Recruiting and Talent Management Trends for 2005

It’s better to be prepared than surprised. Almost every pundit who has examined the year 2005 has come to the conclusion that it will be a year of dynamic change ó and there is no reason to expect that recruiting will be exempt from this rapid change. Unfortunately, recruiting is a field where managers and recruiters tend to react to events as opposed to forecasting and planning ahead for them. In my professional, consulting, and academic career, I have found that only a handful of firms and recruiting departments expect changes and have a logical, department-wide process for preparing for them. These preparations can range from elaborate forecasts and workforce plans to simpler “if/then” scenarios, where individual functional managers are presented with a series of “what if” situations and each is expected to be able to, on the spot, outline their response to the “what if” situation should it occur. As an individual practitioner ó regardless of what approach your department takes, and no matter how the busy you are ó if you expect to be successful and strategic, you need to prepare for a range of likely changes in both the business and the recruiting environment. If you are one of the few who are willing to take the time to be prepared rather than surprised, here are some trends you are likely to see and read about in the upcoming year. 17 Hot (and Getting Hotter) Trends in Recruiting and Talent Management

  1. An increased emphasis on assessment. After sourcing, assessment is the highest impact area in traditional recruiting. If, for example, you recruited Tiger Woods but rejected him because “he wore that silly Nike cap throughout the interview,” you will certainly not end up with a large number of high quality hires. Some of the hot areas you can expect in assessment include online technical skill assessments, the increased use of simulations (online and during interviews), improving the screening of diversity candidates, and better metrics to identify and validate the most effective screening tools and approaches.
  2. Internet networking emerges. Although still in its infancy, expect firms and vendors to continue to explore whether Internet “social” networks can become an effective sourcing tool. I’m pessimistic myself, but this is a new area worth following. Internet blogs are another area with unproven potential.
  3. The emergence of workforce planning. As the business environment and the world economy continue to change at a rapid rate (in particular, expect impacts from trade deficits, the strength of the dollar, government deficits, and increased free trade), recruiting and talent management managers will be forced to shift their focus to the future. That means an increased emphasis on forecasting, and workforce planning that is integrated into every aspect of recruiting and retention.
  4. A focus on internal redeployment. Perhaps the most ignored area of recruiting and talent management is the internal movement of employees to the “right job at the right time.” Companies like Motorola and Microsoft have already done pioneer work in this area, but other firms will soon realize that recruiting can play a key role in moving key talent more rapidly within the organization. The proactive movement of employees to the “right job at the right time” increases retention, development, and employee productivity.
  5. Employment branding. External employment branding is literally the only effective long-term recruiting strategy available to directors of recruiting. Top firms like Starbucks, Intel, Cisco, Marriott, Dell, Wal-Mart, and Microsoft have been focusing on employment branding for years, but expect other firms to jump on the bandwagon. There is literally nothing you can do that will have a greater long-term strategic impact than being talked about in the media for being a well-managed firm that is also a good place to work. Work closely with product branding, PR, and marketing to help develop an effective employment branding strategy.
  6. An increased focus on “selling.” As the economy turns around, candidates will have many more job choices. Convincing them to take your job will become extremely difficult. New strategies and approaches will have to be developed (or revived from the ’90s) to “sell” candidates on applying to your firm and get them to accept your offers.
  7. A laser focus on the employed top performer. The time has finally come when the majority of recruiting and hiring managers will begin to focus the majority of their resources on finding currently employed top performers (some use the term “passive job seeker”). Because employed top performers are harder to convince, increased emphasis will be placed on market research tools to identify their job-switch criteria.
  8. A renewed focus on the most effective sources. The slowdown in recruiting during the last few years has allowed recruiting managers to get sloppy about identifying the best sources for candidates. The new hiring boom will force corporate recruiting managers to use metrics to identify the best recruiting sources for top performers. Most will find their very best sources for top performers to be targeted employee referrals, professional referrals, professional events, external employment branding, and Internet search engines that find information on candidates when they have not posted a resume. This also means a continued trend toward the decreased use of newspaper ads, brochures, ineffective job sites, and job fairs.
  9. Tying recruiting and retention together. As the economy improves and employee engagement continues to drop, expect turnover among top performers to skyrocket (one recent study showed 75% of employees are now willing to look for new job). Unless HR departments begin focusing on identifying individuals at risk of quitting and eliminating the causes of their frustration, recruiting will be stretched beyond its limits.
  10. A continued emphasis on outsourcing. Although most outsourcing has failed to demonstrate its ROI, the continued emphasis on cost cutting and the need for a more strategic focus will keep this a hot area. Wise managers will examine outsourcing in the area of referral administration, “name identification,” reference checking, and ATS outsourcing.
  11. Globalization finally arrives. This year will mark the point where actions will finally overcome the talk about the need to recruit globally. Recruiting managers should soon expect to be asked to include at least one global candidate in every key search. Recruiting will also be asked by senior management where the work (and the workforce) should be placed around the globe in order to maximize productivity.
  12. A renewed focus on the contingent workforce. As hiring ramps up, conservative CFOs will expect recruiting managers to have a plan to ensure that your firm can quickly “release” a percentage of the workforce should the economy falter. This means an increased emphasis on the use of employment contracts, part-timers, retirees, temps, and contract workers.
  13. Referrals remain king. Despite all the talk and the real advances in technology, nothing will come close to the effectiveness of a “no tech,” proactive referral program, where you directly ask your top employees to identify, screen, and pre-sell the best in their field.
  14. Emerging new technology arrives. Vendors have finally begun to realize that the current generation of technology has only made a minimal impact on recruiting. Expect new technologies and approaches that will finally begin to meet their initial promise of revolutionizing recruiting. Recruiting managers must demand technology that’s smart and that learns from its successes and mistakes. They should also expect new breakthroughs in Internet search engines, candidate assessment, strategic metrics, and resume sorting technology.
  15. A focus on leadership positions. As more senior leaders retire, there will be increased emphasis on recruiting “potential leaders” from top firms both within and outside your industry. Expect firms to target companies like GE, Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Wal-Mart, Ikea, SC Johnson, Pepsi, American Express, FedEx, Southwest Air, IBM, McKinsey, Toyota, and even the military.
  16. Strategic metrics become king. This will be the breakthrough year when the focus will finally shift away from distracting and low impact “tactical” metrics (cost per hire, time to fill, number of hires, etc.) and toward more strategic metrics like quality of hire, hiring from competitors, ROI, and workforce productivity.
  17. Corporate websites reawaken? After too many years of boring, ineffective, and often embarrassing corporate websites…expect nothing to happen. This is unfortunately remains true, because until one firm creates a breakthrough website, no one else will have the courage to act in this follow-the-leader field.

