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Dec 27, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The end of a calendar year has always been a time of reflection for me. Nestled between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is my birthday; that annual reminder that it is time to take stock of life, career, and profession. When I think about my job, I have identified seven truths that I have come to embrace in 2016. Not that the topics were new to me this year, but have evolved from ideas, issues, and metrics into truths. Many of these truths are undoubtedly reciprocal due to the unique aspects of this digital era. This is what I believe:



  1. Talent Engagement and Nurturing are now the most important part of talent acquisition. In our current digital era, the interaction with our target talent looks more like a B to B or B to C customer relationship with its need to interact with the necessary all along the candidate journey. The increased competition for similar talent profiles, the skill gap in critical talent segments, and the expectation by talent to be transparent, relevant and personal are factors that play into this revelation.

What does this mean for 2017?  I believe we will hear a lot of buzz around the candidate journey and it will become a very popular topic. Frankly, I have not seen an efficient method of determining where a person is in their candidate destination and then match it with the kind of information that might be relevant to them at that point. To move to the next level, we will need to receive a signal from the prospect’s activity. We seem to be stuck on just providing job-related content as opposed to making certain we are providing relevant information.



  1. We are all fishing in the same talent in the same “talent ponds.”  This last year the cry of talent shortages became much louder. While there are certain deficiencies, that feeling may be exacerbated by increased competition. Some research from CEB (Corporate Executive Board) illustrates this point; they report that 90% of more of the S&P 100 are recruiting for the same 21 roles. Then if your factor in that somewhere between 64% (CEB data) to 97% (SocialTalent data) of recruiters/sourcers use LinkedIn as a primary talent source, then we begin to see that we are all feeling the competition. If we lift the lid on LinkedIn data, we learn that in one of those 21 roles, software engineering, 56% of recruiters that are used LinkedIn InMail to contact the same 6% of the talent pond of available engineers on the platform. This targeting of top talent is beginning to feel like spam to the key talent audiences, and they are leaving social media platforms; I referred to this digital dissertation in a previous article.

What does this mean for 2017?  While we may not be able to do anything about the need for companies to look for the same 21 talent profiles, we certainly can become more creative in our outreach and expand our target audience to include a wider array of talent. Creativity is an area where the best in class recruiters/sourcers will differentiate themselves in 2017.



  1. Non-job and non-branded content will win the day. Last year, the best in class talent acquisition organizations demonstrated they understand the importance of building a talent brand; that is, they learned to brand the work itself at their organizations. As the consumer-minded candidate seeks to learn what it’s like to work at the organization, they can now have an assortment of media to review. What proved extremely helpful was video content from employees; remember people are more believable that corporate messages in the digital era.

 What does this mean for 2017? The next step in the evolution will be for talent branding or staffing marketing to provide content that will be relevant and valuable to the target audience. Similar to Truth #1, this content will be what is critical to map to each state of the candidate journey. The non-job content that is valuable and relevant presents quite a challenge to talent marketers as we must become better at understanding the persona of our target audiences and personalizing the content to key talent segments.  I don’t believe this will be widespread in 2017, but we should see real progress made in this area.



  1. Where’s the meat? We are selling a lot of sizzle but forgetting the main course.  In the pre-digital era, we lived by the adage “sell the sizzle, not the steak.” But in the digital age, we may attract people with fancy words or enticing images, but if the main course is not to our target audience’s liking, then they will move on, this is particularly the case with job descriptions. Most of our HR technology functions on a focused requisition transaction based system. We provide a templated cut and paste document with old recycled content. Our goal is to get it posted and distributed as quickly as possible. It tells the target audience what we want and expect but rarely discusses on what the real job entails or what would it mean for one’s career if they accepted the role.

 What does this mean for 2017?  We have not figured out how to create meaningful job descriptions at scale. But as we realize more of the promise of AI (artificial intelligence), this will be one where that technology can flourish. As algorithms of robot writers produce more and various reports, it will not be long before they make inroads in other areas. Textio and others are firms to watch in this space.



  1. If you invest in a CRM, make certain it can do this, manage all aspects of the candidate customer relationship. While that may seem obvious, not all CRM’s in the talent acquisition space have that capability. To engage and nurture a long term relationship with your target audience at each stage of the candidate journey, your CRM will look more like a sales tool that the traditional ATS. The contemporary CRM needs to be able to be the engine that drives engagement, drips the right content to the right talent segment, manages sophisticated outreach campaigns and provides in-depth metrics on all activities.

 What does this mean for 2017?  Many CRM’s and some ATS’s have this talent engagement and nurturing capabilities on their roadmap, but will not be widespread in 2017. It is another case where we must wait on HR technology to catch up with our needs.



  1. It takes a village to build a talent community. Previously, I identified 7 Community Truths That Took Years to Learn; I need to add one more reality to the mix. To put it simply, it takes talent to attract talent. If your internal talent from the appropriate functional areas is not active participants in your community, it will fail. Just as content needs to be relevant and valuable to a target audience, the mix of internal stakeholders must offer a similar value. Who is most helpful in better presenting technical capabilities of an organization-HR or the tech team? In my work with communities, teaming and collaborating with a wide variety of internal stakeholders leads to success. On the other hand, when I have not been able to create those synergies and shared mission, I experienced failure.

What does this mean for 2017?  Creating talent communities that will engage a target talent audience over a five to ten-year timeframe takes time, financial support, a cross-functional effort, and a strategic mindset. Some best in class organizations are creating some exciting collaborations with technical communities of practice and talent acquisition. That said, I do not anticipate the widespread adoption of real talent communities (virtual places where people connect, share ideas, exchange information or collaborate with online tools) in 2017.



  1. Talent acquisition does not have enough time to do things the right way. We hear about requisition loads approaching 100+; we have broken processes, we have outdated HR tech tools which have existed before the pre-digital era, and we seem to be stuck with a do more with less model. Need I say more? For most organizations, about 20% of the requisitions are critical and will make a difference regardless of the accomplishment of corporate outcomes. Most likely, those are some of the 21 roles that the CEB discovered in their research; the key roles that your competitors are seeking to fill. To fill a critical role in a hyper-competitive environment, it takes time. For example, Lever discovered that it takes seven and a half hours to source engineers and 112 hours to fill a primary technical role. How many of us have that amount of time budgeted for an important hire? How many of us have set those type of expectations with our clients? Somewhere along the line, we have forgotten that it takes a relationship to recruit essential talent and building relationships takes time.

What does this mean for 2017?  In my opinion, not much is going to change regarding increasing the amount of time afforded a recruiter or talent sourcer to do their work. Best in class organizations have created strategic talent sourcing teams that focus just on the critical skills the organization requires. It more of talent pipelining/community approach that seeks to develop a longer term relationship with the key talent they will need now and in the foreseeable future. Of note, is the approach that Microsoft is taking with software developers to have one specialized team recruit the talent pipeline across the enterprise.


There you have it, another year in the books! Some wins, some losses, and lessons learned. As we enter the second decade of the social revolution, talent acquisition continues to learn, grow, and adapt to the challenges of this digital era. I am optimistic as a community we can continue to share ideas, tactics, and strategies that will up our game.

This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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