Emerging Talent Acquisition Trends For 2010: Are You Ready for a Roller Coaster? (Part III of III)

Jan 6, 2010
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

iStock_000000259304XSmall(2)In the final installment of this series, I’d like to focus on two remaining action areas that organizations should consider in 2010. Both action areas relate to significant shifts in the broader business environment that talent acquisition leaders must acknowledge, namely a shift in power to global top talent and a shift in privacy concerns.

The Return of the War for Talent Means That Power Shifts

The third action area addresses emerging trends related to the likely return of intense competition for top talent globally. Some in HR dislike the phrase “the war for talent,” but their disdain for the word won’t change the fact that competition for top talent is once again becoming intense, and that obtaining your organization’s fair share or better will require a battle plan. While a global economic slowdown decreased the emphasis on talent acquisition, it didn’t eliminate it, and as economic growth ticks back up many organizations in high-growth industries/areas are once again battling talent shortages (albeit not necessarily labor shortages). As the competition for talent increases, the relative power of the recruiting relationship shifts away from the employer and toward the potential candidate. This shift in power and competition requires you to take certain actions.

Action steps for handling the power shift

There are four primary action steps that you should consider when the competition for attracting and retaining talent once again becomes intense for your organization:

  1. Jugaad is now required: The intense competition for candidates that occurs in a war for talent, coupled with dramatic and continuous changes in recruiting technologies, now require recruiters to continually innovate. Unfortunately, this expectation for continuous innovation must now be accomplished under the existing do-more-with-less resource realities. Executives must learn how to shift away from the well-funded innovation model and toward a leaner and more immediate approach like jugaad. Jugaad is a phrase popularized by managers in India. It fits the bill precisely because the word means low cost, just-in-time innovation. The recruiting process for recruiters will have to be modified so that recruiters are now selected based on their ability to come up with jugaad innovations. In a broader context, because the organization will need many jugaad-type innovators in many of its various jobs, the overall sourcing and assessment approaches for the firm will need to be updated in order to ensure that these innovators are successfully hired wherever they are needed.
  2. Improved candidate experience: As candidates begin to realize that they are now more in the driver’s seat, the talent acquisition function must update its recruiting and interviewing functions so that it becomes more candidate-centric. That means examining and improving the candidate experience, so that more in-demand candidates will engage with the application and screening process and stick with it until a final decision is made.
  3. Redesign onboarding: As the power shifts, it is also more likely that you will lose a higher percentage of new hires immediately after they start, because they will immediately walk away from a “first-week” experience that counters that promised. That means that candidate-centricity must be paired with employee-centricity. Your onboarding process should be updated to ensure that a large percentage of new hires successfully reach their minimum level of expected productivity as rapidly as possible.
  4. Learn how to counter negative employer branding messages: Employer branding has been an important element of most talent acquisition strategies for many years now, despite a relative lack of understanding in branding science. That said, even those who don’t understand or invest in branding initiatives have seen examples of individuals damaging the image of the organization by posting scathing reviews of their experience online. As expanding technologies and social media make it easier for almost anyone to post a negative comment about working at a firm (that can be seen almost immediately by thousands), employers are rapidly losing control over their own brand image. Tools like Google’s sidewiki and websites like are making it even easier for candidates researching jobs to find such commentary. Firms needs to develop a process for identifying negative messages and then either countering them or burying them.

New Recruiting Tools Make Direct Sourcing an Emerging Powerhouse

The final group of emerging talent acquisition trends cover the development of new and exciting recruiting tools that render some traditional tools virtually obsolete. (I’ll be the first to concede that for the average recruiter not much changed in 2009 with regard to technologies and approaches used, but being average doesn’t interest me much!) Innovations often appear at the edge of practice areas and don’t tend to impact the masses for some time.

It wasn’t that long ago that fax machines, newspaper ads, large job boards, and in-person job fairs were considered among the primary tools of recruiters. Fast forward just 10 years and even talking about such tools in a leading talent organization triggers an endless stream of jokes. Despite the status quo of the masses, every new year brings new tools and techniques, some of which make it to fad status and some of which fundamentally alter the game.

The key is to be aware of new tools and approaches and to gauge quickly their trajectory. In an intensive care unit, telemetry nurses are a critical resource because they monitor trends and help prevent critical incidents by escalating cases moving one way or the other rapidly. Today many organizations are on the edge, and a talent acquisition function incapable of recruiting the right talent at the right time paired with a talent management function to make effective use of the talent could put the final nail in the organization’s coffin.

