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Mapping the Value of Talent Acquisition

by
Jillyan French-Vitet
Mar 22, 2013, 5:30 am ET

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 7.23.42 AMAbout a year ago, I was participating in a series of team meetings when I noticed that one question kept resurfacing: “How can we demonstrate the value of talent acquisition?” While the discussion moved to other topics, this question remained unanswered.

Cost, quality, and speed have underpinned the value proposition of the talent acquisition function for many years. It has been defined by metrics such as productivity, process and channel efficiency, full/sub-cycle time, and the results of satisfaction surveys. Yet, it has become clearer to me that value in talent acquisition is no longer being adequately communicated and translated to our customer base. We need a new way to demonstrate value beyond the walls of our own function. We need to better articulate how and why talent acquisition contributes to the overall worth of the organizations we work for.

Here, I make my case for a new kind of value mapping that centers around talent acquisition first and foremost. Value mapping talent acquisition can deliver better results, with more focused associated costs and impactful communication.

Value: A Simple Definition

Value, at its most simple, is relative worth. So, the first question we must ask ourselves is, “How does my organization as a whole depict its relative worth?”

For some organizations, relative worth could be defined as shareholder value, or competitive advantage, or even enterprise value. Whichever principle or methodology an organization subscribes to, generally they regard their value as something that:

  • is sustainable over the long term
  • is reliant on all parties within a company to achieve
  • has competitive advantage as a key pillar

Based on this, talent acquisition should consider its relative worth in the same light as the organization.

The challenge, however, is to demonstrate or measure the value of talent acquisition at an organizational level without reducing it to an administrative process or overhead. This is where value mapping comes in.

Value Mapping

One tool used to demonstrate and visually chart the achievement of value is a value map. In essence, this shows how an organization intends to achieve its strategic goals and create (or preserve) value.  The reason we use a visual map to do this is because it is easier to generate common understanding around one, simple, and concise diagram than it is around many pages of text — as strategy documents tend to be.

The goals set out in a value map attempt to tie together the components of shareholder/enterprise value and competitive advantage. They map out the stakeholders and processes for each­ — and simplicity is key.

Ultimately, value mapping must not only set out the critical actions and goals for success, it must clearly communicate these to ensure they become central to the decisions that are made each and every day. It must demonstrate a clear cause-effect relationship that all the stakeholders can align their own actions against.

Articulating the value of talent acquisition as a function, via a value map, goes one step further than this to put talent acquisition strategy at the center of the business priorities and objectives.

Talent Acquisition at the Center of Value

We may know that talent acquisition is a key contributor to an organization’s overall strategy by nature of its function: attracting talent. Most organizations would agree that their people are:

  • their greatest differentiator
  • at the core of competitive advantage
  • central to the achievement of key business goals
  • the external ‘face’ to the market re: candidate and customer experience

Yet talent acquisition is rarely measured in a way that reflects this.

‘Traditional’ talent acquisition metrics are often those such as channel efficiency, full/sub-cycle time, etc. While these metrics are good measures of productivity and efficiency, they say nothing of the value that the function adds to the organization. In fact, these measures do not typically link directly to business strategy at all. There lies the central issue with the ways we currently communicate the value of talent acquisition within an organization.

In building a talent value map, talent acquisition initiatives are prioritized and aligned to organizational strategy. The map also enables the entire business to visualize how talent decisions translate into organizational ‘relative worth’.

When building the map, two issues must be considered in tandem:

  • value preservation (how we keep what we already have/continue to run the business well)
  • value creation (what we need to do differently/how we build a sustainable competitive advantage)

Here’s How the Map Might Look

A talent value map is a clear and simple way of visualizing all the strategic inputs that a company may require to reach its objectives. In the above sample, the map was created starting with organizational goals (i.e. right to left) yet delivery will start with the people and skills (i.e. left to right).

Screen Shot 2013-03-18 at 7.09.46 AM

Which Metrics?

