The Top 3 Traits of Next-Gen Talent Acquisition Leaders

What are businesses demanding of next-generation talent acquisition leaders? 

Over the past 12 months, my team and I have completed numerous TA leadership searches for companies of all shapes and sizes — all of which bear out that a TA leader’s role continues to evolve well beyond traditional responsibilities (and boundaries) of merely filling jobs. More than just organizational figureheads, TA leaders have consistently amassed greater responsibility as the scope of their position has expanded and the realm of recruiting has transformed. 

But before I get into what companies look for most in their future TA leaders, it’s worth taking a look at the past to understand how we got here.

A Brief History of Modern TA Leadership

As we entered the post-Y2K era, TA leaders were focused on implementing tools and technology to drive standard processes and compliance. Recruiting began its move out of old filing cabinets and fax machines and into shiny new applicant tracking systems. You can understand why recruiters quickly embraced such software. It was a convenient way to sift through applications, resumes, and support much-needed process management. 

Over the past decade, as the economy boomed and unemployment rates remained low, TA leaders were forced to become savvy marketers. An ATS was no longer just a place to house candidates; it also became a source of leads whom recruiters could engage by using advanced CRM and marketing techniques. Candidates quickly became customers, and we saw a heavy emphasis placed on strategy and tools to augment candidate experience and recruitment marketing. 

In the last five years, TA professionals have been pressed to consistently prove their value by driving recruiting performance through key performance indicators and service-level agreements. At the same time, there has been a push to develop advanced sourcing programs that uncover and engage in-demand talent in a near full-employment economy. 

Which brings us to today. As I am writing this, TA leaders must weather the storm that is COVID-19 and guide their organizations through uncharted waters. With that in mind, here are the top three themes that have emerged when talking with CHROs and management teams about the recruiting leadership they need for the future.

The TA Leader of Tomorrow

1. The Technocrat

The same priorities of the last two decades continue to fill modern TA leaders’ agendas. With hundreds of recruiting-related technology platforms in the market today, determining the right mix of tools and resources can be overwhelming. Artificial intelligence, programmatic media, and mobile enablement are all designed to enhance the candidate experience, improve outcomes, and deliver business value. But at what cost? And what are the real results?

Across the board, our clients are seeking TA leaders capable of evaluating the current suite of available recruiting tools to secure a maximum return on investment.

2. The Credible Business Leader

Reputation problems continue to plague numerous organizations and their recruiting functions. While certain recruiters may be credible with certain hiring managers, other senior executives at many companies nonetheless remain underwhelmed by their organization’s TA department. We’ve repeatedly heard our clients’ pleas for TA leaders who can effectively develop teams that can connect their work with that of their hiring managers, thereby serving as trusted advisors to their clients.

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Consequently, TA leaders need to act as strong player-coaches in aiding the new generation of recruitment specialists in developing intangible and intuitive skills that separate good from great  recruiters.  

3. The Agile Strategist

As the change of pace in business continues to accelerate, TA leaders need to be agile. These individuals must be prepared to ramp up, dial down, and change directions — often all at the same time.

A great HR leader once told her management team that when it comes to recruiting, there are three outcomes: fast, good, and cheap — but you can only pick two! If you need something fast and of great quality, you will likely pay a little more. If you are on a tight budget and need to move fast, there will be trade-offs in terms of quality. If it’s got to be great and you don’t have much budget, it’s likely going to take a little longer. Rarely do all of these things come together in one package.

The modern TA leader is challenged with developing a scalable service to the organization that requires smart “build vs. buy” decisions that account for more than just cost. Often TA sees it as a badge of honor to do everything in-house. But hiring more recruiters is not always the answer when demand spikes. Buying services through RPO, purchasing research data, and hiring recruitment marketing firms are all levers that TA leaders have at their disposal. All costs considered, such options may deliver greater value over a large fixed overhead or over-taxing an in-house team.

The need for a forward-thinking leader to manage your recruiting organization has never been greater. In the face of today’s uncertainty, the strongest and steadiest TA professionals must skillfully steer their teams in the right direction.

What skills do you see as most in demand as you face the challenges ahead? I would love to hear from you.

Allicia Han is a senior vice president who leads the Executive Search practice for TalentRise. In this position, Allicia builds authentic relationships with clients and candidates, drives process and outcomes, and maintains a rigorous attention to detail. With more than 20 years of experience at Fortune 500 corporations and global search firms, Allicia has the unique ability to match candidates with clients through her expert assessment of competency, potential, and cultural fit.

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