First, it’s important to state, a talent pipeline is not about addressing fit. It’s not about identifying the perfect match for your role. A pipeline shows you which prospective candidates are cold, warm and ready to talk to you about opportunities today. Think about a sales pipeline as a comparison. That’s not about identifying the perfect customer. It’s about which are on a journey to buying with you.
So, in what scenario is it worthwhile going to the effort of creating pipelines versus doing things the traditional way; the role is signed off and we start the search from scratch?
Well, to answer that it’s really important to understand what’s involved but first, my brand of talent pipelining is really most suitable for the area I describe as ‘qualified volume’, which I’ll explain shortly. Which areas of recruitment are less well positioned for automation?
1. If you’re creating a talent pipeline for future senior executive hires, this can absolutely be done manually by exec search professionals, internally or externally. In this scenario, they just need to use their diaries effectively and schedule periodic communications with the 100 or so people they are keeping warm and make sure they do it 1:1 by email, social media or telephone. If you have a senior exec pipeline of 100 and you make time to talk to one person each day, you talk to each prospective hire quarterly. For the potential candidates that frequency of contact will be welcome. After all, as one exec recruiter recently told me, senior professionals are never on the market and always on the market…
2. If you’re recruiting in the volume area, say, call centre agents, supermarket colleagues or construction workers, pipelining is complicated because it’s difficult to lasso this market. There are so many people and they change not only jobs but occupations more regularly than those in what I describe as ‘qualified volume’. In the volume area, I’d recommend a highly sophisticated approach to advertising and Google presence. Someone like Richard Collins or Stan Wasowicz can help you understand this better. Unless you have a large internal recruitment marketing team including media specialists, I wouldn’t recommend doing it yourself. Partnerships between search engines, job boards and therefore the contract with your own careers site change so regularly. Algorithms change literally all the time, so you need to understand how to generate competitive advantage continuously.
Now, ‘qualified volume’? This is the area of recruitment that almost all employers have difficulty with. ‘Qualified’ means professional qualifications or sufficient experience in a field of expertise where they can earn a premium salary. These people are in short supply and therefore they are in demand. And they know it. Here are some examples of employers and the ‘qualified volume’ disciplines they compete hard to attract:
Adecco – recruitment consultants
Capgemini – technology consultants
Coca-Cola – national account managers
ICON – clinical project managers
Facebook – software engineers
Mitchells & Butlers – kitchen managers
PwC – tax consultants
Roche – scientists
Yes, even companies like Coca-Cola and Facebook, those you’d expect to have a queue of people outside their office waiting for employment offers, need to compete hard for talent. This is a completely separate blog but one major reason for this is because their competitors are no longer the traditional employers they compete with for sales. People have more varied and flexible opportunities to earn a living than ever before and that puts the candidate market firmly in control.
So, in the ‘qualified volume’ area, what do I need to do to create automated talent pipelines? I’ll answer this and then go on to set out some criteria you might consider for creating your pipes.
1) You need a candidate database. Utopia is that this includes your total addressable market (TAM); everyone you would consider interviewing now or in the future. If you have your TAM within your reach (on your database or at least in your social media channels) you have a major competitive advantage. Talk to Christine Black at Candidate.ID if you want to understand better how to do this.
*Incidentally, I offer no apology for using terms like TAM to describe humans – this is a mechanical process so let’s get straight to the point*
2) You need a plan for inspiring these people. Most of them are not in the market. They don’t care about your employer brand, let alone your job descriptions yet. Based on our data, however, we know they like content which will help them get ahead in their careers. If it’s relevant and they can make use of it in their careers with their existing employers, you still win. You’ve bought goodwill with these people. They are generating warmth towards you for helping them. Tips:
i) Quickly identify the best sources of content to make life easy for yourself. You don’t need to create everything from scratch. Being a great curator is almost as impressive as generating your own work. Your organisation’s investor relations and B2B content can be recycled for nurturing candidates, as can your L&D content
ii) People not yet ready to talk about opportunities want content that is useful and relevant for their careers
iii) People starting to look to the market for future employers want to see your employer brand content
iv) People moving into deeper consideration want a real window into your organisation; using colleagues the TAM would work with to create short videos is one valuable technique in achieving this
3) Create a content calendar so you don’t drop the ball. What’s the appropriate cadence for nurturing talent. For those in the awareness phase (not yet in the market), perhaps it’s every 2 weeks. For those educating and starting to become interested in your employer brand it might be more frequently, say weekly. For those deep into consideration, I’d advise the 1:1 approach. Invite them to a career consultation and perhaps talk through some current or future openings with them
4) And of course, talent pipeline automation technology will help you to track and score each candidate’s interactions with your content so you can filter them by a real-time engagement score and get to shortlist, on average, 50% faster
To go back to the original question, what are the grounds for creating a talent pipeline?
Well in my view, if you hire ten or more of the same types of candidates annually, the effort described above is outweighed considerably by the benefits of 50% reduction in time-to-shortlist and an associated reduction in cost-per-hire. Another major benefit in this approach is that if you’re effectively nurturing your TAM, more people will want to work for you and with that, naturally, comes enhanced quality-of-hire.
What do I mean by ten or more of the same types of candidates? It doesn’t mean ten or more ‘humans’. It might mean ten or more software engineers in which case your content approach will need to be top level. It might mean ten or more Ruby on Rails software engineers in which case your content can be more targeted. As a general rule, the more granular you get the more success you will generate but use the ‘ten or more’ rule and you’ll know what pipelines to create.
NB, it may be appropriate to create pipelines for less than ten annual hires if the candidates are very rare and these hires are mission critical.
If you are not the sole, standalone employer everyone will be queuing outside your office to work for when you click your fingers, it’s worth creating talent pipelines. If you need to roll out the red carpet because candidates are in high demand, you should take this approach.
Yes some employers will have droves of the world’s best wanting to work for them at times, if they’ve just made a big announcement for example, but this is very rare and outside the graduate recruitment area (Goldman, Google, McKinsey), I can’t think of any current examples of organisations who don’t have grounds to create talent pipelines.