Future Proofing Your Talent Pipeline...

I wrote this post for someone else a few years ago and it feels like the content is still valid, with just a few tweaks to bring the conversation up to date.  In the last few months, I have been looking at how talent pipelines actually operate, mostly within the context of my new product talentpuddle. but also because clients talk to me about how to manage their talent pipeline.

Spotting talent in a competitive market has always been tough.  In the super connected world we now operate in though, it is the toughest it has ever been.  The combination of sourcing, branding assessment and managing the process is an endless cycle of often repetitive tasks that organisations and recruiters struggle to manage.  Many of the recruiters I know or have worked with are stuck in a reactive loop.  There is the constant firefighting, the search for quick wins combined with the need to deliver on the slow burn of challenging roles and changing requirements.

The sea change in most organisations and potentially in most individuals is the shift from a reactive to proactive talent pool based approach.  I know, as I write that sentence there is a rolling of eyes, a sigh and that collective we’ve been here before feeling.  Maybe we have, maybe that is because whilst we can all see the solution, we all (me included) struggle to break from our day to day to enable that proactive system to work for us.  Don’t get me wrong this is not for the faint hearted, nor the lazy and being transparent is not for every role we will recruit for.

One of the more interesting debates I have on a regular basis, internally and with my external clients is the age old experience versus skill challenge.  I have always believed that for certain roles, coming with the right attitude and the right approach will win the day.  Clearly, I am not talking about us all becoming brain surgeons because we like the idea but the premise that in a modern work place good people will shine holds true.

My personal experience, specifically when hiring corporate recruiters,  has been to find personable eager graduates that have been worked hard in an environment they hate and take them to a better place.  My best hires have always been those that aren’t the finished article, but they are hungry to learn, easy to work with, listen and provide energy to you and your team.  Building this hiring approach into a working talent pool is a challenge.  We all know that building a pool of plumbers with demonstrable plumbing skills is an easier task than building a pool of candidates that have ‘attitude’.  The criteria for entry are broad, but it is that broadness that makes it work.  Whatever we are hiring there is still the same process of sorts, or at least an approach, clearly dependent on the market place you are operating in but with some broad catch all headlines.

Create your own process
Talk about a cop out on my part but it’s true. Create a process that works for you and your business. Make sure that as a key part of that process you can regularly and formally assess what you are actually hiring both today and in the future. Put some numbers around the potential market for skills. I remember doing a project hiring 200 people in a local market population of around 3000 which whilst big enough to satisfy the demand in purely numeric terms suddenly looked small when going to market. Putting some numbers around potential market also helps with managing internal expectations. If you can talk hard numbers to your business, it is much harder to shoot it down.

This is also the time to throw in that wild “let’s also spot people with great attitude, some potentially relevant skills but with energy” card into the mix.  Look around the business to spot the traits of success, who works well in the organisation, with your clients and why.  It won’t just be the people with the greatest skills.  If possible, publish what you are looking for, help people to help you, especially if you are operating a referral process.  There is nothing worse than a referral process that keeps supplying candidates you just don’t want.

Make sure that process is future facing
Talent pools if successful are looking towards your future hiring requirements.  It may be that the skills and people that got you here are not what you need in the future.  It is the opportunity to combine some succession planning (board level and down) as well as to tie in where the organisation is heading.  Talk to the marketing people, talk to the strategists, talk to the CEO, find out what the big plan is and start preempting the skills needed now. 

Think about second place
We have all done it.  We get three final candidates in for that final interview and hire one of them. Look at that second place candidate.  By this stage they have seen the business, you have seen them, they are bought into the organisation - can they be fast tracked into something else?  Do they have the right cultural DNA for your organisation but missed out on the skills for that specific role?  Would they just be better with another hiring manager?  Second place can just mean second of a great bunch. Listen out for those ‘I would have hired any of them’ comments from anyone that has interviewed.  If you can, identify another role quickly and fast track them to final stage if you can.

Build it and they will come
My last observation on talent pools. I tend to think of it in the same way as a consumer product sell. We all like to feel special, that some how we have access to something that others don’t that we are invited to an exclusive event, or to look at a role that only us and a few others will see. If you can make your talent pool ‘real’ then by default good people will encourage good people to engage and join. If you can meet people at talent pool events it will give your organisation a chance to see the ‘great attitude, high energy’ not quite the finished article candidates helping you and them tailor your talent pool to meet their specific requirements.

Above all though, deliver what you say you will.  I have been involved in many talent pooling exercises that have fizzled into nothing, the intention has been good but the execution poor as people get diverted back to the day to day routine of req filling.

As you can see with talent pooling there is no one stop shop, no single approach that works in isolation.  It is a component part of your sourcing strategy.  Fundamentally the key for it all is to find a way to stop the world and get off, even momentarily to realign your processes with a forward, proactive, attitude led model supporting your future hiring needs.  Recruiters that can broader their traditional mindset to engage with a broader range of candidates will help your business grow and develop.  If you can combine this with more ‘self-service’ tools, some dynamic contact functions and keep the process low maintenance it will increase the value the talent pool provides.

I have a background in executive search and selection, headhunting and senior level recruitment combined with people and business management experiences. My focus has always been on the IT services, technology and management consultancy sectors on a permanent and interim basis where I have developed a personal portfolio that covers areas such as EVP, social recruitment and the successful creation of talent pools as well the management and leadership of corporate talent acquisition teams.

Currently working across Europe with high growth, high tech organisations to develop effective blended onshore/offshore recruitment models, covering full commercial engagement, transition and ongoing delivery management.

I am an investor in HiringDay.™ the agile recruitment methodology and have recently created talentpuddle. the live matching platform for corporate applicant tracking systems and work with innovative student recruitment platform Kannon.

I am an avid blogger, writer, public speaker and traveller of trains.