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Industry Insights | 16 minute read

Talent pipelining: How to plan for the biggest skills shortages 

September 8, 2022

Summary: Talent pipelines play a critical role in talent acquisition. They provide access to talent for today and tomorrow. In this post, we explain how early careers programs, corporate alumni networks, referral programs, internal mobility and the total addressable market can all help talent leaders when it comes to building an effective talent pipeline. 

 Job openings in the US have increased over the last year, from 9.3 million in April 2021 to 11.3 million openings at the end of May 2022, according to McKinsey. The squeeze in hiring spans all skill levels across all industries. For better hires, you must create channels that give consistent access to qualified candidates. With the ripple effect from an economy dreadfully short on workers and high mobility between industries, organizations must be proactive in collecting candidates — including those that may not be actively jobseeking. 

Key industries affected by skills shortages 

Healthcare, manufacturing, energy, transportation and aviation have all made headlines (think pandemic struggles, layoffs and quarantines) that have permanently dented recruiting efforts. Skills shortages are rife, with the voluntary quit rate being 25% higher than pre-pandemic, according to research from McKinsey. Improving hiring and closing the skills gap takes considerable planning, but the outcome is more than worth the effort. While each industry has unique challenges, medium-sized businesses that lack resources and compensation budgets, may suffer most. 


Much of the healthcare industry depends on in-person work, which naturally limits the talent pool to geographically available candidates. Virtual options such as telehealth are helping to widen the pool of candidates, which means you can have a larger available group ready to fill gaps. But this alone won’t solve the skills shortages in massively growing industries such as biotech and pharmaceuticals. The rate of innovation and people needed mean it’s essential to have a strong employee value proposition (EVP) and employment brand to attract the talent needed. 

Financial services 

Financial services companies are experiencing skills shortages that are compounded by the need for technology acumen. This convergence between financial technology (fintech) and big banks means there’s a bigger need than ever for job requirements that prioritize candidates with tech knowledge to meet consumer demand and deliver solutions effectively.  

Read more about solving talent challenges in our most recent financial services market update for this rapidly evolving industry. 


The energy sector is transforming at a breakneck pace, and so are its hiring needs. While the pandemic drove needs up, pressures to scale have skyrocketed due to the Russia-Ukraine war and the global effects it’s having on energy. Organizations are focusing on talent with new skills to develop its environmental, social and governance (ESG) models as well as climate change initiatives as the transition from fossil fuels to renewables becomes societally imperative. Reskilling existing employees as well as bringing in new talent with different backgrounds to propel clean energy and fulfill consumer demand has become the norm — but talent shortages continue to be an issue. 


There’s currently a shortage of both corporate and hourly roles and the shifting skills requirements due to technology advancements in the manufacturing space. Younger generations aren’t being adequately informed on career development to know how certain opportunities can impact their potential in this industry. To effectively address these shortages, a tailored approach to segmenting the workforce is the best way to attract the right talent in the manufacturing space. Rethinking what each role needs and communicating the perks and potential around automation and robotics will be key to closing the skills gap here as more of the workforce ages out in coming years. 

Transportation and aviation 

Airports and airlines are experiencing the crunch talent shortages create in all areas of operations, including pilots, cabin crew, security baggage handlers and maintenance, repair and overhaul (or MRO) staff. It’s an industry that was experiencing issues pre-pandemic and is still recovering from the chain effect of travel restrictions and resistance over the past couple years. 

Many chose not to return to the industry once travel restrictions were lifted due to challenging work conditions — opting for other positions elsewhere in the market with more flexibility and compensation. Notably, security queues have increased dramatically as staff were laid off after furloughs ended and ended up finding better-paying jobs. Airport security, in general, needs an overhaul with better pay, training and career development to meet consumer demands.

Talent pipeline planning: What you need to know 

Gallup found that 91% of US workers hoped they could continue working some of their hours from home, and three in 10 workers signaled they would seek new employment if they were recalled to the office. 

One of the biggest ways to combat skills shortages is talent pipelines. You begin developing your pipeline by gathering a talent pool. A talent pool is a database containing details about quality candidates who have the potential to meet hiring needs. Talent pools should be segmented based on business need, so it’s important to prioritize immediate, medium and long-term hiring needs. This ensures a steady supply of qualified candidates for all your hiring needs — both now and in the future.  

Simply put, you develop a strategic pipeline from your pool of qualified candidates. It’s that aggregated list of names and contact details that makes up your talent pipeline. They’re pre-vetted (even “engaged,” in some circumstances) people in your network that your recruiters can reach out to when open roles are available. 

Getting candidates in your pipeline is the first step — but keeping them interested in your company, its employee value proposition (EVP) and employment brand, is key. Do this by segmenting talent pools and using personalized content to speak to different groups of people, including passive jobseekers and active candidates.  

