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Total Talent Solutions | 8 minute read

Why a robust talent acquisition infrastructure is business critical 

June 7, 2022

Many organizations are still focusing on tactical hiring because they don’t have the infrastructure in place to take a strategic, long-term approach to talent acquisition. By infrastructure, we mean people, processes and technology. The pandemic is one of the main reasons as budgets were slashed and many companies opted to downsize their HR departments. And because a lot of organizations slowed or paused hiring, talent acquisition teams bore the brunt of those cuts. However, despite 2021 being a year of growth for many companies and 2022 going strong, it seems that talent teams are still focusing on tactical hiring because they don’t have the correct infrastructure in place.  

In simple terms, there are too many organizations focusing on recruitment rather than talent acquisition. Recruitment is about filling open roles on a short-term basis while talent acquisition focuses on a company’s long-term goals to ensure it has the access to talent and the pipeline it needs – both now and in the future – to meet those goals.  

So, why are companies still concentrating on the short-term? Well, there are several reasons. HR and talent acquisition teams are under immense pressure to fill open roles right now. The talent landscape is more competitive than it’s ever been and shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. Total employment in the US is projected to grow from 153.5 million to 165.4 million over the 2020–30 decade, an increase of 11.9 million jobs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)In May 2022, the labor force (the number of people who had jobs or were seeking employment) in the US stood at 164.3 million, according to data from the BLS.

The employment landscape and has changed more in the past couple of years than it has in the last decade. Skills shortages, for instance, are no longer resigned to specific industries – all sectors have been impacted. And record number of job openings and changing candidate and employee expectations are heaping even more pressure on talent acquisition teams. A robust talent infrastructure (with the right people, processes and technology) that aligns with an organization's overall business strategy has never been more important. 

One step at a time 

If your company doesn’t have a robust talent infrastructure in place, don’t panic. The first step would be to align your talent strategy with the wider goals of the business. You’ll need to speak to multiple key stakeholders for this. Then, think about your talent function’s objectives. Outlining all the stages that go into the talent acquisition process will help you spot any gaps. Again, collaboration is key. Speak to stakeholders regularly to ensure they are clear on what role they’ll play and are aware of any progress made. 

To develop a robust talent acquisition infrastructure, you have several options depending on the resources and bandwidth you have. 

You can either: 

  • Build it: It's not a quick fix; it will take time and resources. Talent consulting can help if you want to build a structure that has the right people, processes and technology as it will ensure you have a customized infrastructure that will stand the test of the time while elevating the efforts of the talent team through demonstrable ROI.
  • Redesign what you have: This will be faster than building from scratch, but it’s still a time-consuming option. Again, talent consulting can help. Talent consultants have the expertise to help with the re-design process to make it as painless as possible.
  • Outsource it: You could consider outsourcing your talent infrastructure. By outsourcing, we mean asking a talent consultancy to design and develop a robust talent infrastructure, or even outsource certain roles within the process. 

Let’s get started: What should an org chart for a talent acquisition function look like? 

A modern talent acquisition function requires a wide range of people and skillsets. Effective talent acquisition has long included sales and marketing elements, but recruitment marketing is no longer a nice to have; it’s a business imperative, but it must be operationalized to be effective.  

When it comes to operationalization, a proactive approach is required to identify candidates and build talent pipelines that allow you to nurture top talent until the right position becomes available (which could be weeks, months, or even years later). Technology and automation can help with this. But so will a strong employment brand (as long as it aligns with your employee value proposition, or EVP). It also must be showcased through eye-catching recruitment marketing campaigns on the platforms that matter most to target candidates.  

Each person within your talent acquisition department should understand their responsibilities, the role they play in the wider hiring process and the importance of collaboration between the relevant teams and/or stakeholders 

The same approach applies to data. A lot of talent teams have access to masses of data nowadays but fail to operationalize it effectively. Data underpins everything – you need data to create effective candidate personas and market mapping exercises to build talent pipelines. For example, some recruiters dismiss unqualified candidates immediately but just because they are not suitable for the role that’s open right now. That doesn’t mean they won’t be suitable in the near future.  

There are several reasons why some recruiters do this and the main one is because they simply don’t have the time to nurture the relationship. It sounds obvious, but there are still far too many recruiters dismissing silver medalist candidates who have shown an interest in the brand. Instead, recruiters should work with the recruitment marketing team to place them in suitable talent communities. It’ll keep them engaged and interested through compelling content (not only job postings!) for when a position opens in the future. 

