Talent acquisition revisited Deploy new approaches for the new battlefield

Talent acquisition and recruiting are undergoing rapid disruption, challenging companies to leverage social networks, aggressively market their employment brand, and re-recruit employees every day.

  • Companies looking to recruit and acquire talent must now compete on a new battlefield—a battlefield shaped by new global talent networks and social media and defined by employment brands and changing views of careers.
  • Sixty percent of respondents to our global survey have updated or are currently updating and revamping their talent sourcing strategy, and another 27 percent are considering changes.
  • Faced with a scarcity of key skills and rapidly evolving talent demands, companies that fail to adapt will likely be on the losing end when it comes to attracting and accessing the people and skills they need.

 

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Today, talent, especially people with the most desired and in-demand skills, is scarce. Employees with high-demand skills have choices, and a company’s employment brand is easy to ascertain without even stepping into the office. At the same time, the Internet has revolutionized the way people learn about companies and apply for jobs.

In many ways, acquiring and accessing talent is among a company’s most critical goals. Without critical talent and skills, companies cannot grow their businesses. Yet in today’s new environment, the old ways of recruiting, acquiring, and accessing talent are no longer effective. Companies that fail to adapt will likely be on the losing end when it comes to attracting the people they need.

Executives appear to be aware of the challenge, with 58 percent saying they are “currently revamping” (31 percent) or “considering changes” (27 percent) to their talent sourcing and recruiting strategies (figure 1).

Figure 1

Nonetheless, few HR and corporate leaders report that their companies are currently capable of adapting to today’s new talent acquisition realities. Executives in Brazil, the United Kingdom, Japan, South Africa, and Canada are acutely aware of the urgent need to change strategies, but are especially behind other countries in terms of putting capabilities in place (figure 2).

Figure 2

To be successful in this new environment, companies should constantly attract new talent and “re-recruit” the talent that is already in place. The traditional “staffing” team is being replaced by a strategic “talent acquisition” function, focusing on building an employment brand, sourcing people in new places using social media tools, creating opportunities for internal candidates, and leveraging the huge network of referral relationships within the company.

Talent acquisition is also being expanded as companies look for new ways to access and engage people, including through joint ventures, contracting, freelancers, and open source talent.1 These approaches are pushing the boundaries of talent acquisition to include new models of employment and new types of relationships for accessing skills and ideas.

High-performing companies build unique and powerful ways to source and access top employees. One innovative tactic is the use of social networks to build talent “communities” supported by full-time employees, retired workers, independent contractors, and everyone in between. AT&T’s talent community, for example, attracts potential team members by providing a forum to talk about mobile computing and telecommunications in a fun and exciting way.

Many companies are also leveraging LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor, Google, and other social networks to build a compelling employment brand, find talent, and market their companies to passive job candidates. They aggressively deploy referral marketing programs and send their key executives to universities and other critical sources of new talent around the world.

Slightly more than six in ten executives (62 percent) participating in our global survey report that they rely on social tools for sourcing and advertising positions. Organizations also report that they are beginning to utilize analytics for recruitment and staffing, though a majority (54 percent) say they are still “weak” in this area (figure 3).

Figure 3

The transition from recruiting to marketing

As the battlefield for scarce talent continues to shift, talent acquisition is becoming more like marketing every day.

Candidate relationship tools market a company through stories and products aimed at drawing in new prospects and cultivating them from the point of initial interest through their decision to apply for a job and join the company. Companies like Ford and Delphi, for example, produce blogs to attract car fans, engineers, and manufacturing workers who may want a career in the auto industry.

Talent acquisition leaders use a variety of other marketing techniques to source talent—and are increasingly partnering directly with corporate marketing in their outreach efforts. They visit and advertise at colleges and educational institutions, buy targeted ads on social media sites (LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, Yahoo) to attract employees from old and new competitors, and strategically target veterans, minorities, and other groups.

Just as marketing produces sales, candidate marketing produces hires. Recruitment marketing also reduces staffing costs, attracts higher-quality candidates, and improves internal employee retention. It also helps build a network of part-time workers and ultimately makes the job of the recruiter and hiring manager far easier.

