by | Feb 5, 2020

Building a Successful Talent Pipeline

What is a talent pipeline?

Having a ‘talent pipeline’ means attracting and cultivating interest with a constant inflow or ‘pool’ of potential candidates with the right mix of skills and attributes, in order to more effectively fill a need for talent or skills in your business as and when the need arises.

Why build a talent pipeline?

Whether you need a position filled now or in the future, with a successful talent pipeline you are more likely to have the right person available to fill a need at the right time.

Sounds like a lot of work – what is the alternative? Many businesses are reactive when it comes to attracting and sourcing talent and focus their resources on traditional candidate sourcing strategies like advertising via online job boards and engaging recruitment agencies as a reactive method (when you can’t find anyone and have become desperate) instead of as part of a proactive approach. A reactive approach becomes particularly problematic in a ‘candidate short’ skills area, such as within certain areas of IT, construction, medical, technical fields… or simply, any area where candidates have lots of options to pick from.

Does this sound like your business? A resignation or promotion leaves a role to fill, or sign off is finally given to an already stretched team to increase their headcount, and it is often at this point that the wait for ‘talent’ is only just beginning. The likely ‘lag time’ is at least 6 to 12 weeks (and more like 12 if a candidate has a notice period) between placing an advertisement and your new employee’s first day in your business. Add to this the time it takes for your new employee to become fully competent in performing their new role, and you’ve now got some serious reasons for looking at a more strategic and proactive approach to talent sourcing.

What is the downside if you don’t plan ahead? With any unfilled role, your business will be operating without key skills / expertise or has been ‘borrowing’ from other areas to cover the skills gap. This may mean that you could be losing your competitive edge with the loss of efficiency and potential loss of business; and, there may be pressure placed on those team members picking up the slack in the meantime, which could in turn affect morale and productivity… and so the spiral could continue….

So why not plan ahead for skills gaps that may arise? You may not need a position to be filled at this very moment, but to avoid the costs to your business of a lengthy wait for the right talent, a mix of workforce planning and succession planning will ensure you identify key critical roles to your business and where future gaps could arise. By building a talent pipeline, you can then work on attracting and sourcing candidates – either from within your business or externally – who could take over as soon as any critical skills gaps arise.

  • Workforce planning – determining your resourcing needs now and into the future based on the strategies of your business. Understanding what considerations will impact on supply and demand of resource (i.e. demographics, job trends, education, your recruitment processes and how you retain high performers).
  • Succession planning – with an understanding of your workforce plan, you can forecast likely gaps in your team i.e. short term (sickness), medium term (parental leave), long term (resignation/retirement) and with this knowledge, seek to develop your talent (internally and then externally) to fill the gaps. A good example of filling the gaps is training a junior team leader to undertake the manager role through career development.

How do you attract and develop a talent pool? Further to attracting candidates and creating interest amongst your ‘talent pool’ with strategies such as having a strong employer brand, a key part of building a successful talent pipeline is then to be able to identify the right talent – those candidates with the right mix of skills and attributes who will enhance your business. By establishing a relationship with these candidates, you are in the best position to be able to make the right match at the right time.

  • Employer brand – to attract people, it helps if you are seen as an employer of choice, a company that people want to work for. What is it that attracts people to you, encourages them to stay and deliver to high levels consistently? What did your team share in the last team survey? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is the time to find out.

Steps to building a successful talent pipeline

  • Identify critical positions and the competencies required in these roles
  • Assess which employees have the right competencies, experiences and aspirations to fill key positions and keep this information current
  • Determine the most effective candidate sources to obtain key skills
    • Internal recruitment (active workforce planning, career development and succession planning)
    • External recruitment (employer of choice, nurturing potential candidates who you have met that could fill future roles, employee referral, close partnership with a recruitment consultant that understands your business and needs)
  • Measure your performance and tweak as necessary

What does an effective talent pipeline structure look like?

Effective talent pipelines ensure a flow of the right talent for skills gaps over time, and can be built by:

  • Identifying gaps and understanding what talent will be needed in future by undertaking Workforce Planning
  • Assessing the gap between what is needed and what is available
    • Assessing internal talent pools as part of the Performance Appraisal and Career Development process and determining how this talent pool will potentially develop over time with consideration to Succession Planning
    • Assessing external talent pools and developing a strong Employer Brand within this community that forms part of Recruitment strategy
  • Determining the best strategies for retaining, developing and acquiring the talent to fill those gaps by focusing on Rewards and Recognition and Recruitment strategies
  • Continually executing, monitoring and refining talent pipeline strategies

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