In addition to the above, you should also expect:

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  • Continued difficulties in recruiting in industries like healthcare, retail, the military, construction, and high-tech
  • Continued pressure to cut the administrative burden in recruiting
  • Managers to continue to blame recruiting for all recruiting and retention problems, even though managers are often at fault
  • High-volume hiring (as a result of corporate growth and higher turnover) that will overwhelm your current systems
  • Difficulty in recruiting and retaining great recruiters
  • Corporate recruiting departments to operate without well-developed and communicated recruiting strategies
  • Continued difficulties in getting managers to pay attention to recruiting as their workload increases
  • More consolidation in the large job board firms
  • The renewed war for talent to become the buzz word of the year
  • Recruiting advertising agencies to continue their transition into recruiting consulting firms
  • Nothing new from the EEOC or in legal restrictions on recruiting
  • No change in the dismal, behind-the-times field of college recruiting
  • Google and Wachovia to be emerging benchmark firms in recruiting

Conclusion I hope that you find this list of trends helpful in preparing for the future. Whether you agree with each of them or not, the key lesson to be learned is that you need to be constantly looking ahead rather than just reacting to events. Once you adopt the philosophy that it’s better to be prepared than surprised, you are already well on your way to becoming more important and strategic. Knowing about the future is only the first step. If you fail to act, no amount of warning or forecasts will have any impact.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website and on He lives in Pacifica, California.



2 Comments on “Recruiting and Talent Management Trends for 2005

  1. Dr. John,

    Thank you for having the courage to speak the truth.

    Social Networking – I believe strongly they can and do ‘work’. Fortunately, I’m in an environment where these tools are valued. Having been down this road in 2004 already, I’ll share that I’m finding candidates as I network in as great a magnitude as those that are referred by those in the network. This is why I say ‘I believe’ they work, vs ‘they work’. If the trend continues the way it is going, the experiences I’m having are tilting strongly towards, ‘they work’. They work for locating points of contact, referrals, candidates themselves etc.

    **** Big confession – only after a great deal of trial and error and reaching critical mass did the results I dreamed about become a possibility. It is a significant time investment.

    Two issues :

    1. Time – many environments do not see the value of social networking – primarily because they have not implemented it correctly, therefore the staff is not encouraged and supported sufficiently to take the time to build the networks that deliver the results desired. Yes, social networking does not work if you don’t have a viable network that is sufficient to deliver the desired results. If you take the time and effectively build the network, then you are 50% there.

    2.Many recruiters do not have the skillset to network at the level the strategic environment requires, but that is a separate issue from whether the social networks work. I’m risking mental flaming here, but hear me out, I’m not saying recruiters in general can’t network. Compared to most we are as a rule good networkers. There are however, many levels of mastery and many do not have the exceptional level of skill that the passive recruiting battlefield will require. Note I said ‘many’ not all. There are pockets of forward thinking recruiters out there who have quality networks that they are expert in utilizing to make ‘A’ hires.

    Selling – communicating with your candidate to determine what their unmet needs are to determine how your offering can meet those needs…..IMHO…falls under ‘fit’ and never went out of style. Point taken that due to a more plentiful abundance of job seekers that portion of the dialogue may have not been as emphasized as in the past. You are so right on this one. If you can’t sell them, your level of selling skill will earn you the opportunity to search again. There won’t be the margin for error there was in 2004, fewer candidates will only magnify the importance of this skill as the year progresses.

  2. Unfortunately -One trend I don’t see any evidence of abating is the trend in software development to quantity vs. quality. As long as there are large programs which demand many software developers to write code a workforce consisting of adequate programmers is acceptable. It isn?t that a top programmer isn?t more desirable it simply doesn?t matter.
    The software manager?s job and the job of the leads becomes easier when hiring higher skill levels but the product will be delivered on time and on budget as long as they have competent programmers to write code. Which is why so much business is going to India, China, and now Romania.
    On the plus side customers are still willing to pay major dollars to recruiters to find competent programmers.

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