent community manager’s role is to coordinate the creation and dissemination of targeted content, facilitate conversation in partnership with internal stakeholders, and potentially identify Talent for recruiters to further engage with. This approach leverages the interdependent relationship between the organization’s business strategy, talent acquisition and Talent. New talent acquisition tools like CRM support Talent segmentation and targeted communication. Combined with social tools like Socialcast takes Talent’s experience to a new level, supporting further connection, learning, engagement and possibly even loyalty.
This approach doesn’t necessarily require additional resources. It does however require talent acquisition functions to restructure in order to leverage the value of social media and engage Talent at a more relevant and visceral level around the business. Reallocating recruiting advertising / marketing budgets and assessing existing people resources can support designing a new structure that supports a community – based talent strategy. The benefits are significant. The organization benefits from increased Talent agility and enhanced market awareness – who is interested in the brand, what are their ideas, what do they want to do and when do they want to do it. Engaging Talent around the “business of the brand” facilitates increased collaboration to drive innovative ideas. Talent benefits by having a fun, engaging experience with the company, continuous learning and the ability to share their interests to move in and out of the organization in alignment with their career objectives. The talent acquisition function benefits through a holistic view of Talent to resource the organization and advance to the role of Talent Broker to deliver additional value and support the organization’s strategy.
In closing, I can’t think of a better quote to sum up the opportunity for business and Talent to connect in a more meaningful way and for the talent acquisition function to assume the role of Talent Broker.
“We grew up isolated.
The future is connected.”
“I think this changes everything…
If we let it.” Seth Godin
The ability for companies to move quickly is more important than ever before. Change is constant. Uncertainty is a reality. Complexity is on the increase, and the need for agility is rising as a core organizational competency. We’re living in a new business environment being shaped by shifting talent patterns, increased competition, shorter business maturity cycles and lower barriers to entry, just to name a few. These are the elements shaping today’s and tomorrow’s business ecosystem and your organizational talent capability. Your organization’s ability to shape an adaptive talent strategy and proactively develop response capability will allow you to harness these influencers and gain the upper-hand.
An adaptive talent strategy provides you with an architecture to meet the evolving needs of business and develop a value-oriented talent function. Complex? Actually, it’s simpler and more streamlined than what you may have today. Expensive? Developing an adaptive talent strategy is more cost-effective than not developing one. Will it mean we’ll have to change how we do things? Oh, yes! But, what doesn’t require change? The cost of “standing still” or not adapting may be less expensive in the short-run but over the long-term the cost of not adapting will cost you considerably more, and quite possible even the survival of your talent function or organization. And, more often than not, change is good. The hardest thing about dealing with change is getting over the initial shock that you need to change. Once your open to new ideas and new ways of thinking an entirely new set of possibilities emerges.
Adaptive talent strategies are based on alignment and clarity around the organization’s strategic business directives. They succeed when there is active dialogue between the business units, finance and talent acquisition leaders during the strategic business planning process. In too many instances, recruiting becomes a just-behind process. If the talent acquisition leader is not part of the business planning discussion then the organization is already at a disadvantage and successful implementation of the business strategy is compromised. Now, granted, its up to the talent acquisition leader to ask the right questions and then develop an effective plan to ensure support and success. The key here is involving talent acquisition early enough in the conversation to shift from reactive tactics to value-oriented strategy development and implementation. When the talent acquisition leader has sufficient information early enough in the planning process they’re able to effectively allocate resources, structure their team, make investment decisions, and guide the company’s strategic directives by providing critical insight into the availability of talent. This conversation becomes the pivotal point in developing an adaptive talent strategy. From here, the company can benefit from increased clarity.
Three other key components that shape developing an adaptive talent strategy -
Know the talent you have
Visibility into the company’s existing workforce should be easily accessible for the recruiting function. Knowing where the strengths, weaknesses and gaps exist informs external recruitment. When the talent acquisition leader has this information they can more effectively develop a recruitment strategy and direct resources by partnering with their organizational development peer to identify the key skills and competencies needed to support the organization. An internal talent management system can deliver a number of benefits. It brings efficiency to the talent planning process and facilitates the movement of talent throughout the organization to meet the needs of employees and businesses. If employees know they have opportunities to pursue elsewhere in the organization chances are your going to improve retention. External recruitment should always be informed by the internal gaps and talent plans to make smarter investments and decisions when pursuing new talent.
