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May 4, 2017
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

The end of a company’s fiscal year is often the time where organizations go through headcount review and strategy forecasting. Typically, depending on your organization, your talent acquisition team may see a slowdown of sorts, as requisitions go to hold, the finance department reviews the budget and hiring managers shift to short-term projects. During this time, your reactive situation on your staffing desk hopefully lessens somewhat, and you can start thinking in a proactive state. Some organizations during this review may still be full throttle, however, this period is the time to start thinking outside the box and forecasting two to three months in advance.

The truth is no one has a crystal ball; there is no real way to see what the future holds. But, you can lay the groundwork for strategic focus points that enable you and your organization to thrive during the next fiscal year. Those of us in budget-conscious organizations have much to think about during budgetary review periods. What follows are five tips to build your talent bench and help create a proactive approach during possible slower periods:

  1. Review Your Source Of Hire Information to See what is Working Best for Your Hiring Efforts. When you see where your top five hiring sources are from, you will start to gain insight into where you should focus energy on your hiring efforts. Many organizations credit referrals from existing staff as an excellent source of hire. If that is the case, review your funnel strategy. What was the engagement of your referrals, did they make it through interviews at the top of the list? How about those that weren’t a fit? Did you funnel them to other open positions? Treating your referrals like gold and reviewing what went well from year to year is going to make a significant impact. All referrals should be treated professionally with a “white glove, VIP approach.” After all, these could be customers.

Find a way to engage those referring talent to you, give them an overview of what the top skills are, include them in strategy planning, and share insights as to where these referrals came from. Lunch and learn sessions, webinars, meet and greets, and so many more activities that are referred centric allow greater facilitation for success that drives your bottom line and helps give more success to your talent bench. Have a folder set aside for the day you will “call your referrals,” or for positions that you can keep these talented candidates in mind for. Communicate timing, culture, and keep them engaged through a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual event of some kind. Remember the referral not a fit for today, will possibly be a fit tomorrow and are more likely to be clients of your organization someday. They will also likely be the fastest way to fill a few roles in the future.

  1. Engage Professional Associations and Diversity Organizations: Professional associations are remarkable talent hubs, they often have key personnel that is the most valued in their field. Sponsor professional association events, get out and speak to them, focus in on the positive branding of your company at these events, and find ways to build ongoing engagement with these professionals. The more visible your company is, the more likely you will be to engage talent when the new role opens up. Engage with diverse slates of talent by finding organizations with a diversity focus. There are many of these, and they enable your talent bench to be even more robust. Veteran talent, gender diverse talent, cultural talent, all should be approached, as it will bring greater value-add to your organization.
  2. Engage Silver Medalists or Even Bronze Medalists: Every organization has runner-ups who were strong in the interview process but barely got passed over by a prime candidate. You should close these candidates gently and keep them engaged by giving them further opportunities for pursuing roles with your company. You should invite these candidates to special events. Help prepare them in new interview processes and enable them to have dialogue across several segments of your organization. Re-engage them a few months before existing roles open and keep an ongoing conversation about their careers. This kind of approach maintains a key bench of talent at the ready for a continuous period.
  3. Tie Labor Forecasting to Sourcing Strategy. As roles prepare to open, as budgets are approved, start reaching out to candidates. Form interview panels and set clear expectations with candidates as to availability and timing of offers. As roles start to open, you will already be interviewing key talent. Getting managers in front of their requisitions will help drive successful connection to critical talent, and take pressure off managers. From a candidate experience standpoint, it is crucial to managing expectations. Keep candidates engaged and set clear expectations tied to your labor forecast to get candidates into the loop before budgets clearing. This will drive down your time to fill, and help candidates get into clear funnels immediately. One key element for success with this approach is flexibility for a timing of offers. If you can get buy-in to clear key talent for offers ahead of formal budgetary approvals that may be one-offs, this will help your organization win the war for key talent in real time. Show the value add of this, and back up your approach with data to show stakeholders how this can benefit their needs. Keep sourcing, screening, and engaging talent, and you will be ready when the needs arise.
  4. Change the Culture. Changing your culture from reactive to proactive will take time. One way to be a strong talent partner is to assess needs in real time and share data that helps corroborate the value add and benchmark against other organizations. There is power in changing a culture from a reactive enterprise to proactive. This may take time but is worth the effort to get there. When it comes to sourcing, engaging and building a talent bench, nothing can be taken for granted. Today, sites like Glassdoor enable candidates to get a real-time snapshot of your culture. Are your Glassdoor ratings lower than you would like? Have no fear, but be proactive in engaging in social channels your talent brand. Changing your talent brand is much like changing perception, it is important to build talent mojo for others to espouse. But this right here is the power to create a proactive culture, one that engages talent. Engaging your Glassdoor reviewers by responding to their feedback real time is a powerful cultural change agent. By being responsive at every stage of the talent acquisition process and embracing improvement, suddenly your organization’s brand flourishes, and your culture becomes a strategic advantage.

Conclusion:  Strategic talent bench building is an ongoing endeavor. Organizations who embrace talent acquisition focus and enablement, find a direct correlation many times to the bottom line. Their efforts over time add value. In so many words, proactive talent bench-building enables organizations to get to the front of the line for success in talent attraction, talent building and cuts down anxiety of hiring managers and candidates when done correctly. This is why this has to be an ongoing effort, while budgets may dictate your focus, a big picture view is needed to drive successful talent outcomes. Again this is achieved over time. But the payoff of the engagement that results comes to create a powerful effect that drives efficiency and lower time to fill, and lower time to effectiveness. It takes the buy-in of top leadership. If your organization struggles in this area, don’t worry, through patient steps of commitment and fortitude any organization can become a proactive talent engager, and this before the requisition is even approved. When labor forecasting is effective, reactive approaches to talent are driven down, and proactive talent engagement becomes an organizational cultural affair.

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