The Difference Between Hiring Employees and Acquiring Talent
Filling key roles with long-term contributors has become an increasingly challenging and strategic process. Facing this reality, a growing number of organizations are reassessing their approaches to filling both senior positions and other key roles that have a significant material impact on the organization’s success.
Various factors are contributing to the situation, including a narrowing talent funnel, the growing threat of premature departures, and changes to the process brought on by new technology platforms. Simply “recruiting” employees is increasingly seen as an inadequate response to these challenges. What’s needed is a robust, methodical talent acquisition strategy.
But before we examine talent acquisition as a methodology, it is worth exploring some of the major talent challenges organizations are facing today.
Three key challenges impacting talent acquisition today
Factor #1: Narrowing Talent Funnel
Competition has increased for high-impact leaders who are ready and willing to consider new positions. The most qualified individuals often find themselves bombarded with opportunities, making it more difficult to identify which are worthy of their attention. They also have a growing reluctance to relocate and hesitancy to leave situations in which they may be excelling, even for roles with greater long-term potential. Additionally, organizations often have difficulty identifying those within their own organizations who are ready to step into larger roles, which leads to a dwindling of “bench strength” in key developmental posts.
Factor #2: Growing Threat of Early Exits
In addition to a narrowing talent funnel, long-term retention is no longer assured once an individual has signed on with an organization. Talent today typically considers loyalty to self and family as more important than loyalty to a company. Additionally, onboarding hurdles and other challenges have made it less certain that incoming talent will stay with an organization over the long term. To achieve the greatest success, an organization must design a talent acquisition strategy that addresses this reality, including greater diligence in identifying the best possible fit between candidate and organization.
Factor #3: Reliance on Technology and Data Alone
Technology platforms, such as LinkedIn, have made it easier for organizations to spread a wide net. However, these same platforms are significantly less adept at matching candidates with an organization’s unique culture and specific needs.
Proprietary data and the use of artificial intelligence have also gained in popularity. While data and automation can support efficient processes, neither have the wherewithal to replace human interaction and judgment in the talent acquisition process. Too many organizations are relying on technology alone to identify potential leaders. The strongest strategies add human capabilities to the mix of data and technology.
To underscore this point, technology platforms offer no assistance in onboarding, continuous development or other human capital strategies that mitigate the risk of early departures. This makes it more imperative for companies to develop an appropriate talent acquisition strategy that aligns with their overall business objectives and includes relationship building tactics.
Talent acquisition as a strategic approach
Talent acquisition strategies are initiatives that ensure an organization goes beyond merely filling an open position. Once a candidate is selected, a comprehensive, multi-year strategy with onboarding protocols and continuous development plans, both of which are often overlooked, help ensure leaders stay with organizations over the long-term.
Unlike recruitment, talent acquisition is a strategic, long-term, organizational initiative that identifies, attracts, and convinces top talent to bring their unique skills to an organization and then remain in place. Taking this approach, organizations execute a strategy to attract talent regardless of vacancies and include specific, long-term onboarding and retention tactics.
Failure to adopt these strategies has resulted in troubling statistics. For example, only one of five executives hired from outside are viewed as high performers at the end of their first year, according to the Harvard Business Review.1 Of the 40 percent of leaders hired from outside the organization each year, the research further shows that nearly half exit within the first 18 months.
Similar data suggests hiring from within offers no guarantee of success. Four of ten newly promoted managers and executives fail within 18 months of starting new jobs, according to research from a leading leadership development firm.2 In the study, failure was defined as being terminated for performance, performing significantly below expectations or voluntarily resigning from the new position.
Conclusion: a robust strategic approach clears major hurdles
To achieve desired outcomes, organizations must develop and implement a talent acquisition strategy. By doing so, they will better position themselves to overcome three of the most significant challenges impacting ultimate success: a narrowing talent funnel, the growing threat of early exits, and overreliance on technology and data alone.
While internal and contingency search models have their place, the retained search methodology has proven itself most valuable for bringing on top-level executives, as well as other strategic positions that require unique leadership or sector-specific skills.
When searching for this type of talent, organizations can position themselves for success by partnering with a trusted, third-party search advisor that delivers at every stage of the process, including a robust follow-up evaluation.
1“For Senior Leaders, Fit Matters More than Skill,” Harvard Business Review, 2014. https://hbr.org/2014/01/for-senior-leaders-fit-matters-more-than-skill
2“Research: 40% of New Executives Fail Within First 18 Months,” Business 2 Community, 2018. https://www.business2community.com/leadership/research-40-of-new-executives-fail-within-18-months-02131245
3“Four Prime Reasons Why Companies Should Retain an Executive Search Firm,” Entrepreneur, 2019. https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/329876