7 critical steps in talent pipelining

Tuesday 1st December, 2015

Despite the world becoming increasingly connected and accessible, many organisations continue to grapple with creating effective talent engagement and sourcing initiatives.

My observation of talent strategies is that the successful ones share 7 key elements. When combined, the elements enable successful delivery of robust pipelines of talent that provide measurable hires and referrals. Done well, this process will also begin to provide intelligence for your business, greater awareness of your talent brand and a sustainable resource that reduces cost.

At a high level, the 7 critical pieces look like this:

1. Define a simple goal

Define a simple goal and the 20-second explanation for it. This ensures you will always remember the outcome you are working toward and enable you to bring others along with you on your journey. Give the project a name if that is more engaging for your audience.  As we all know, merit alone does not guarantee the success of business projects, stakeholder engagement is often the key.

Remember that the concepts of ‘Talent’ and ‘Talent Pipeline’ mean different things to different people, so you need to be able to articulate your intent and definitions with simple communication – this is your internal marketing mantra.  

2. Clearly identify Critical Talent and prioritise

Start small. Many resourcing functions have limited resources dedicated to passive recruitment activities. Given the constraints, it’s unlikely you will be able to pipeline all of your critical talent needs and continue to deliver to business-as-usual sourcing and recruitment. Set yourself up for success. Define critical – which by its nature is only a few. Break them down again and prioritise. Deliver small successes and then make them bigger. Ensure you deliver measurable outcomes with impressive impact. This is your internal marketing content.

 3. Communicate, Promote, Communicate – Repeat.

You can’t listen too much. Canvass opinion on your planned approach far and wide with the business, remembering that you probably have more interested stakeholders than you think. Ask them, very specifically, to define what ‘success’ looks like to them and don’t settle for the glib answer of, ‘send me the right people’. 

Stakeholders buy into what they define. Gaining insight into what the business wants will help you deliver the right solution. You will be surprised by the varied priorities and be able to leverage common themes.

Proactive talent activity can be a ‘slow burn’, especially initially. Give some thought from the outset to what quick wins you might need to provide to further engage your stakeholders: market intelligence, competitor intelligence and brand perception are just some examples. Promote your work, create dashboards to demonstrate the progress – this is your internal marketing platform.  

4. Start with your internal talent

A great talent strategy has both internal and external succession planning and it begins inside out. Are you providing enough developmental and mobility opportunities for the talent you already have? Better might be out there, but capture data on your internal successors first. This internal view of succession will assist you in the same way the external pipeline will. Create mirror dashboards of your internal talent pipeline – this information takes you to ‘trusted advisor’ status, quickly.

5. Get the mechanics right

The best strategies in the world fall down on detail and execution, so get to know your subject matter:

o Methodology
o Workflow
o Roles and responsibilities
o Metrics
o Leadership sponsorship
o Technology
o Timelines
o Reporting
o Ultimate accountability

The above are just some of the details you need to work out. Moving towards a high-impact talent strategy takes time, so you need to be clear on ‘who is doing what’ in your process – try not to deviate from this, measure activities and make people accountable.

6. Measure

What data and metrics will provide meaningful commercial insights to the business?  Think with the end in mind; how will you measure and justify time spent on proactive talent activity in 6, 12 and 24 months? What does good look like? And what does exceptional look like? Do you need help from an external provider to determine relativities against industry best practice? 

As a starting point, key metrics in pipeline measurement are likely to include:

o Internal candidate pipeline (who will be ready and when)
o ‘Cost per hire’ metrics
o Qualified prospects (by this I mean ready-to-hire, and verbally prequalified in the last three months)
o Engaged prospects (data on people directly ‘engaged’ by the resourcing team and are open to a further discussion)
o Passive candidates presented per hire - i.e. how many candidates were shortlisted from your pipeline
o Ratio of passive candidates in the long list, shortlist and interview list
o Number of candidate referrals from pipeline
o Career website traffic
o Passive voluntary talent pool registrations

7. Pilot

We all want to succeed and be recognised for our successes, so the temptation is to create a big bang and service all the needs of the business at once. Don’t be tempted.

In the words of my favourite motivational speaker, ‘starting small doesn’t mean thinking small’. Start with a pilot, be open to constructive advice and criticism (yes, everyone has a valid opinion), then continue to refine your approach. Keep listening and asking for feedback on your progress. And remember to always circle back, frequently, to the goal you set yourself.

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