This Tool Will Help You Rethink Talent Acquisition

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 1.43.52 PMRegardless of mission or vision statements, the ultimate goal of any high-performing HR function — and or its “talent fulfillment” group — is to provide the support, resources, and expertise to help their organization acquire, develop, and retain top talent — a responsibility that starts with strategy, focuses on acquisition, and never ends.

Talent fulfillment — the act of identifying, acquiring, and retaining top talent — can mean different things to different organizations and HR professionals. It could be hiring external recruitment agencies, temporary employees, contractors, or some combination thereof. That said, those organizations operating with that mindset, unless in the midst of a significant growth phase, aren’t likely to meet anyone’s definition of high performing. High performance means finding talent, growing talent, securing talent, and keeping talent — your organization’s own talent.

This is sort of like a short-order cook and a baker. 

A short-order cook is working on the fly without regard for future planning other than the next ticket that pops up. They’re churning out order after order in the same fashion that underperforming HR/talent fulfillment functions churn out requisition after requisition and watch as turnover and retention move in the wrong direction along with ever-increasing expenses.

Consider that a short-order cook can sometimes get away with simply throwing ingredients into a pot, turning on the heat, and standing back — sometimes they’ll get lucky and something wonderful will turn out and the immediate needs of their clients will get met. If your organization takes a short-order approach to talent fulfillment, maybe you’ll get lucky and fill a position with a solid candidate. Or maybe not. More likely you’ll probably end up with a series of poor hires or potential great hires who don’t stick around long enough for you to find out what value they can bring to the organization.

A baker on the other hand requires more finesse to complete their work, and they have to approach the task at hand with a strategy … baking is part art, part science. A baker follows a clear recipe, and they take a measured and thoughtful approach. A good loaf of bread is much about the artisan as it is about the chemistry at play.

Talent fulfillment is like baking. Approaching the process with a strategy built on a framework that lends itself to helping your organization establish itself as an employer of choice all the way through retaining your top performers simply makes sense for anything more than the occasional talent fire drill.

The lesson: don’t be a cook, be a baker. Bake some BREAD and your organization will never go talent hungry again. The recipe for BREAD is simple at first glance, but the real nuance comes in how an organization puts it all together. The five key ingredients are:

Brand — Who you are, what you do, being an employer of choice, and telling the world (from the talent fulfillment perspective)

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  • Advertising, Networking, and Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Organizational Profile
  • Web and Other Media

Recruit — Who you want, how you get them, and how  you measure and show the value of the work internally


  • Sourcing Activities
  • Metrics and Tracking
  • Systems and Technology
  • Processes and Paperwork

Engage — How you communicate, position, and tell your organization’s story to candidates, internal stakeholders, and those in a position to advance internally

  • Culture
  • Transparent and Accommodating Workflow
  • Ongoing Communication
  • Interview Process, Leadership Training, and Related Utilities

Acquire — Closing the deal, negotiating wages, benefits, and incentives, kick-starting the onboarding process

  • Informed and Engaged Leadership
  • Competitive Wages and Benefits
  • Incentive Considerations
  • Snapshot of Opportunities

Develop — Onboarding starts before the start date; it continues through the acclimation period and evolves into professional development over time.

  • Employee Learning and Development
  • Talent Reviews and Competency Modeling
  • Succession Planning
  • Career Planning

Now that you have the list of ingredients to bake your own talent acquisition success story, what’s your organizationally specific recipe going to look like? For some assistance in determining the right mix of this and that, check out the tool at the top of this post (click to enlarge).

Erik Smetana is an HR strategist and talent leader with extensive experience working in and fostering teams and innovation for an eclectic mix of organizations including Fortune 500 companies, international not-for-profits, and institutions of higher education and research. His thoughts and opinions related to all things "employee experience" (and occasionally other topics) can be found online at


6 Comments on “This Tool Will Help You Rethink Talent Acquisition

  1. Martha – First, thanks for the read and the question. Regarding the tool, the idea is that it helps an organization identify what activities they may already be doing, those that they recognize they should and can be doing, and last those that they may like to do but aren’t in the right position yet to do so.

    So think about a meeting in which your org’s talent leaders sit down and look at how they’re currently addressing (if they are addressing):

    Brand (from the talent perspective)
    Acquisition (i.e. onboarding and pre-onboarding)

    By working in each of these areas, you’ll be able to flesh out your talent fulfillment model or recognize that there are areas you’re lacking in or ignoring. One of the things I’ve found personally in using the tool is that it is highly scalable based on the organization whether you are looking at it from the full organizational perspective or a division or a department depending on how talent fulfillment is managed at where you work.

    In short, think of the grid as a brainstorming tool to help you break out where you’ve been, where you could be, and where you want to be with the cognizance of what activities are adding perceived value vs. those that may be more transactional in nature (which in turn could lead a whole conversation around necessary transactions vs. wasteful transaction).

    I hope this helps to clarify!


  2. One critically important component missing from your “A” is selection. The tools and methodologies used to make those hiring decisions is where many organizations become short order cooks and not bakers.

  3. Jonathan – thanks for the comment.

    I wouldn’t disagree that selection is an important part of any successful talent fulfillment model, that said it could be countered that the very act of talent fulfillment is selection when one thinks about it at a macro level. At the micro level, the model above would associate it with the Recruitment section (specifically in my examples of “Systems & Technology” and “Processes & Paperwork” – this is where I see things like behavioral interviewing, skills testing, etc. falling into place).

    With that in mind though, I should clarify that the items listed in the article for each piece of the BREAD model aren’t intended to be comprehensive but rather examples of the types of things that an organization should start thinking about as part of their larger conversation and planning.

    Again, thanks for the comment.


  4. Erik, very good article, could not agree more. The process of talent acquisition is complex and dynamic and requires the “baker” like approach to achieve sustainable success.

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