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Want to Develop a Strong Talent Pipeline? Four Things to Consider

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A couple of days ago Meghan M. Biro shared the following tweet:


I absolutely agree.

Identifying, attracting and engaging the right people is key to building a strong workforce. But finding top talents is getting harder and harder. And all too often, HR fails to build a valid talent pipeline and can only fall back on a limited number of (more or less suitable) applicants.
Here are four things lean | agile enterprises do to build a sound talent pipeline:

  • Boost internal careers for employees
  • Turn alumni into great ambassadors
  • Proactively connect with potential talents
  • Engage with your current applicants

1. Boost internal career for employees

Most jobs are filled with outside candidates without prior knowledge or experience within your organization. And current employees are often overlooked. Unfortunately, in many organizations today, internal transfers are often restricted to a silo (you move up if your boss moves), die before they come to anything or are no more than a lip service.
Of course on paper organizations promote internal careers and usually have some example(s) at hand of such a growth story. But the reality is often far from it. There are several reasons including:

  • managers don’t want to lose their top performer to a different unit
  • employees don’t apply to avoid consequences if it might not work out
  • internal people lose out against outside candidates

(The last point always makes me wonder: Why do we trust the claims of outside applicants, whom we have not previously known, to deliver huge results, but we doubt our own internal candidates, who have proven themselves over and over again? BTW: This is just one of the things lean | agile People Operations successfully address.)

When it comes to enabling internal careers, HR plays a key role as adviser and people advocate. But here’s the hard and sad truth: Employees do not trust HR. We all know the story: Bright, highly engaged employee seeks out HR representative to discuss development plans and career options; even before he/she makes it back to the desk, HR has already made “the call” to the manager and soon after, the employee is looking for a new job outside of the company.

Unfortunately, this is neither a new nor a unique story and shows the reality in many organizations. The acting parties do not have any bad intentions, but the actions lead to an undesirable (and unnecessary) outcome.

Lean | agile enterprises actively promote and highly encourage career moves across the organizational network. After all, what could be more appealing than filling position with someone you already know and trust and who knows your organization and its values? You can boost knowledge sharing and strengthen internal networks while at the same time giving employees a great incentive for a great growth and advancement opportunities within the company.

They see their role as enablers and facilitators. They take pride if they helped to develop someone and see them take a new step. And that behavior is strongly encouraged and rewarded throughout the organization. The key difference is that lean | agile teams are not afraid to let their best people move on – especially not within the company.

2. Turn alumni into great ambassadors

Even if someone is moving on outside of their company, agile leaders accept it and ensure the transition is done with integrity, and the connection is not broken the minute the parting employee announces his/her departure or talks honestly and openly about pursuing other career options.

The first and the last day in a job are probably among most memorable times within a company. Typically on the first day we try to make a great impression, but the last day is far too often marked by bad feelings. That does not have to be like that.

Lean | agile enterprises make sure to part on the best terms and build a strong alumni network. After all you want your alumni to be great ambassadors for your company beyond their employment. They might choose to come back and/or refer you as amazing company to new customers and potential employees.

3. Proactively connect with potential talents

If you want to build a solid talent pipeline, HR has to reach out and engage with potential talents. And that has to take place long before you look to fill any open positions. Employer branding is essential. It must be authentic and takes place on different levels and will not only include your organization but also the personal branding of your employees and how they will speak about you.

Even though a distinct positioning of your organization is important, the more important part is to know your target audience. Understand their values and needs and determine their articulated and unarticulated motivations for potential occupational changes, and follow up with suitable initiatives.

Referral programs, interest forms, regular advertisements, social media activities and brand awareness campaigns are some of the things you can do. But above all: invest in personal interactions, one-on-one conversations and networking in and outside the organization. Go to meetups, events, conferences and other places your target people are likely to be and connect.

That way you cannot only showcase your great organization but also observe and get to know potential candidates in a more relaxed setting. That will lead to more honest and authentic experience and discussion than you are likely to get during a traditional interviewing process. You get a first indication of their suitability for your workforce and compatibility with your corporate culture.

So the minute you need to fill a position, you can tap into that pool of talents and address suitable candidates. And match them up with applications coming in through the normal recruiting channels. That will leave you with a stronger, more valid talent pool not only on a quantitative but more importantly on a qualitative level.

4. Engage with current applicants

You might wonder why this is the last point on the list and not the first one. After all, incoming applicants are likely to be the largest pool for talent sourcing within your organization. However, for all the reasons mentioned before, I believe that it does not have to be, nor should it be, that way.

The reason many organizations believe that they are not able to employ the best talents usually has little to do with their recruitment process but with the fact that they do not have a strong talent pipeline to begin with and are forced to choose employees from a B-rated candidate pool. If you now factor in that the risk of hiring an “unknown” person, the chances of a successful hire are even slimmer.

This is not to say that it is not a valid and important source of new talents. Applications that reach you through your traditional recruitment efforts are important and there is no way we can do without a stream of new applicants. But we simply cannot limit it to that. If we want to build a powerful workforce, we must also invest into the strategies outlined above – and then create an amazing experience for top candidates.

Are you ready to fill that talent pipeline?

About Fabiola Eyholzer

Fabiola Eyholzer (SPC, CSPO) is an expert and thought leader in Lean | Agile People Operations – the contemporary HR approach for the age of disruption. Fabiola is a seasoned Management Consultant and key players in various industries seek her expertise in Business Agility, Human Resources, Compensation & Performance Management, Operations & Processes, and Strategy.