Develop a talent plan
Clarity around workforce structure guides how the organization shapes thinking about talent today and in the future? Which roles need to sit in a specific geographic location and where do you have flexibility to pursue the best talent regardless of location? Where can you infuse elasticity in your workforce through part-time, contingent and job share roles? When do you build and when do you “buy” talent? How do you broaden reach by identifying where work can be done outside the organization and engage collective collaboration to generate ideas and drive innovation? What is your plan for knowledge transfer? How will you prepare for a maturing workforce with different needs? What does the supply and demand look like for the talent you need to support the strategic business directives? For which functional areas and roles do you have a recruiting core competency and where will you outsource recruitment to a third-party? These are just a few of the key questions that should be asked in developing a talent plan to guide recruitment. Without having clarity around these types of questions and the resulting impact on your organization, chances are you’ll experience significant talent pain points over time rather than operating as an adaptive, value-oriented talent function.
In addition to an internal talent management system, a CRM tools is a key component to building an effective suite of recruiting technology solutions. The CRM serves a number of critical needs. It supports the recruitment function’s ability to manage communications, build relationships, integrate state-of-the art sourcing capability and provide visibility into the readiness of your talent pipeline. This last benefit, visibility into the readiness of your talent pipeline, is key to supporting an adaptive talent strategy. You’ll be able to provide better guidance to the business partners and make smarter decisions around how and where you allocate resources to external recruitment. The Reports screenshot to the right, courtesy of Avature, provides an example of the benefits gained when you have visibility into your talent pipeline. You know the readiness of talent and the depth of your pool by type of talent needed.
This will begin to provide you with an idea of what shapes an adaptive talent strategy. The benefit to the organization is enhanced support of the strategic business directives by improving alignment, opening up an active dialogue early enough in the planning process, and anticipating the types of talent needed. The benefit to the talent function is improved clarity around strategic business directives, the ability to be more planful in developing and implementing a supporting strategy, and the ability to deliver greater value to the organization. The ROI can be significant. You’ll realize the benefits of reduced third-party recruitment fees, reduced time-to-hire, increased recruiter productivity, reduced marketing / job posting costs, and increased efficiency in the movement of internal talent. The remaining elements - employment brand and networks, metrics, and internal communication will be covered soon. You might also want to take a look at the model on the home page to get a visual image of the framework for an adaptive talent strategy.
I’m a strong proponent of the idea of “collective engagement” as a means to enhancing a company’s employment brand and talent attraction capability. If you’ve heard me present on talent strategies, read anything about crowdsourcing or explored the platform that’s been in place at InnoCentive you get the idea. InnoCentive is an excellent example of the potential inherent in collective engagement. It began as a consortium of pharma companies that were willing to pay out big dollars to solve big problems – like finding an ALS biomarker. It has since evolved into a very diverse platform from every perspective. My corporate experience has consistently demonstrated the power of unlocking ideas to solve big problems by bringing together a diverse mix of people to work on a project. The outcome is far better than if a homogenous group took on the same challenge – I use diversity in the broadest sense of the word – gender, ethnicity, geography, experience, etc…..
Collective engagement to enhance a company’s employment brand and recruitment strategy gets directly to the heart of where business and talent intersect. It offers companies new ways of thinking about talent attraction by engaging them at a granular level in their business. Prospective talent can learn first-hand about the company’s business – its industry, products, markets and even its culture. Companies benefit from the direct talent connections and expand their knowledge base through the project experience – new ideas that generate innovative practices to advantage their products, market positioning, processes and customer engagement. Ideally, social networking can accomplish this as companies invest in building an interactive community culture. The key is listening and exercising a commitment to continuous learning. Much of what we see happening today on social networks is still at the transactional level and companies are missing out on the deeper benefits of collaborative learning.
This week the U.K. Times Online introduced ‘Business Wisdom’. Beginning on Monday, March 2nd, leaders from four industries will present business challenges they foresee on the horizon. The CEOs from each company will then share something about their specific opportunity each week through a video message. People wishing to participate will be able to join a collective conversation and contribute ideas to help solve the challenge. Through a “peer review” process the Times will present possible solutions back to the CEOs. Its encouraging to see the Times leading this initiative and business leaders taking part in the process. Collective engagement has the potential to further momentum as companies find themselves with greater challenges around global competition and resource constraints.
Any company can weave collective engagement into their talent and business strategy by taking advantage of social networking platforms, committing to community building, listening to people interested in their company, and engaging in conversations. Over time there’s the potential for this type of collaboration to redefine how companies define an “employee” and where business contributions comes from. Ideally I’d like to see an Innocentive approach where contributors are rewarded for their contribution. As social networking evolves and companies recognize the value of collective engagement the opportunity is not only with recruitment strategies but also in how companies invite their workforce into the conversation to advance collaborative learning, a topic for another post. I’ll be following the ‘Business Wisdom’ initiative and may even participate. Maybe I’ll see you there!