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Conquer your Hiring Challenges with a Talent Pipeline

Conquer your Hiring Challenges with a Talent Pipeline

By: Catherine Conlan

Do you struggle to stay ahead of hiring demands? If so, a talent pipeline provides a proactive approach to manage current and future staffing needs. 

A well-stocked talent pipeline can generate multiple benefits:

-    Identify the talent you’ll need in advance
-    Insure your new hires are a better fit
-    Improve your employee retention rates

While it requires a bit of front-end work, a well-planned talent pipeline is likely to pay off in the long run.

“It doesn’t take a million dollars, but it does take investments in time and conversations,” says Natasha Stough, Americas director of campus recruiting at EY, a professional services firm headquartered in London.

Here’s how to get it right.

Set your Hiring Strategy
The first step in the process: align your talent-pipeline strategy with your overall business strategy. This will identify your real hiring needs.

For example, does your company expect an increased hiring demand and the ability to respond quickly? Does it plan to acquire other companies? What roles will be key in those scenarios?

Stough works with EY’s leaders to better understand the external marketplace and internal challenges. “Business needs are changing, and it’s critical that we are aligned with the business to anticipate those changes,” she says. 

“So much of recruiting, particularly entry-level hiring, is done one to two years in advance, so it’s important to understand the direction the business is moving in.”

Assess Hiring Needs
Once you’ve identified your company’s direction and how your talent pipeline will support it, it’s time to determine where your talent pool is now and where it needs to be. 

Start by identifying key talent in the organization who can take on a larger role. Then actively develop them for the future, says Melanie Lundberg, assistant vice president of talent management and corporate communications at Combined Insurance, a Chubb company, based in Glenview, Illinois.

Assess these high-potential candidates carefully, experts say. “It’s a determination of all capabilities,” says Brannigan Thompson, senior vice president for talent, organization and leadership development at Voya Financial, based in New York City. “It’s not just the skills but also the behavioral component as well. It’s both what they’ll do and how they’ll do it.”

High-quality tech-based assessment tools can provide objective, data-driven reports of employees’ current competencies and potential for growth, she says.

Develop your Workforce...  
Your strongest asset when developing a talent pipeline is your current employees. After all, they are a proven fit and understand your business. You also know the skills they need to take on new responsibilities. Now is the time to coach them through some growth.

Companies with a strong company culture that promotes feedback will find this easier to do, experts say. 

“People tend to be afraid of hearing about themselves,” especially about their shortcomings, Thompson says. To address this challenge, Voya relies on objective assessment data to help employees understand where their “development points are,” and fosters a culture of feedback. It also allows employees to learn from failure

“We make it clear that it’s OK to make mistakes as long as you’re learning from them, correcting them and then forgetting them,” he says.

… While Looking Externally to Fill Gaps
There will be roles that your internal employees aren’t ready to take on or that they may not be interested in. In those cases you’ll need to hire from outside. It’s important to find both the skills and cultural fit so your new hires can hit the ground running, Thompson says.

The best way to attract qualified talent is to create a compelling, authentic and distinctive employer brand, says Kevin Keohane, director of brand and talent strategy at PartnersCreative, an advertising agency in Missoula, Montana. 

Keohane suggests using social media recruiting to establish a presence in specialized interest spaces (such as online tech discussion boards.) Another option is to develop a recruiting relationship with academic institutions. 

“When you're getting it right, you are attracting smaller numbers of perfectly qualified candidates and developing your own people so they are growing with the business,” Keohane says.

Leverage Current Employees
A brandful workforce is essential to build up your talent pipeline, Stough says. Employees can provide real-life information about what it’s like to work at your company; their friends and former colleagues are also likely to be a good fit. Make it clear to employees that you welcome their efforts to be brand ambassadors.

Encourage them to share “behind-the-scenes” social media posts about what it’s like to work at your company. In addition, referral programs that reward employees for tapping their networks for potential hires can spark interest.

Keep an Eye on the Future
Remind hiring managers and department leaders about the importance of taking the long view when assessing talent. Encourage them to think months and years in advance when hiring and developing employees. And be sure to keep them up to date on how your business strategy may impact hiring.

At Voya, managers are accountable for talent pipelines Thompson says. They’re required to have a succession plan in place to continually identify who will fill key roles and what they need to get there. 

“We spend a tremendous amount of time internally developing leadership and criteria, as well as the courses and paths that employees can take to learn more,” he says.

A talent pipeline can help your company prepare for talent needs, including those you plan for as well as unexpected hires. It’s one of the most effective ways to conquer your staffing challenges.