A Few Thoughts About Starting a Talent Sourcing Function by @TravisWindling

Dec 4, 2014

Drawing An Organization DiagramYour leadership team has decided that your company is spending too much money on agency fees, that there are too many open requisitions in a particular area of the business, or any other combination of challenges. A potential solution to this problem is sourcing. How do you get started? How do you set your department up for success as you allocate the appropriate headcount, hire, and train new employees?

There are 3 major models to choose from; the Sourcer/Account Manager model, the Strategic Sourcing model, or a Hybrid model. Each model has benefits and detriments. Below are some thoughts about each.

Sourcer/Account Manager Model

Cost Avoidance! Cost Avoidance! Cost Avoidance! In this model, you pair a sourcer with a recruiter to work primarily on current state needs. This model is probably the most resource intensive model and depending on the diversity of the business, will be the greatest challenge to implement. With the resource investment comes direct and measurable outcomes. The goal of this model is to directly impact the agency spend and to pipeline new talent into high volume areas.

The challenge with this model is setting up a sourcing team for success. Like many other professionals, sourcers can be specialists or can become specialists in specific markets. To truly get the best return, it often makes sense to leave someone in a specific niche once they have been established and built a network/pipeline. If you spread a sourcer too thin, things like time to slate and delivery of QIA (Qualified Interested Available) candidates will be impacted. There is a strong networking and relationship piece to sourcing which is especially critical when sourcers also perform the initial outreach and candidate engagement. This model can be a great option if you have the buy in (read budget) to support it from senior leadership.

Strategic Sourcing Model

Still need to build a business case for further investment? This model can be a great pilot type structure. Strategic sourcing lets you select key pillars or segments that your want to focus on and build capability within those specific areas. This type of design lends itself very well to a functional model of recruitment. The key to being successful in this type of model is to control the ‘scope creep’ that will arise as a result of a successful sourcing function. Strategic Sourcing can include pipelining for critical roles, research/market mapping of competitors, executive recruitment or other high impact initiatives.

The strength of this model is being able to deploy sourcing in a very targeted and deliberate way with fewer resources. The challenge when looking at a strategic sourcing model is deployment of sourcing expertise. This model requires extensive successful business relationships, strong workforce planning and an independent assessment of what is critical to the company.

There needs to be a clear methodology for determining which projects warrant support and when that work will arise. With a leaner team, there is a significant risk of becoming overburdened and missing key projects that have the highest return on investment (ROI). A planning roadmap is key to the success when using this model.

Hybrid model

This model is a split where sourcing supports both current state requisitions and future state strategy/pipeline. By combining both approaches into one model, there are a lot of positive selling features for a business case. However, it is important to beware of the potential to over promise and under deliver. Great impact can be shown through the strengths of both approaches above, but you can quickly find the function under resourced and sourcers may become conflicted and unable to effectively prioritize their work/impact.

The key in making this type of a model successful is to be clear about the split between current and proactive focus and to manage expectations about each approach. Even as the function grows, it is important to split the mandate into a current/future need teams to focus on the individual models above. This is a great model for initial use, but within the first few years it’s really important to make a decision as to which specialized model fits best in your strategic plan/goals and then start to transform the function into that model. Using this model for an extended period of time will lead to the function becoming less strategic and more relationship damage control focused.

Organizational Design

Where does sourcing fit? Sourcing obviously fits into the talent acquisition organization, but is that in a central strategic function reporting directly into the head, is it sitting within the solution delivery team for a closeness with the clients (recruiters), or is it within talent management in an effort to be closer to succession gaps and strategic workforce planning? This question will effectively decide the model that will be most suited to your company and the weighting of reactive vs proactive recruitment.

If you are looking to push the agenda of a strategic function, a division and impartiality is necessary to maintain the right kind of work. It is so important not to focus only on solution delivery. If you are working in a sourcer/account manager model, it can be critical to be as close to the client group as possible in order to optimize collaborative opportunities and to be able to gather additional insights.


Like anything else in business, it’s critical to start with a plan. It’s important to clearly define what it is you are looking to do and then to build the plan around intended outcome. Planning is critical from the initial idea sharing, all the way down to organizational design and eventually implementation, goal setting, and delivery. Consider how your organization currently structures sourcing. Is it optimal for your organization? Are you currently meeting any challenges? Let’s get the conversation going!

Did you enjoy this post? You might also enjoy 9 Steps to Improve the Sourcing and Recruiting Partnership.

Get articles like this
in your inbox
The original publication for Sourcers, delivered weekly.