In creating a talent value map, the metrics chosen will depend upon how strategic and future-focused the talent acquisition strategy is within the organization. Whichever metrics are chosen, consider those that go beyond “departmental successes and challenges.” While it is often relevant to demonstrate the efficiency of the talent acquisition team, efficiency alone is not enough to demonstrate value.

The map should include metrics that have also enhanced alignment and focus of the talent acquisition team to the long-term goals of the organization. The triumvirate of cost, quality, and speed is still alive and relevant in talent acquisition, but we must demonstrate more value than this.

When considering which metrics to use in your talent value map, consider how the map will help you to answer this question: “At the end of the year, how will we know if we’ve been successful?” As an example, Dr. John Sullivan’s recent ERE article, “High-impact Strategic Recruiting Metrics for WOWing Executives”, a number of different measures and metrics are cited which target business-impact. Whichever metrics are targeted as measurements within a map, each should relate back to demonstrating value in a relevant and impactful way to the stakeholders. Used this way, measurements can be used for both operational and strategic discussions; in other words, “what is working,” vs. “where are our value inhibitors?”

Different Maps

Value mapping, as a concept, is not new, and applying it to talent acquisition is an iterative process. It must evolve with the organization and the market context. As we continue to apply this method, every business will have a vastly different map that must be responsive to its own goals and challenges and communicate value in line with its own culture and messaging.

Talent acquisition isn’t just part of the way we create value for customers, shareholders, and partners; rather, as a function, it is an integral creator and contributor to an organization. Without the right talent at the right time and at the right cost, engaged in the right way, any organization will lack competitiveness, agility, and the ability to innovate. This is why organizations should seek a better way to capture, align, and articulate the value of talent acquisition.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to offer specific legal advice. You should consult your legal counsel regarding any threatened or pending litigation.

  1. Jacob Madsen

    It may be me, but I am struggling to understand the enclosed map

  2. Darren Spevick

    I wonder who was asking the question “how can we demonstrate the value of talent acquisition?”. Every company has to employ the services of (not acquire!) individuals (not talent!), the question is by which strategy. The main rationale for RPO / TA has been in theory to reduce costs and become more efficient. If these functions are not even delivering this then the business should be asking where is the “value”. So who was asking the question, was it the companies who do not feel they are getting value from such services, or was it the TA / RPO recruiters who feel they need to justify their existence?

    As an aside, surely it is of more value for companies to invest more of their time and energy in properly integrating people into their businesses to give them the best chance of succeeding, rather than over analysing the value of one or other recruitment strategy. If they did, they would see far better outcomes.

    Darren Spevick |Managing Partner
    Eventum Partners Outcome Focused | Executive Recruitment

  3. Jacob Madsen

    If we use the term and words of talent acquisition rather than the more limited term recruitment then we need to acknowledge what that means and what we are looking to achieve. It cannot (and should in my opinion) not come down to main rationale be about cost but about so much more, making a company/organisation sustainable and taking it to the next level. Surely that is what talent is about here offering my own explanation to this:
    Someone possessing the required skills, ability and background to do fill a job AND that extra 10 to 30% that will make role/function (through the effort, level of engagement, passion etc.) take the company or organisation to the next level. It is what is both a short and long term asset that will contribute above and beyond to what is required. Talent is what distinguishes someone from being a fit to someone being far more than that.
    If that is the case then the whole discussion need to concentrate on the far wider all encompassing aspect of how we get those individuals that possess those abilities and attributes and mind-set.
    I know that the C suite always focus on the cost of things, and so they should, but the whole TA discussion is in this day and age about so much more, so much more encompassing every single aspect of a company/organisation. I believe that is where the core of any wider TA discussion should be rather than the always used and by now aged aspect of for ‘how little can we get it’ Show me where in companies/organisations the discussions are about cost before anything else, – very few places, it is and should be about quality and what it ca do short as well as long term.
    Cost as an element sure, but let it hold no more than overall 20-30% weight of any discussion. Low cost has never equalled superior quality, quality has a price.

