Building the Talent Pipeline: Be Prepared for Both Planned & Unexpected Changes

With Talent Pipelines – You Get What You Plan For

In today’s fast paced world, it is challenging for companies to have a consistent, ready pipeline of candidates to take on mission-critical roles at any level of the organization. It’s easy for companies to focus on achieving targets and goals while crossing fingers and hoping their highest performers never leave. Unfortunately, with the average job tenure at only 3 years, it is inevitable that at some point, they will. How will companies address this challenge? They must plan for it and take a strategic approach in executing the plan. Organizations that have a short-term ad hoc approach to building their talent pipeline lag in growth and innovation and struggle to stay competitive in a dynamic market.

Creating a talent pipeline will be increasingly more important as we consider the global talent shortage. In the past 10 years, nearly every county in the United States saw its working-age population decline, and the number of graduates from our education and training institutions, a primary source of talent, is insufficient to keep up with market demand. Consider the past several years of Baby Boomer exits from the job market. During the third quarter of 2020, about thirty million Baby Boomers left the job market to retire, according to the Pew Research Center. Unforeseen events like the Covid-19 pandemic are reasons to build a strong talent pipeline. The pandemic’s impact devastated many sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, and transportation. In 2021 and 2022, when organizations needed to aggressively hire back talent, companies with strong talent pipelines fared much better than those that did not have them.

Even with anticipated events like retirements, growth, or an entry into a new market, far too often companies fail to have a plan to ensure they have qualified (internal and external) individuals ready to take on roles before the need arises. The best companies are prepared for these changes and understand that having the right talent, at the right time, in the right roles is a key differentiator to help them win.

With talent pipelines, you get what you plan for. A strong talent pipeline enables the organization to be prepared for both the planned and unexpected.If employers want to future-proof their organizations, they must take a proactive approach, and this requires careful orchestration.

Here are 5 Things to Remember When Creating a Strong Talent Pipeline

  1. Understand your organization’s strategic direction before building your pipeline plan, and consider the roles most crucial for meeting current and future business goals. Ask “What are our growth plans and what types of talent is needed to execute them?”  Consider whether the plan requires entry into new regions, as you will need to understand the available talent in the local market.
  2. Conduct an internal talent assessment to identify and evaluate existing employees and potential candidates. The assessment helps to uncover gaps in your current talent pool so you can identify specific areas for developing people internally. It can include a variety of methods such as structured interviews, assessments, performance evaluations, and creating profiles or personas for every critical role. Building role profiles is important because it answers the question, “what are the most skills and capabilities required for success in the role?”  The process for building the profile should involve perspectives from multiple stakeholders who have the best insights into the job. The profiles should be clearly communicated to talent acquisition partners to support better selection outcomes.
  3. Nurture your external talent pool. Building a reliable pipeline that is consistently nurtured even when there are no current openings is golden and can save time and money. Forge new relationships with candidates, add them to your social networks, and keep them informed of what is going on in the company. Don’t forget your alumni base! This is an excellent source for future talent. If they voluntarily left, track where they landed and keep in touch. If they were laid off, they could be your biggest cheerleaders IF their off-boarding experience was managed with compassion and respect. Including high quality outplacement services in severance packages will demonstrate the company’s commitment to a positive employee life-cycle experience.
  4. Create a positive candidate experience. David Bernstein describes the candidate experience as a hiring journey that is a sum of “micro-experiences.”  Each touch point in the experience is a moment of truth; an opportunity to leave a positive or negative lasting impression. Creating exceptional candidate experiences is important, as it helps to attract the best people and keeps them in your talent pool. On the other hand, a poor experience can damage their perception of your company forever. One of the top complaints of job seekers is being ghosted even after several rounds of interviews. What’s worse is that they share these negative experiences with others. Unfortunately, far too many internal candidates report similar experiences. Treat internal and external candidates as valued employees. Give them personalized attention in all messaging, communicate frequently, and keep the communication open. The idea is to gain advocates – people who will speak highly of your company and recommend it to others, whether or not they are hired.
  5. Prepare leaders to succeed. The top two reasons for leadership underperformance are lack of attention to succession and poor leadership development practices. Companies must do a better job of sourcing executive and leadership talent from within. To do that they must identify current and future leadership skills necessary to successfully drive their unique business plan and culture, then continually develop and assess leaders against these skills.

Leader development should start with a comprehensive and immersive onboarding process and continue throughout an employee’s career, tailored to their progression through the ranks. It must be multi-faceted to include exposure to other executives and networks, special assignments, job rotations, executive coaching, and experience with boards for CEO and C-Suite levels. Instill a “development culture” where all leaders understand their job is not only to identify successors, but also to develop them.

Constant unpredictable change is our new normal. Companies must protect themselves against a wide range of talent challenges. The world’s top organizations can withstand a crisis and still attract the highest caliber of people. They have a clear understanding of their company’s strategic plan, understand the roles and skills necessary to execute the plan, and proactively cultivate relationships with potential candidates well in advance who are motivated, engaged, and ready to enter the organization. Many companies say that they have a goal of having the best talent on hand at the point of need, but “a goal without a plan is just a wish!” A well-developed talent pipeline strategy is an invaluable asset to any organization.

Don’t wait until the next crisis, build, or enhance your talent pipeline today. Contact us today to learn how we can help future-proof your organization.

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