On the employee side, social networks have made the employer brand fully available to the public. If recruiting is difficult, it is not just HR’s problem; it is the executive team’s problem as well.

Employers of choice treat their employment brand like their consumer brand. They analyze it, understand it, cultivate it, and carefully manage it. And they localize it for each major market where they do business.

Lessons from the front lines

Auto manufacturer uses talent communities to source skills

As General Motors sought to ramp up the production of its flagship electric vehicle, the Volt, the company faced a significant talent challenge—a shortage of engineers and scientists with a background in electronics.

Drawing talent from Silicon Valley and other technology centers to Detroit proved difficult initially. GM’s answer was to enhance its recruiting process by building talent communities, drawing more and more people with the required skills into its network.

To help build these communities, GM enlisted engineers and technical staff to write about their jobs, highlighting the exciting work; the rewarding, socially important job opportunities at the company; the high quality of life and relatively low cost of living in Detroit’s suburban neighborhoods; and the many cultural attractions and professional sports teams in the city.

Starting gradually, the company built a growing talent network, amplifying it through social media. New facts and insights about the company were shared among wider circles of talent, creating a positive ripple effect and a more robust talent network. This approach helped GM attract the talent needed to meet deadlines, hiring requirements, and project demands.

Company ambassadors provide a creative solution to talent needs

Red Hat was the first open source software company to reach $1 billion in annual revenues. With plans to hire an additional 600 to 800 employees this fiscal year, Red Hat is on an aggressive search for new talent. A key component of its sourcing strategy is its employee referral program.

The employee referral program, called Red Hat Ambassadors, is a tiered reward system where eligible employees can receive cash bonuses and Red Hat-branded memorabilia for every new hire they attract. Red Hatters who refer five employees to the company receive the title of “Ultimate Ambassador.” These employees earn two generous cash bonuses as well as Red Hat-branded memorabilia and a slot on the company’s Red Hat Ambassador advisory board. Additionally, referrals that come from Ultimate Ambassadors get priority treatment by the company’s talent acquisition team. The program has resonated with employees, and today, more than half of all new Red Hat hires come in through employee referrals.2

Where companies can start

Before the explosion of social media and mobile computing—nearly 45 percent of job candidates now apply for jobs on mobile devices3—companies simply posted openings on the “careers page” on their website. This is no longer nearly enough. Creative companies are discovering new ways to access talent. Starting points include:

  • Treat recruiting like marketing: Partner with corporate marketing to build an integrated branding and communications strategy that attracts candidates and employees, not just customers.
  • Innovate—who and where: Extend the targets for strategic recruiting. Who are you looking for? Are there new talent pools? Ones you can develop? Perhaps talent you can access (such as freelancers) but not hire? Also consider where you are looking: Search globally as well as across industries and functions.
  • Go beyond Facebook—way beyond: Nearly every company uses social networks to post job openings. Innovative companies also leverage social media to build broader, more robust talent communities—networks of people interested in the company’s products or the company itself who might turn into high-quality recruits.
  • Use big data to deepen talent networks: Organizations can now leverage big data tools from vendors such as LinkedIn, Facebook, Entelo, Gild, TalentBin, Work4, Identified, and others to identify and source quality candidates around the world.4 Leverage new scientific assessments and big data tools to locate and assess high-quality candidates who fit the style and type of workers needed.5 Apply talent analytics to identify the company’s top sources of talent, understand effective interviewing techniques, and determine “goodness of fit” to improve the quality and efficiency of hiring.
  • Maintain an active and deep candidate bench: Use candidate relationship management to cultivate prospects and keep people engaged throughout their careers, turning them from passive to active candidates.

Bottom line

Talent acquisition and access has changed in fundamental ways due to shifts in global talent markets, skills shortages, new ways of working, and the growing importance of social media and employment brand. To compete for talent in 2014, HR teams must move to more marketing-oriented, innovative, social media-savvy, and global approaches to talent acquisition. This demands innovation on the front end of recruiting, coupled with the need to “re-recruit” employees, managers, and leaders every day.