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Effective Recruiting Teams Share These Six Traits

A group of business people celebrating in an office.

​New research proves that the most successful talent acquisition (TA) teams do much more than fill vacant roles—they hold a place of central strategic importance in their organizations.

The industry study by HR consulting and research firm Bersin by Deloitte found that high-performing recruiting functions are integrated across the business areas of the organization, prioritize internal mobility, and use data to support decision-making, among other shared characteristics.

Bersin surveyed 1,220 talent and business leaders, with 43 percent of respondents employing between 5,000 and 50,000 people. All responding organizations were placed on a maturity index based on their survey responses, with companies that were found to practice basic and transactional TA processes landing at the bottom of the scale, and companies with high-impact TA functions placed at the top of the scale. The research showed a correlation between effective talent acquisition strategies and critical HR-related outcomes in the areas of retention, internal career-pathing and candidate experience—and in significant gains for the business.

"We found that a higher level of talent acquisition maturity can contribute meaningfully to an organization's success," said Robin Erickson, vice president and talent acquisition research leader for Bersin by Deloitte. Organizations with more-effective TA teams bring in 18 percent more revenue and 30 percent greater profitability compared to companies with low-maturity talent functions, according to the research.

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The highest-performing teams were consistently found to do the following six things:

Integrate with the business. Senior executives view talent acquisition teams as essential players in executing strategy. TA teams can better anticipate broader business needs and partner with hiring managers. But integration starts with rethinking how talent acquisition is structured.

"IBM just launched an agile TA infrastructure, which completely changes the traditional model of recruiting," said Will Staney, the founder of Proactive Talent Strategies, an Austin, Texas-based consulting firm focused on talent acquisition. "Rather than a requisition-based working relationship with the business, recruiters are working on various teams on what they call 'recruiting sprints,' which are tied to prioritized business objectives and the roles associated with those goals." 

Organizations need to think about hiring and head count as it relates to the business objectives so that hiring is "baked" into the overall strategy, Staney added. "A business goal like increasing sales by 30 percent in Q4 needs to be translated into recruiting terms. Increasing sales by Q4 means having to hire more salespeople in Q2—build the hiring plan backward from the business plan—and have the TA and HR leaders in on those discussions."

Business integration with TA will also sharpen other areas of talent management. "If you really want to measure quality of hire, you need to have talent acquisition data set up where you can compare it to performance management data," Erickson said. "Otherwise you're really just talking about quality of candidate."

Tap into internal talent. Employees are recognized as a strategic resource, and internal mobility is a part of company culture. Three-quarters of high-maturity employers tap into internal pools, while only 17 percent of low-maturity companies do, Bersin found.

"Internal talent is often overlooked by TA," Erickson said. "In many organizations, recruiters are not allowed to tap employees if the workers don't self-nominate themselves for a different job, and recruiters don't have access to employee profiles to find out what their skills are."

Typically, the biggest barrier is the middle-management layer, Staney said. "Executives must hold managers accountable so that they don't hoard their people."

Evaluate candidates on potential as much as skills and experience. Nine out of 10 high-performing companies hire for long-term potential, compared with 32 percent of lower-performing organizations. Sixty percent of successful recruiting teams actively seek nontraditional talent sources, compared with 10 percent of low-performing recruiting functions.

"Candidate assessments allow you to match the aptitude of the person to the job," Staney said. "Having the recruiting process focused on hard skills only is thinking in the past about what's needed for the role. The biggest thing that I've seen that leads to candidate failure on the job is not lack of experience or knowledge about the job, but rather the lack of aptitude to be successful in the role." 

Personalize the candidate journey. The more-mature TA functions market job opportunities to targeted candidates. In addition, three-quarters of them focus on improving the candidate experience, compared with 17 percent of low-performing organizations. "This is incredibly important to have as a priority," Erickson said. "More organizations are talking about recruitment marketing, employer branding and candidate experience, but are you communicating effectively with both selected and nonselected candidates? Don't neglect the ones who don't make the cut."

Prioritize their own skills development. Effective organizations regenerate their TA teams through professional development such as education, training, mentoring and networking opportunities.

"How we recruit is constantly changing, so you need TA professionals to be able to understand data and employer branding, and how to leverage technology," Staney said. "It's evolving fast. If you're just a one-trick pony relying on a LinkedIn Recruiter license, you will not survive."

Make use of emerging smart technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive data analytics. The talent acquisition function works smarter and faster by using data-driven analytics and digital, cognitive tools to better source and assess candidates. Mature teams are six times more likely to engage in data-driven decision-making compared with low-performing teams.

"Most larger employers are still experimenting with AI and seeing what will work for them," Erickson said. "But just trying to get clean data is proving to be very difficult," she said, referring to the process of correcting or removing corrupt or inaccurate records.

That's why Staney cautions employers not to blindly base all decisions on data alone. "Technology comes with inherent bias—from the people pulling the data, the engineers who wrote the algorithms—so you have to use a good mix of gut and data," he said. "Data is a guide, but you must be meticulous about data integrity."

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