It’s Time to Set Talent Acquisition Free

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 (by the way, I’m moderating an interesting panel at ERE next week about this and related topics … essentially about the state of talent acquisition).

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.

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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

Brenan German ( is founder and president at Bright Talent Resources, Inc., a boutique human resources advisory, project management, and recruiting services firm.

As lead consultant, he acts as an advisor to organizations wanting to re-engineer or develop a high performing, measurable, technology enabled, human resources function. He has over 20 years of hands-on human resources leadership experience developing intelligent and successful talent management functions within some of the country’s most respected and well-known companies such as The Gallup Organization, Edwards Lifesciences, and Black & Decker. His particular expertise involves the alignment of talent management strategies to business goals, and the implementation of systems and processes to reach measurable objectives, demonstrating clearly the bottom-line impact expected of strategic human resources programs.

A graduate of the University of California, Irvine, he is an active participant in a number of organizations: chair of the Orange County Employment Managers Association, founding board member of the Talent Acquisition Group of San Diego, member of the Society for Human Resources Management, and Advisor to Sigma Pi International Educational Foundation.


8 Comments on “It’s Time to Set Talent Acquisition Free

    1. Mike, good question. First, I did not intend the article to say “TA is where it’s at” in the context of it being more valuable than HR. My intent is to say HR and TA are equally valuable rather TA is different than HR. Second, coincidentally, I started my business as a TA advisory firm however someone wise early in my business endeavor taught me to listen to my clients and they will tell me what they need. My clients asked for services beyond TA and I broadened my services to include other subject matter expertise such as HRIS, compensation, and OD. TA advisory remains a core part of our business, it’s no longer the only focus. Again, thanks for the question.

      1. Hey Brenan, I was just taking a friendly jab. I have been around long enough and have heard many times the argument about taking recruiting out of HR. I think we are better off trying to improve the standing of HR in general and making it more strategic. One of the ways of doing that is by improving TA along with the rest of HR.

        1. Mike, friendly jab taken, this is all fun. I agree opportunities exist to improve parts of HR, we differ in that I think the timing is right for TA to operate independently. Either way, I am glad the article solicited your feedback. Thanks for engaging.

  1. Brenan, thanks for a well-written article and your contributions to our community. Although, I disagree wholeheartedly to your argument, thanks for the opportunity to respond.

    This argument, that TA should be separate from “but walk alongside” HR is silly. Is the gist of this article that ” because HR is administrative and transactional and not strategic”, that TA should “cut the tether” and move on because TA isn’t administrative and transactional and thus more strategic? (which I dare say is mostly aspirational as well).

    If that is the gist, then why not make the argument that ALL of HR should be better and change? In fact, the overall HR function SHOULD be focused on all things people-related, and the head of HR SHOULD be focused on the TA function as much as the other people-related functions. Just because you may have observed -SOME- HR functions or CHRO’s who are not close to their C-level colleagues and other key business leaders, does NOT mean that –ALL– HR functions are this way. In fact, I can name far more CHRO’s and HR functions that highly integrate Talent Acquisition into the rest of a strategic people-strategy, than those that are “administrative and transactional”.

    Furthermore, the idea that TA should function separate from the rest of TA is not a great idea at all…because a success practice that I have seen so often recently, is the idea that TA does NOT operate separately, but in fact they know what happens AFTER someone joins the organization and how they are onboarded, trained, developed, and supported throughout their employee experience.

    This kind of article seeks to separate TA and HR in a self-serving way to benefit only TA people who feel “burdened” by being part of HR, but in most large organizations, CEOs and the C-suite could care less on this– having all people related functions in the hand of competent, strategic, and connected CHROs and a talent team of HR professionals (including TA teams) is what everyone is looking for. Seeking to “untether” TA from HR is trying to find a fix to a broader issue– that is to optimize and holistically engage all HR functions in the consultative and strategic resources that effective companies and C-suite leaders need. It would be a serious mistake to “untether” TA. Its an argument that has been raised by many, but implemented by few for years… and for good reason.

    1. Jeremy, thank you for taking the time to read the article and respond. I love this forum for this reason, to open dialogue and constructively challenge one another on ideas with the hope that it might inspire innovation, in the least conversation.

      First let me clarify the correct conjunction used in the first sentence you quote, TA should separate “and” walk alongside HR. I didn’t use “but” because that negates the relationship. Which would be “silly.”

      The gist of the article, or at least how you interpreted, was not to declare TA be separated because it is more strategic and less administrative or tactical. The purpose of the article was to challenge the idea of TA as part of the HR function. From an organizational perspective, I understand how TA fits into the overarching strategy of a single people function. I get it.

      And I agree this suggestion is not for ALL organizations, especially those HR functions you describe as strategically aligned and valued by the C-Suite. Rather this suggestion is for the CHRO who doesn’t like recruiting because of the noise it generates, or for the TA leader who feels they stand alone on an island in HR, or for the businesses who view HR as an administrative function, or for growth companies that want dedicated emphasis on people acquisition.

      This has been tried in the past with mixed results however I believe we are now in better position to separate than before. We now have all the makings of a function, as I state in my article, to stand alone.

      If we simply say TA is a people function therefore should remain in HR and not ask the question, “why?” then as a function we will not advance. It’s my experience, as a former corporate TA/HR leader and consultant, talent acquisition runs differently than the other functions of HR. The idea to separate challenges the status quo which I hoped would generate dialogue and that’s the true gist of this article.

      You also mention I could argue that all of HR should be better and change, coincidentally, I have made that argument in a separate article titled Human Resources Deconstructed, which can be found on the blog section of my website I make the argument that HR can be better and should change, transforming into a People and Culture function.

  2. Thanks, Brenan. This comes up every few years. Personally, I don’t CARE where Recruiting (I find the term “Talent Acquisition” pretentious, like the people who call themselves “Thought Leaders”) is as long as they give us the resources and autonomy to do our jobs, which is to put quality butts in chairs in a timely, cost-effective way. At the same time, if you’re going to put us somewhere, it might as well be in Maintenance, as we’re always having to clean up other people’s messes…

    1. Keith, thanks for the response to the article and for the laugh. You make a compelling argument for sure.

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