A Sourcing Brew for 2016 (you may need a chaser…)

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Dec 3, 2015
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

For the last year I’ve been itching to launch a new talent acquisition start-up. Taking a “live in the future – then build what’s missing” approach, I’ve been studying the industry for that missing link. In addition to consulting gigs with enterprise sized TA organizations, I’ve also interviewed thought leaders and talent acquisition executives at conferences and listened to the challenges practitioners and managers are facing. Not only have I discovered my next venture, but I also got an education on what’s brewing, and thought it might be interesting to share.

There may be some things I’m missing but the topics that have driven the conversation everywhere I went this past year (digitally or in real life) were*:

  • Corporate Sourcing
  • Employment Branding
  • Data Analytics

*Many also mentioned an effort to establish a national talent acquisition organization. Although I’m very interested in seeing it succeed, it’s a topic for another day…

These three should have more impact on the industry in the coming year than most others. They’re also intertwined and changes in one impact the others so it’s hard to view them in a vacuum. With that in mind, there seems to be a number of open questions by those being asked to add or augment these programs.

For this post I am going to focus on sourcing and will cover the other two areas in a future blog. Here’s what I’ve heard asked most about sourcing and some of the answers being bandied about:


Sourcing is sizzling. The velocity of adoption by corporate talent acquisition seems like a bullet train with Casey Jones at the controls**. With the tightening labor market and enhanced ability to find just about anyone, targeting prospects that won’t normally become applicants is a no brainer. Like many other recruitment initiatives (Talent Communities anyone?), the expectations may be different than what is delivered. Justifying the cost and measuring key drivers for success are question marks for many. There are many other sourcing questions being asked such as:

  • sourcer talent map/research v. engagement
  • pipelines v. just in time sourcing
  • strategic v. volume hiring (or both)
  • sourcer and recruiter integration in talent acquisition
  • sourcing metrics: interaction v. submittals v. hires

No question that adding a sourcing team is a costly undertaking, and many companies are justifying the cost by expected decreases in agency spend. This makes sense except that agency’s work on the most difficult openings, and these sourcer’s work will be time consuming, delivering few hires where costs may be high if using a seasoned sourcer. These optics can be a tough “sell” in the boardroom that is used to seeing large monthly hiring numbers.

Competitive Tech companies long ago accepted the costs attributed with strategic sourcing. They’ve made the effort to know the ROI for positions sourced (some valued at millions in annual revenue). Most other companies have only a vague understanding of revenue for specific non-sales employees and little stomach for additional sourcing costs that deliver so few new hires in return.

Some can avoid this issue by focusing on volume hiring. This seems more economical, where the cost is justified based on recurring needs and large numbers of new hires. The question here is whether a dedicated sourcing effort is actually needed for these types of hires (customer service, supply chain, call centers, etc.).

Some are also questioning the ROI of talent pipelines, particularly those sourced with passive prospects. Engaging passives means a sourcer needs to ignite them to the possibilities of making a career change. Once ignited, these prospects may start viewing other career interactions they normally would ignore (career content, job ads, recruiter VCMs). If there isn’t a timely opening to consider, these pipelined prospects may find one at a competitor. With companies hiring on average 5-10% from a pipeline, it might not be worth the effort for passive or even “near active” talent. On the flip side, adding active prospects to a pipeline, more than likely could be achieved at a fraction of the cost with an effective employment branding campaign. Is pipelining even an activity sourcers should be focused on? The answer is YES, but it has to be for the right objective and circumstances.

The reality is that sourcing provides benefits to each of these situations, but a customized approach needs to be crafted by each company based on their hiring needs. In 2016, companies will be figuring this out, so in the coming year look for a bumpy sourcing ride.

** There’s always room for a little Grateful Dead…right?

What does it all mean?

From what I’ve been hearing, there are more questions than answers. We need to appreciate that sourcing, employment branding and data analytics activities are fully integrated, and craft processes that take advantage of them together. This is beginning to happen as the desire for change is strong.

I see the world being much different by early 2017 than it is today. Then again, I do tend to live in the future constantly striving to find and build what’s missing…

What say you…do you have any answers….more questions…let’s hear from you in the comments….

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