3 Questions to Consider Before Implementing a Talent Pipeline

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 12.22.06 PMThe challenge of building a talent pipeline has been a headline topic among recruiting strategists for years, but a majority of firms still don’t see the need or don’t feel they have the resources to do the job right.

A recent survey we conducted found that just 38 percent of employers continuously recruit throughout the year — despite the fact well-managed pipelines can yield real benefits. Two-thirds of those who continuously recruit say their strategy shortens their time to hire and 54 percent say it lowers their cost per hire.

Maintaining and using a pool of interested, qualified candidates for positions that aren’t yet open can be a daunting task. If your organization is still on the fence about talent pipelining or if you are simply not sure about the best course for implementation, the answers to these three questions should provide motivation and direction.

Is the Recruiting Status Quo Costing Your Organization?

If the answer is yes, gathering the right evidence may be all you need to convince leadership to green light a pipelining strategy.

Usually that evidence is found in the effects of frequent, extended job vacancies. Eight in ten employers who currently have unfilled jobs say that positions remain open for eight weeks or longer on average. A recent skills gap survey found that extended vacancies affect company performance in a variety of negative ways:

  • Lower morale due to employees shouldering heavier workloads — 41 percent
  • Work does not get done — 40 percent
  • Delays in delivery times — 34 percent
  • Declines in customer service — 30 percent
  • Lower quality of work due to employees being overworked — 30 percent
  • Employees are less motivated — 29 percent
  • Loss in revenue — 25 percent

If vacancies in high-turnover positions are restricting an organization’s potential, continuous recruitment ostensibly becomes a necessity.

Is Time or Money the Inhibitor to Continuous Recruitment?

Nearly half of recruiters and hiring managers (46 percent) cite “lack of time” as the primary reason for not building a pipeline — 17 points higher than cost (29 percent). In-house HR managers at small and mid-sized firms often juggle multiple responsibilities, so deprioritizing pipelining seems like an inevitable and justifiable tradeoff.

I recently spoke with Kelly Kudola, Americas recruiting manager for Kelly Services, about this issue. She explained that lack of time shouldn’t stand in the way of continuous recruitment for one key reason.

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“Pipeline management and proactive recruiting will only save time in the back end,” she said. “There are so many more resources used in the reactive interviewing and screening process that our recruiters don’t have the time not to continuously recruit.”

In fact, proactive recruitment doesn’t have to be nearly the upfront time investment one might think. Companies should only be pipelining for functions that experience high turnover or are projected to grow in headcount. And candidates can do most of the work, much like the job-application process.

How Will You Engage Your Prospective Candidates? 

A static database of candidates who were at one time interested in working at your company does not constitute a pipeline — or at least a functioning pipeline. Before you implement a continuous recruitment plan, consider how you will initially communicate with the candidate and how you plan to follow up with them as opportunities matching their background arise.

“We want to be respectful of the fact that job seekers are likely in need of a position as soon as possible,” said Kudola. “So if we are interviewing a candidate for a pipeline, we are very clear about the process and what they can expect. There may not be an immediate placement, but as part of our network, we want to position them as the person who gets the next opportunity.”

This philosophy runs counter to the tactic of advertising an opportunity for a pipeline as if it’s an immediate job opening. This will result in loss of jobseeker trust and a degradation of your employer brand more often than not. The only way to keep prospective candidates warm is to keep the conversation going, and when the time comes, deliver relevant career opportunities.

As chief product officer, Hope Gurion leads efforts to identify and pursue growth opportunities for CareerBuilder, specifically relating to innovation and the development of new solutions to help companies of all sizes connect with top talent.


5 Comments on “3 Questions to Consider Before Implementing a Talent Pipeline

  1. Thanks, Hope. It’s been my experience that most companies would rather lay recruiters off at the slightest reduction in water pressure from “the firehose” we’re drinking from, instead of keeping us on to build/maintain pipelines and perform other useful recruiting tasks.


  2. I’m not as cynical as Keith on this one, I just think the time horizon of the hiring effort reflects the time horizon of the aggregate of managers in a given company. If everyone is planning long term, there will be more support for a pipeline. If not, the hiring strategy will follow the lead of those who are hiring and engage along the timeline they dictate, which is usually shorter than is required for building and maintaining a pipeline/talent community. Our society and our businesses in the US tend to be High Time Preference, or more short term, instant gratification oriented.

  3. Absolutely, nurturing a talent pipeline is a strategic necessity for hiring the best people and avoiding costly prolonged job vacancies.

    Any advice on how companies can best create a talent pipeline from scratch?

  4. Hello Keith,

    I enjoyed reading your article as always.

    If employers added a talent assessment to their recruiting process they could hire faster and more effectively. Also, a talent pipeline is nothing more than an applicant pipeline until the employer assesses for job talent. Then the applicants with adequate job talent can fill the talent pipeline.

    80% of employees self-report that they are not engaged.
    80% of managers are ill suited to effectively manage people.
    The two 80 percents are closely related.

    Successful employees have all three of the following success predictors while unsuccessful employee lack one or two and usually it is Job Talent that they lack.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent ??

    Employers do a… ?
    A. Great job of hiring competent employees. ?
    B. Good job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture. ?
    C. Poor job of hiring competent employees who fit the culture and who
    have a talent for the job.

    Identifying the talent required for each job seems to be missing from talent and management discussions. If we ignore any of the three criteria, our workforce will be less successful with higher turnover than if we do not ignore any of the three criteria.
    1. Competence
    2. Cultural Fit
    3. Job Talent

    There are many factors to consider when hiring and managing talent but first we need to define talent unless “hiring talent” means “hiring employees.” Everyone wants to hire for and manage talent but if we can’t answer the five questions below with specificity, we can’t hire or manage talent effectively.
    1. How do we define talent?
    2. How do we measure talent?
    3. How do we know a candidate’s talent?
    4. How do we know what talent is required for each job?
    5. How do we match a candidate’s talent to the talent demanded by the job?

    Most managers cannot answer the five questions with specificity but the answers provide the framework for hiring successful employees and creating an engaged workforce.

    Talent is not found in resumes or interviews or background checks or college transcripts.

    Talent must be hired since it cannot be acquired or imparted after the hire.

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