A large number of new and relatively inexpensive Internet tools and approaches that allow organizations to adopt new and exciting recruiting strategies are emerging daily. It’s not acceptable to review a new approach and simply dismiss it as not relevant simply because it doesn’t seem feasible for your organization to adopt. Feasibility is a largely driven by design, and design is largely influenced by need. If organizations focus on addressing the need versus using the tool, often times the right solution is available.

Action steps for identifying and adopting new tools and approaches

There are five key action steps related to emerging recruiting tools and approaches:

  1. Adopt a direct sourcing strategy: Currently most large corporations use a “you find us” approach that involves broadcasting their job vacancies. Because the resulting candidate pool largely consists of talent that has opted to engage in the process, it may contain a wide array of talent your managers wouldn’t want to hire on their most desperate days. The best talent from a pool of crappy talent is still crappy talent! To remedy the situation, invest significantly in direct sourcing initiatives that help your organization identify, reach out to, engage, and convert only the candidates who you determine are highly desirable. This approach will produce a smaller candidate pool, but it will be comprised of higher quality talent. While it may seem infeasible to direct source via an array of fractured online communities, a number of tools are emerging that unify sourcing channels. As more and more people around the globe embrace Internet services that make them more visible, finding talent will no longer be an issue.
  2. Social media: The expanded use of social media is an obvious trend but it will still take some time to develop into an effective sourcing tool. This transition will require the development of source effectiveness metrics and decision criteria to help recruiters understand which of the social media tools they should use, as well as when they work and when they don’t, and why. Recruiting managers will also begin to learn to manage the overall effort but to shift the work of being active on social networks away from recruiters and onto the organization’s employees, i.e. distributed sourcing.
  3. Boomerang re-hires: It should be obvious that if you were forced to lay off some of your top performers during the downturn, that you should now begin to keep in touch with them so that when business improves, you can effectively convince the very best ones to rejoin your organization.
  4. Shift away from active tools: With the rebounding economy, fewer individuals will be unemployed. A lower number of active job seekers will require corporations to shift away from recruiting tools that are designed primarily to attract active candidates. An increased emphasis must be put on tools that are primarily designed to identify and attract employed individuals not actively seeking a new job.
  5. Use the mobile platform: Because data-enabled smart phones are becoming ubiquitous around the globe, I am forecasting that the mobile platform will become the most effective messaging and communications tool in recruiting. If your site isn’t designed to support job seekers and candidates coming from mobile devices, you will lose out on some top talent.

Hot “Should-Be” Topics That Won’t Be

There are a host of topics that should be hot in 2010 that most likely won’t break the surface with regards to popularity. They include:

  • Workforce planning and forecasting is something that recruiting leaders frequently talk about but seldom actually do. If you are one of the very few that want to be an exception, look at the model developed by CapitalOne.
  • New software offerings (from firms like Orca Eyes) that allow your human resources to be managed more scientifically should be the hottest thing on the planet, but since most human resource leaders don’t understand such tools, they likely won’t be.
  • Remote video interviewing is now sophisticated and cheap enough so that it should be used for all but final interviews, but unfortunately manager resistance will limit its comprehensive use.
  • Recruiter competencies need to be dramatically updated, and the recruiting function needs to make the commitment to prioritize jobs and refocus its efforts on recruiting innovators and game-changers, but prioritization is a political topic few leaders seem willing to touch.
  • Remote work is a great recruiting tool and it provides an amazing amount of productivity and flexibility, unfortunately managers still seem to hold on to their desire to watch their employees work in person.
  • Green recruiting and employer branding should be more prevalent than it is.
  • Employer referrals and recruiting at professional events should be dramatically updated but in many firms, these under-appreciated tools will continue to languish.

Final Thoughts

If you follow my work, you probably already know that I have a well-established track record of accurately forecasting HR-related trends. Once again, I’m putting my reputation on the line by forecasting each of the trends that I have identified: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you are a skeptic, I suggest that you make a note on your calendar to revisit this list in 6 or 12 months to assess its accuracy. I also urge you go the next step and set aside some time to have an in-depth discussion with your team about these and other trends that you’ve identified. The key to dramatically improving recruiting results is not just being aware of trends but in developing strategies, plans, and action steps to actually handle these upcoming problems and opportunities.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.