  4. Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Jillyan. ISTM that if you’re in an organization that even asks this question, you’re already coming from a situation of (political) weakness. Does anyone have to justify the value of Sales or Finance or Engineering or Production or…? There’s a legal saying that if you’re in a winning situation, you argue the law, and if you’re not, you argue the facts. If you have to use numbers, graphs, etc. it says to me that you’re not in a winning situation.

    Cheers,

    Keith “More Machiavelli, Fewer Metrics” Halperin

  5. Jillyan French-Vitet

    @Jacob Sten Madsen: thank you for your input, here. I am happy to connect 1:1 to discuss the Map example in greater detail!

    @Darren Spevick: thank you also for your input. To answer your questions: 1) who is asking – initially, the question had been brought by my peers. I, however, began asking the same question to my in-house TA professional network/colleagues, many of them in leadership roles, and I was often met with a virtual, blank stare. As a result, it got me thinking and brought me to leverage the Value Mapping methodology as a means of depicting the ‘piece’ of the organizational strategy pie-plan for which a TA department believes it is responsible in contribution. 2) Justifying our existence – By no means am I suggesting this, either as a vendor or in-house. Similar to focus on HR depts looking to position their function more focussed on value-add aligning to an org strategy, I am suggesting any TA dept think and behave in the same fashion.

    I agree, as well, the integration and setting up employees for success is critical, and there is work to be done here, as well!

    @Jacob Sten Madsen – great feedback – I found that many (not all, of course!) TA functions continue to depict success or value-add based on efficiency and productivity, back-looking metrics (i.e. ‘here’s what we’ve done’ vs ‘here’s where we’re going’). In TA, we can (and do) provide more and are a critical piece to supporting our organizations to achieve their company strategy.

  6. Jillyan French-Vitet

    @Keith Halperin – thank you – I was counting on your input, here :) . I will agree with you … to a point. When I was thinking about this concept of ‘value’ and asking my industry colleagues this question, many of them had simply not thought of depicting their function as a tie-in to their organization’s strategy. While that may sound strange, the TA functions remained focused on cost-speed-quality (the last being an ongoing pilgrimage) vs aligning the depiction of their group (like Sales, Finance, Engineering and Production) to an organization’s overall strat plan and objectives. I’m not saying we do this to justify ourselves. What I’m suggesting is that we play a more direct role in communicating the importance of our function to a corporation.

  7. Keith Halperin

    @ Jillyan: You’re very welcome. I agree with you- it’s important to communicate, and sometime the perception of influence/power helps with its actual acquisition- “fake it ’til you make it”…
    It needs to be seen as confident and not plaintive, though…

    :)

    Keith

  8. Ty Chartwell

    Jillyaan, nice work but way to ODish and un-user friendly. Just need a few, key quant metrics that leaders can look at and easily understand the impact on revenue/profit. My managers would shriek if they saw this map.

  9. Jillyan French-Vitet

    @Ty: At a Hiring Manager level, I agree the chart is too conceptual. Curious to know which quant metrics you prioritize and how that speaks to your business leadership?

  10. Keith Halperin

    @ Ty, Jillyan: Heard a good metric today, put as more of a question:
    “Mr./Ms. Hiring Manger: How many thousands of dollars per day are we losing while we wait for you to fill your opening?”

    Keith

  11. Jillyan French-Vitet

    @ Keith, Ty: Keith – I’ve always liked that metric …what about this –> I worked for an organization years ago which took this 1 step further. They deployed a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ practice on requisitions BUT the catch was that if 1 HMgr was unable to fill their req and had been supplied with quality talent, not only did they lose the req, it went to another business unit to add to their headcount. In this example, the hires were for B2B sales … so one leader’s loss was definitely another leader’s gain. Focusing on the value of partnering with recruiters to make hires with impact … it worked very well!

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