Tip: Talent acquisition teams must market and sell their organizations to their candidates in the same way companies market and sell their products to consumers. A strong employment brand, that truly aligns with your EVP, is critical if you want to position as an employer of choice. And the recruitment marketing activity you carry out, must be on the platforms that candidates frequent (note that this changes over time). Given the rapid pace of change in the employment landscape over the past couple of years, now is the time to modernize your employment brand to ensure it reflects evolving candidate and employee expectations. 

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Talent acquisition process design – and recalibration

Talent acquisition isn’t linear; far from it. It’s a cycle of continuous improvement. But many talent acquisition teams are still not operationalizing best practices. Regular reviews of infrastructure and everything within it (people, processes and tech) are necessary for successful continuous improvement. It can, however, be hard for teams that don’t have the bandwidth or resources to dedicate to continuous improvement because of the talent crisis. There are more job openings than people available to fill them and many recruiters are focusing on the “here and now “rather than on taking a proactive approach. But this approach needs to change. Develop a business case for change and hone in on the anticipated ROI. This will ensure you get executive buy-in and can access the resources and budget needed to move forward. 

Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) embedded into culture

Organizations must foster a culture of inclusion and belonging to attract, hire and retain diverse candidates. DEIB has long been a factor for candidates when considering new roles, but its importance has grown further. Almost two-thirds (62%) of jobseekers are more likely to apply for a job where a company is openly committed to improving diversity and inclusion in their workforce, research from PwC revealed. This means talent teams need to operationalize DEIB and showcase the company’s commitment to fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Whitepaper: Diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging

When it comes to ROI, you need to configure diversity metrics to ensure they’re meaningful and specific to your individual organization. And the metrics and data gathered should be analyzed and operationalized, otherwise there’s no sense in collecting them. Operationalizing diversity in talent acquisition is about more than just sourcing and engaging diverse talent though. Everyone involved in the hiring process must be held accountable for tracking diverse candidates through the funnel.

Building diverse interview panels can improve diversity and regular training sessions can also reduce unconscious bias. Comprehensive DEIB strategies typically include multiple programs that reach more diverse audiences. For example, to attract neurodiverse candidates, consider altering standard recruitment processes. This talent pool has been previously overlooked but there are steps talent teams can take to improve processes, such as altering job description accessibility on career sites and within job application processes. Veteran programs are also a great way to access a wider talent pool. And such programs are fast becoming a staple among talent functions.

Manging talent acquisition technology

HR technology plays a critical role in talent acquisition and most companies have comprehensive tech stacks that are supposed to support the entire talent acquisition process. However, many tech stacks don’t support the process. Before you begin your search for the best tech, you need to think about what you’re trying to accomplish. For example, is it solely about accelerating the hiring process, or do you want to target certain segments of talent? Once you know exactly what you want to accomplish, start your search. It’s not an easy task as the talent acquisition tech market is saturated. There are thousands, quite literally, of tech platforms in this space, so finding the ones aligned with your objectives and optimized for the candidate journey requires careful consideration. The latest technology platform may be billed as the best on the market, but is it best for your organization’s needs? You could invest in the greatest ATS there is but if it doesn’t fit your purpose, it can be a wasted investment.

Tip: Ask your peers in the industry what technology platforms they use and why and if they’d recommend them.

When it comes to perfecting your tech stack, you should start with a full and thorough evaluation of your current and future talent acquisition processes and then your current HR tech stack. Make a list of the tech you currently use to support talent acquisition and then you can work out which platforms will be better suited to your individual business needs.

A mapping exercise can help you to understand how each of your talent tech platforms integrate with one another. And it will also help you identify gaps and inefficiencies and determine if there is any duplication. A lot of talent acquisition teams have multiple tech platforms that do the same thing, but many don’t even realize it. Use the workbook below as a starting point. List your objectives for each step of your end-to-end process and the current technology you have to support those objectives. This exercise will provide you with a much clearer view on inefficiencies and opportunities.

If you don’t have the resources or bandwidth to perform an evaluation on your talent acquisition tech stack, you could consider getting help from talent consultants who specialize in HR tech. They can advise on the entire process and will even review the contracts you have with tech platforms/providers. They will look at timescales and contract terms and work out the suitability of each platform you currently have and whether it can be optimized, upgraded, replaced, or even canceled.

Talent is in short supply. Market pressures, skills shortages and demographic changes are having a huge impact. But talent acquisition consulting partners can help your company develop a robust talent acquisition infrastructure to ensure you have talent for immediate and future hiring needs with innovative, sustainable talent strategies.

About Steven Davis

A talent acquisition and HR leader, Steven has 25+ years of experience building best-in-class recruitment solutions that support employee engagement and amplify company brand. He has extensive expertise in diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives and high growth environments building streamlined recruitment infrastructures.