Looking for The Best Talent? Then Acquire Instead of Recruiting

Exploring how companies need to adapt and implement a recruitment strategy to find the right candidates for the role

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I work with some fantastic organisations, great people and leaders on exciting journeys. Naturally, the word “leader” is associated with success, be it financial or otherwise. My clients come from the Tech and Engineering space – with its fast-paced nature, and I have noticed they all have one thing in common, both as leaders and organisations – they adapt!

This got me thinking about finding great talent and how this market has started to shift. The skills gap in technology is widely reported, and latest estimates show that by next year 5 million positions could go unfilled (USA), costing the economy over $160 billion. With that in mind, in addition to the increased demand for skills and leaders in this space, it is no surprise that some organisations are starting to adapt in order to compete for the best talent. However, many are still stuck in the classic recruitment cycle, even though their organisations adapt so freely and willingly, in other areas.

So, how is the approach changing? The industry is moving and shifting focus; from a very reactive “recruitment” approach that was designed for an employer lead market – to a proactive “talent acquisition “approach, taking a long-term view on nurturing and building relationships with the market’s best talent, an approach designed for a candidate lead market. The key to successfully implementing a proactive talent acquisition programme comes from the strategy. We engage with our clients typically 6/12 months ahead, to understand their goals and to contribute our experience of the market, in order to devise a strategic plan that lessens the need for reactive and potentially risky hires, by building a pipeline of engaged candidates.

See the main differences in approach below;

Reactive recruitment:

  • Unplanned, reactive to an employee leaving or new position
  • Time sensitive, meaning most effort will be placed in the active talent pools i.e. job boards
  • Working with several uncommitted agencies to ensure broad approach in short time frame

Strategic Talent Acquisition:

  • Centres around a strategic hiring plan
  • Organisations typically engage with partners with regards to strategy
  • Time spent engaging with the market’s best talent (often passive)
  • Rather than effort only being spent on filling vacancies, additional focus is placed on building a pipeline of great talent and building a strong employer brand in the market

Reactive recruitment is still the norm for many, with many hiring managers not having embraced the change yet – if that is the case for you, it’s probably worth putting some consideration into why you need to change.

Now we have explored some of the fundamental differences between the two approaches, let’s look at some of the reason’s organisations are adopting a different approach and some of the negative impacts of a reactive approach. In my experience, there are three main areas of concern when adopting this approach. The first is the potential employment of below par talent, a reactive approach backs everybody into a corner – the hiring manager is up against it, HR are being pushed by the hiring manager and the candidate is usually actively searching for work. This can make the implementation of a thorough process difficult to complete, resulting at times in pressure to make risky hires. In line with this, a reactive approach is stereotypically more time consuming, not only is everybody in more of a rush, everybody is also starting from scratch, no warm candidates, no idea of the market. Lastly, it is normally more expensive especially once we consider the increased time to hire and the cost implications of a wrong hire.

Proactive talent acquisition is about understanding the needs and goals of the business and the reality of the talent landscape/market. By combining these two components, organisations can put a strategic plan in place to achieve their desired outcome in a timely manner. By adopting this approach organisations can build relationships with the markets’ best talent before they have a vacancy (build a talent pipeline), in today’s candidate short market, the best candidates expect that proactive approach. This approach allows organisations to spend more time working on their employer brand and delivering a clear and consistent message to great candidates about them as an employer. The benefits of this can be seen in some stats I came across, they state that a great employer brand has the following impact.

  • 28% reduction in staff turnover
  • 50% reduction in cost to hire
  • 50% increase in qualified candidates
  • Reduced hire time

The market is changing. The best candidates no longer queue at the door waiting for a new opportunity. They watch from a distance, considering all their options before making a conscious choice. Top talent and leaders are normally looking for similar things; great culture, an opportunity to develop whilst working for an organisation that make a genuine impact in their market, and the possibility to contribute to the organisation’s continued success. It’s important to consider if your current approach to attracting top talent allows your business to stand out in a massively crowded market.

If not, consider adapting and implementing a strategy that will give your organisation and its recruitment partners the time and opportunity to bring the best talent to your door.


About the author
Doug Mackay
5 min read

Having started his career in Executive Search in 1998, Doug set up Collingwood in 2005 alongside his wife, Claire Mackay.

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