To effectively prepare your talent pipeline, consider implementing these strategies today (they will make a major impact tomorrow!): 

Internships and early careers programs 

Many training and internship budgets were slashed during the pandemic — but they’re making a big comeback now and even becoming a priority for many companies. Leveraging careers programs at local universities gives your company direct access to a healthy pipeline of at-the-ready talent once they graduate. University students are contemplating their next move, so promote yourself as an employer of choice by sponsoring on-campus or virtual career fairs and programs. Rally extra engagement through alumni programs where your prior interns can talk to university students about their experiences as well. 

Include returnships and career transition programs for those who left the workforce during the pandemic. Whether it was to care for family members or because of burnout, the growing need for flexibility led many people to change careers to accommodate working remotely. Some of these professions include teachers and nurses who pivoted to jobs in recruitment for better work-life balance. 

Network with diverse organizations 

Many people have made major transitions in their careers over the last couple years. Broaden your search past universities to find local in-person or virtual career fairs with candidates interested in transferring their skills to a different industry. Diverse job boards such as the National Black MBA Association and Diversity Search are great resources to expand your talent pool to individuals historically marginalized. See a list compiled from the University of Texas here for more minority recruitment websites. 

You probably have employees interested in partnering with local charities or organizations that can bring in hiring fellows. The Best Buddies jobs program and Hiring our Heroes fellowship program are two great examples of ways you can get linked with diverse talent you may not have otherwise found through conventional job boards. 


Tip: Make sure you regularly review job postings to ensure there isn’t gender-coded or biased language that would discourage minorities from applying. There are many resources out there such as Gender Decoder or blind resume tools that remove certain details from a resume that could cause bias. 

Know your total addressable market 

Be sure to factor in the total addressable market (TAM) when building your pipeline. The TAM is the total number of talent prospects within a specific geography reasonably qualified for the role(s). Think of it as the starting point when building your talent pool for your job roles.

The TAM can help organizations be more strategic on where to open a new office or facility based on available talent or whether roles should be remote due to a lack of talent in a particular region. Make your job requisition requirements too strict, and you’ll prevent the position from being filled; too broad, and it can bring in unqualified people and make sourcing more time consuming and difficult. The TAM will help you find that middle ground. 

Utilize internal mobility  

Let your top performers move around your company. Even if it’s a lateral move, the value of this cannot be overstated. This lets your talent gain new skills in other areas and understand more of your business — resulting in valuable company knowledge and the likelihood of retaining them longer. Don’t wait until review time to give recognition, whether it’s verbal or other types of internal rewards; promoting your top people pays off. 

An internal mobility program helps enhance your employment brand for prospective candidates, so make sure to share this via your career site, recruitment marketing and social media efforts. It’s a great way to garner interest from people to join your talent community and grow your talent pool — even if they’re not current jobseekers. 

Remember boomerang employees 

Sometimes the grass isn’t always greener. In fact, 15% of employees have “boomeranged” back to a former employer. Employees who leave are valuable candidates that should be kept in your talent community as passive talent and potential rehires. More than ever, candidates are looking for organizations that align with their personal values and beliefs. That’s why embracing your culture and sharing it authentically is so vital. With a global skills shortage, boomerang employees have shorter turnaround time when being rehired, which can make all the difference to your organization. 

Position yourself as an employer of choice by understanding why those employees left and showing them what’s changed, including new perks and future commitments. It will earn loyalty and help bring in more referrals, which we’ll talk about next. 

Implement an employee referral program 

Word of mouth, especially in today’s digital age, carries weight. If your employees think your company is a great place to work, they’ll be sure to tell others about it. It’s a great way to build your talent pool and find like-minded people who hold the same beliefs and values as your current workforce. Both past, current and rehired employees are great resources to network with and spread the word about open roles in the business, so take that into account in your talent pipeline strategy! Similar to boomerang employees, not only do referrals move through the hiring process faster, but they also stay longer. 

Read more: What are the benefits of an employee referral program?

Outsource your talent pipelining to an RPO provider 

If all of this sounds overwhelming, it’s because it can be. Some companies opt for an outsourcing solution to improve all steps of the hiring process. Hiring a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) provider guarantees a team dedicated to developing your talent pipeline with all the above strategies and more. Something unique about RPOs is the talent pipelines they share with you are confidential and not distributed to any other clients they work with. For companies needing to scale at speed, having an embedded partner makes all the difference. This total talent approach actions what you need most based on real-time data and years of consultative experience from advisors.

Futureproofing your talent pipeline 

Promoting your company as an employer of choice through career transition programs and internships helps to boost pipelines and provide access to future skills. Using your talent community to appeal to all segments of talent will help address your skills gap in a challenging job market. Whether you implement strategies over time or hire an RPO provider, you can grow your qualified talent pool to account for your long-term hiring needs. 

About Tom Little

Tom is the director of solutions for WilsonHCG in EMEA. He has been delivering RPO solutions for clients for more than 10 years across the UK, EMEA and the US regions spanning multiple sectors. He lives in Gloucestershire with his family and enjoys watching rugby and horse racing in his spare time.