Internal Talent Relationship Management

For the past few years, companies have had a relatively easy time retaining and recruiting employees in less specialized positions in finance, marketing, accounting, and human resources. But suddenly, the sharks are circling in your talent pool! Some of the employees who were so easy to find and retain for the last few years are the very same ones who are now turning over more frequently and who are harder to find than ever ó and it will likely get worse as the economy continues to recover. So what can you do about it? It has been said that retention is essentially the ongoing recruitment of your own employees. Yet recruiting departments, in their current form, are ill equipped to aid in retention. There are too many requisitions and too few recruiters ó with few metrics or incentives built around retaining the best employees. Many industry experts and consultants have advocated a shift to a model in which recruiters also have responsibility for succession planning. But once again, the question of resources emerges. In a more robust economy, it becomes very hard to justify devoting resources to anything but playing requisition catch-up ó even though it can be said that concerted employee retention efforts ultimately reduce recruiting’s workload. As the demand picks up for all types of employees (cue the theme to Jaws), internal talent relationship management ó the process of maintaining proactive talent relationships with your current employees ó can be one of the best forms of shark repellant in your arsenal. TRM Defined Talent relationship management initiatives focus on maintaining relationships with hundreds and even thousands of the best candidates who the recruiting team is not able to proactively manage. These are the highly talented individuals who are probably sitting in your resume database right now with out-of-date information, or who applied for a position that you were just about to fill, only to never hear from you again. They are the individuals who are good potential fits with your company but think of your recruiting process as a resume vortex. They might think twice before taking the time to fill out another profile or cover letter. Using a combination of periodic phone contact, timed and segmented email campaigns, candidate service options, relevant employment website content, job search agent technology, and loyalty programs, some companies are beginning to better manage their talent relationship pipeline. The best of these companies have made this a systematic part of their process, reducing fill time and advertising costs in the process, generating qualified referrals, and elevating and communicating their employer brands. If these techniques work when you’re on the hunt for other companies’ best employees, wouldn’t they also work when your own employees are the prey? Leveraging Your Internal Talent Pool Research has shown that internal candidates experience many of the same frustrations as external candidates:

  • They may not hear back from you regarding internal transfer or advancement opportunities.
  • They may feel like they were wooed to your company with promises of “unlimited opportunities,” but the reality is that they are never actively approached with other opportunities and are not overtly encouraged to look for internal opportunities.
  • The proverbial bait-and-switch occurs, i.e. the employer brand messages that you spent so much money communicating to them as you recruited them disappear the moment that they start, never to return again.

Internal TRM works in much the same way that external TRM does. Through a systematic process of proactive contact, relevant content, phone and email communications, candidate service options, loyalty programs, and job search agent technology, you can help ensure your best employees exhaust their internal options before they even think about moving to another company. Internal TRM begins with a branded internal mobility program, consisting of detailed internal transfer policies, resources, website information, and internal job search and online application functionality with more detailed job descriptions for internal candidates. This provides a great backbone for internal TRM efforts, but again, the idea is to be proactive about continually recruiting and engaging the most talented individuals in your company and building loyalty by demonstrating to your employees that you really care about helping them advance in their careers. In addition to a branded internal mobility program, other ways to get more proactive with your internal TRM efforts include:

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  • Promoting tools like job search agents for your employees, so they can be emailed immediately when a job matching their interests becomes available
  • Creating employee loyalty and motivation programs
  • Getting involved in succession planning, if resources allow (or at least communicating the importance of succession planning to the field)
  • Hosting or sponsoring educational events or lunches for your company’s employees on how they can be considered for internal transfers
  • Actively communicating with hiring managers on the benefits for the company of allowing their employees to look at other internal opportunities
  • Creating ongoing relationship marketing campaigns targeted towards your internal audience that are timed for maximum impact. For example, the two-and-a-half-year point would be a good time to send an email to employees in positions that turn over once every three years, reminding them of career opportunities internally

An Early Example of Internal TRM Alaska Airlines, based in Seattle, is one excellent example of a company that has taken on an internal TRM initiative. As they launched their new applicant tracking system, they strongly encouraged internal employees to fill out profiles and job search agents within their new system, regardless of whether they were looking for other work. Employer-branded emails began showing up in employees’ inboxes, while articles in their employee newsletter extolled the benefits of “keeping your career here.” Hiring managers also received a separate set of communications that outlined the initiative and what it meant for them. The efforts resulted in a better idea of the depth of the internal talent pool, while giving recruiters the tools to proactively contact their internal employees with opportunities as they became available. Alaska also demonstrated how committed they were to helping its employees grow in their careers, while reinforcing its employer brand to the internal audience. With all of the other companies beginning to swim in (and feast on) your talent pool, internal TRM should be an increasingly important component of your recruitment and retention efforts. It doesn’t necessarily require a huge increase in resources to have an impact. (Note: The example above represents a very early example. If you have examples (hat you can share of what your company does to help continually recruit your internal employees, please share them by writing a review!)

Dave Lefkow is currently the CEO of talentspark (, a consulting firm that helps companies use technology to gain a competitive advantage for talent, and a regular contributor to ERE on human capital, technology, and branding related subjects. He is also an international speaker on human capital trends and best practices, having spoken in countries as close as Canada and as far away as Malaysia and Australia. His consulting work has spanned a wide variety of industries and recruiting challenges with companies like Starbucks, Boeing, HP, Microsoft, Expedia, Washington Mutual, Nike and Swedish Medical Center.


4 Comments on “Internal Talent Relationship Management

  1. Well said Dave. My hope is that the powers that be ‘get it’. Of course if they do not those of us who are in the TPR sector will continue to thrive and feed off of their employees as the market continues to heat up and your article so accurately describes.

    Using the ‘A good offence is the Best defense’ analogy seems to be most appropriate. As a professional ‘headhunter’ I was always looking for organizations who were behaving poorly towards thier employees or getting bad press for whatever legitimate reason. We all know who they are and were so they became not uneasy pickings.

    I will often ask the question to a perspective candidate ‘if they made you CEO in the morning what are the first three things you would do to improve or make a difference in your company or maybe your situation?’ The response is a good indicator as to what the ‘hot buttons’ might be.

    Just my opionion.

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