Talent Pools Must Be Interactive to Be Effective

By Roy Maurer June 5, 2015

Genuine engagement among employees, a social media presence, a strong employment brand and the latest HR technology will all help employers develop and use talent pools to meet their workforce planning needs, according to Christopher Lee, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for human resources for the Virginia Community College System and former chief human resources officer at various universities.

Lee defined a talent pool as a network of qualified candidates, employees and alumni who are actively interested in your organization, and with whom you engage in productive two-way communication over time to build a deep bench, develop a robust talent pipeline and groom internal staff for new opportunities.

Put simply: Talent pools are resources that you can use to your advantage, he said.

According to 2014 research from the Talent Board, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the elevation of the candidate experience, 44 percent of job seekers expressed that they needed time to assess an employer before applying for a position. Talent pools provide the opportunity “to capture a larger percentage of these job seekers and establish the relationship and content they need to convert them to applicants,” said Elaine Orler, CEO and founder of Talent Function, an HR consultancy. In a talent community, employers are able to ensure relevant and timely information is available for job seekers, she said.

The necessary basics like advertising jobs, collecting resumes, asking for employee referrals and developing internal candidates will still have to be done, “but you’ve got to play offense, too, to cultivate the best talent pools,” said Lee. “You’ve got to have targeted recruiting. Not just saying, ‘We have jobs available.’ You need to engage candidates in an interactive process.”

How to Build Talent Pools

Starting a talent pool relationship requires time and attention, said Orler. “It is not something you casually decide to do. There is an investment of resources and a commitment to the long game. If the objective is a short interaction, you’ll frustrate your job seekers and create the exact opposite effect,” she said.

Two key elements necessary to building talent pools are interaction and segmentation. Content is key, Orler said. “Creating these groups just to have a group won’t engage the job seekers. Creating these groups in order to provide them with what they are looking for—content, collaboration and interaction—will ensure that you are building the relationship for the outcome you want, which is [that] the candidate applies to your openings.”

Orler advised segmenting your talent community also: “You can create one catchall community, but the value comes in being able to build these groups on job-seeker interest, profession or skills, so that you can build the right communication and marketing strategy back to those candidates without overwhelming them with too much information,” she said.

Technology facilitates the entire talent management process, said Lee. Talent pools are not a static database. “We’re not talking about a skills bank, or bank of resumes that you may have in your [applicant tracking system]. This is more dynamic and complex,” Lee said. A talent pool, used effectively, is not for one-way transactions where the employer reaches in and grabs a resume whenever there’s a vacancy, he said. “The people in that group have the opportunity to interact with you and others in that community. They’re involved in a community of interests. They get value from being a part of it. They share ideas and collaborate. It’s a social network.” In addition to turning your applicant tracking system (ATS) from a resume bank into an interactive forum, Lee suggested using tech platforms to create talent profiles for employees, and comparing their performance management results with their career aspirations.

“There are so many capabilities in talent acquisition systems today that can create and manage talent communities,” said Orler. Many companies have approached the process with the concept of evergreen requisitions, where you “leverage the current requisition capabilities in the ATS to create a container for managing a specific set of candidates. In many cases, you can create different workflows, reminders, communication templates, and actions for the recruiter and candidate with requisition container models.” Products with built-in candidate relationship management capabilities which facilitate ongoing communications and support for future talent would be beneficial for cultivating talent pools, she added.

Employment landing pages or careers sites, which offer a preview of what it’s like to work at your organization, are also important. “These pages [are] not just about taking applications, even though you can do that,” said Lee. “It should be an engaging place, a funnel to draw people in, not just to apply but to understand what your organization is about, including giving them the info they need to decide not to apply.” The use of video on these pages is becoming common.

Other techniques for cultivating talent pools include engaging targeted talent on social media, training current employees to serve as brand ambassadors and empowering them to approach people about potentially joining the organization, and hosting or sponsoring gatherings related to what your company does. Home Depot might sponsor a builder’s competition, for example, and then be on the lookout for potential employees at the event.

And don’t forget about cultivating the workforce you have. You want to retain and create career pathways for your top talent and move them into positions of priority to the organization, said Lee. “Move Picasso to the art department, don’t let him languish in HR,” he said. Ways to develop internal talent include cross-training, offering key assignments and sponsoring employee resource groups. Engaging with internal talent can be done through retention interviews, employee focus groups and open houses where employees are encouraged to apply to other departments.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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