An agile TA process solves many of the talent challenges today’s multinationals are facing.
By Marta Chmielowicz
Imagine this: An organisation is seeking a candidate to fill a newly open leadership position. A team of recruiters gets to work and just a few days later, there’s already several promising options on the table, with contract workers ready to fill the temporary talent gap in the meantime. But that’s not all—the search has revealed potential candidates for a variety of other positions that aren’t even listed yet. Not only have recruiters filled the existing job opening quickly and efficiently, but they have delivered a top-of-the-line experience, engaged a number of high-quality potential hires, and made strides to solve their organisation’s future hiring challenges.
This situation is describing an agile talent acquisition (TA) process. Rather than being reactive, it is proactive—committed to forecasting top company priorities and incrementally finding solutions.
“Most TA organisations are seeking to operate with added speed and lower costs, all whilst driving higher quality candidates with a strong emphasis on the candidate experience,” says Mitzi Shafar, lead consulting partner for the Americas at Talent Collective, the consulting arm of Alexander Mann Solutions. “The agile process is fundamentally breaking the process down into stages and aligning them around talent segments rather than trying to deliver everything all at once.”
According to Sally Hunter, senior vice president of Cielo Europe, an agile approach is best suited to multinational businesses with a wide geographical reach and elaborate growth strategies. To contend with global talent shortages and local complexities, these types of organisations require a flexible approach to talent forecasting and talent acquisition.
“With processes broken down into logical stages, they can then be aligned to critical talent segments within key geographies. This allows the process to become ‘localised’ to fit the geographical hiring guidelines, whilst still ensuring the timeliness and quality of the hires,” Shafar explains.
If deployed consistently and correctly, an agile TA process can deliver the following benefits:
- faster access to talent;
- increased quality of talent;
- improved candidate and hiring manger experience;
- better collaboration and higher innovation across recruitment teams; and
- more efficient response to business needs.
How can organisations develop an agile framework? Here are some best practices:
1. Engage skilled recruiters. Adopting an agile approach requires a level of innovation and creativity seldom found on talent acquisition teams. “The best agile recruiters today need to be both wide and deep, meaning they need to have a deep understanding of what is needed for a particular role, but also need to be innovative and agile to look at non-traditional candidates as roles evolve,” says Jeanne MacDonald, global co-operating executive and president of global talent solutions of Korn Ferry’s RPO and professional search business.
Recruitment teams that choose to adopt agile TA should be highly skilled, experienced, and trusted by their organisations and the broader hiring community. That way, they are better positioned to gain a seat at the leadership table and perform with the freedom and confidence they need to be truly agile.
2. Communicate value. To successfully implement an agile process, HR professionals need to gain the full support of the C-suite. “This leads to more creative and agile collaboration rather than having to follow a strict process and monitoring sub-cycle metrics,” says Hunter.
In order to make a business case for the initiative, Hunter says that HR professionals should raise the profile of the HR function by connecting their key initiatives with direct business goals and outcomes.
“For an agile talent acquisition process to be effective, it must start with the strategic objectives of the organisation,” says MacDonald. “Is the strategy M&A? Rapid new product introduction? Expansion into emerging markets? That strategy should be the basis for the talent acquisition strategy. However, even with a set strategy, business needs evolve daily.”
Once senior leadership is on board, talent leaders can assess the people, resources, and organisational support they need to become agile and establish champions of the initiative. These champions will lead all other talent acquisition professionals, offering them feedback, support, and guidance during the transformation process.
“The change management effort starts by ensuring that hiring managers understand the benefits of the agile framework and how the process of recruitment will look. Therefore, clear and transparent communication is a must! The older TA models that have recruitment working in an order taker versus a trusted advisor to fill critical requisitions are becoming obsolete,” Shafar says.
3. Focus on outcomes. How can HR professionals set priorities within an agile framework and communicate the value of this approach to their leaders and teams? According to Hunter, linking the goals of the initiative with specific business outcomes is essential.
“If the business has typically seen the TA function as transactional, then going agile means asking for more collaboration from both sides,” she says. “They will need to partner to focus more on outcomes rather than how those outcomes are achieved… Effective management during this transition is linked to high quality and outcome-based communication, coupled with significant engagement amongst the key recruitment team members and leadership beforehand.”
By focusing on outcomes, HR leaders can also easily track the ROI of the new agile approach and its impact on key performance indicators such as time to fill, quality of hire, productivity, and more.
4. Create a demand forecast. Another key element of successful agile TA adoption is the ability to forecast future talent demand and identify pivotal roles that will impact business performance. This process of planning and predicting talent needs enables a marriage between the agile talent acquisition process and workforce planning—particularly, total workforce solutions, or the practice of securing the best possible talent from all types, including permanent, contingent, contract, and seasonal workers.
“The key to ensuring an optimal agile process is proper workforce planning,” says Shafar. “This is crucial to determine critical and priority roles within the business. Agile recruiting teams need to be established in pods, working together cohesively around critical talent segments to manage requisitions appropriately based on priority. Prioritising functions or pieces of the process ensures your recruiting teams are focusing on the high value opportunities and not wasting time on less significant actions that barely move the needle towards your key goals.”
5. Leverage analytics. But to accurately forecast workforce needs, HR professionals need to leverage the latest in data, analytics, and technology. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the traditional applicant tracking systems (AST) and customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, Hunter says. “Your typical ATS and CRM can report on an agile process just fine, but you’ll need a more expansive approach to insight and an analytics platform that can handle process performance data, market data, and employee data, and then use that information to create one piece of insight,” she adds.
Investment in AI-enabled technologies can enable the data collection process as well as free up valuable time for recruiters. “Technology and AI that can handle tasks, such as sourcing, helps make recruiters more time-efficient, agile, and productive, and it also helps find the right candidates,” says MacDonald.
And according to Shafar, succession planning and talent management software can also prove to be a valuable asset. Technologies that help nurture talent and identify high potentials in the leadership pipeline can alert recruiters to promising candidates already in the system. “Utilisation of the succession planning and internal mobility platforms to help identify internal talent give agile teams the insights they need to make smart decisions in real time based on actual funnel data. Programmatic media and attraction insight platforms can also provide real time insights at the front-end of the recruitment process, allowing the team to see how well a requisition is performing in the marketplace within the first (and most critical) 48 hours of the job posting,” she explains.