It’s Time to Set Talent Acquisition Free

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Apr 13, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

It is time to cut the tether on talent acquisition. It is time to release it from the harbor of HR and let it move out into the business where it belongs as an independent operating, standalone business function. Mentioned in my other article, Human Resources Deconstructed, the talent acquisition function is primed for its own spotlight.


Talent acquisition was incubated inside the walls of the HR department as a recruiting function. It continued to morph with the advancement of technology and search tools. The function then broadened beyond the service of recruiting to include other programs such as workforce planning, research, selection, university relations, and onboarding. Yet recruiting remains at the core.

The increased speed in which an organization evaluates, selects, and onboards talent significantly impacts operations through productivity and opportunity gains. The legitimacy of the TA function has been proven through both quantitative and qualitative metrics.

It has evolved beyond the administrative and compliant focused walls of the HR office into a strategic partner with business leaders. The function provides different services from their HR counterparts. Further proof of the function’s viability is the advent of software and other technical applications that have been developed exclusively for this function.

Additionally, corporate financial models have been created to fund these functions as service centers to support the business. The idea is that these internal “staffing businesses” manage monies more effectively in the acquisition of talent by creating improved productivity and ROI. The path is clear for TA to unhook the tether and report directly into the CEO.


The argument could be made that well-managed corporate talent acquisition functions already run relatively autonomously and report into the head of HR. Why change? Well, often, they do not have direct access to the CEO or other C-suite leaders where real influence happens.

Talent acquisition is different from HR functions, as most focus on the administration and compliance of employment laws and regulations, and the retention and development of employees; not to minimize the importance of these roles, but the relationship of talent acquisition with the business is different. It is not about helping with employee matters. It is about finding talent … now. It is more akin to sales because of the direct impact on revenue.

Talent acquisition is about going to war … internally and externally. A recruiter’s reputation is often measured by the success of their last hire. Hiring managers can be relentless in their demands and requirements for finding talent. TA leaders learn to partner and counter by formulating demand planning models, develop processes and metrics, report out regularly as to cost per hire and time to fill, and consult on solutions to challenges. Yet, a strong function can be trivialized by a simple answer to a simple question from a C-suite level executive to a hiring manager: “Is recruiting working?” “No.”

This feedback, though it’s a simple example, can impact the function’s priorities and focus when presented by C-level leadership through the head of HR to the TA leader. Plus, the perception of the function can be affected. If the TA leader reports directly into the CEO, the dialogue and situation is handled more effectively. Expectations might not be altered, but the TA leader is in a significantly better position to respond and lead versus anything being lost in translation looking through the lens of HR or Finance or Operations or Legal. It is time to empower the function.


All companies are in the people business, and are in denial if they think differently. A real talent shortage exists, not a shortage of people rather a shortage of talent. Skill development has not kept pace with the change of business and in-demand skills. Therefore, companies must invest in its people strategies to compete short and long term. This investment should include the restructuring of the TA function as a standalone business unit, reporting directly into the CEO.

The vision for the function is clear: it offers an in-depth understanding of the core talent that runs the business, the high potentials, and critical positions that need to be duplicated and replicated in the event they leave … and they will. It is the analysis of skill gaps within the company and the retirement dates of those with tribal knowledge and a plan to replace them before they leave. It is the intelligence of the marketplace to develop a living database that grows to support a just-in-time hiring model nurtured with active pipelines of talent, not only for today but for tomorrow.

TA should be a function that works closely with HR and walks alongside business leaders to understand the annual workforce plan even better than the leaders themselves do, as well the knowledge of where to find and how to select talent. It anticipates attrition and displacement, and tries to re-deploy talent elsewhere in the business or out in the business community as a friendly employer. The function is known on college campuses and helps drive intern programs. It owns the development of the employment value proposition and partners with marketing to define the employment brand which helps feed the workforce plan and the perpetual effort needed to be and sustain a successful company.

My colleague reminded me this is not a new idea and was tried in the 1990s with mixed success. As with many business ideas, timing is everything, it is time to cut the tether (again).


image from bigstock

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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