Drain the talent pool


For several years now,  recruitment has headed in-house.  It makes sense – there are proven benefits around time to hire, quality of hire and (the money shot) cost per hire.  The move to an online society means companies can, by and large, access similar groups of active and passive candidates as their recruitment suppliers. Then there is the added benefit of candidates being able to place their details directly on to the company’s own candidate management system via direct application.  For lots of reasons its a winner.

The direct result of companies having their own candidate management systems is the increased use of  ‘talent pools’, or what used to be called ‘kept on file’. Then  cloud computing and improved search technology meant truck-loads of CV’s at the hands of internal recruitment staff.  Once again, a winner.

Bad language

What does not make sense to me is who thought it was a good idea to settle on the phrase ‘talent pool’?  What does  ‘pool’ say to you when associated with talent management? Close your eyes and  imagine a well stocked pool.  What’s in it?  Chances are it’s not an Olympic synchronised swimming team.  Far more likely it’s stocked with fish waiting to be plucked out when demand requires them.  They’re commodities. The term ‘pool’ implies it’s where you keep stock flapping about until you can fish it out at a later date. Companies spend comfortably in excess of six figures on candidate management systems to capture essential data about people applying to their business,  yet all it seems to be used for is stock holding. This seems insulting to your external talent and a massively wasted opportunity.

Why is that database of talent not being used to strengthen relationships and create a buzz around employer brand and the employment experience? We live in an age in which we can communicate cheaply and instantaneously with either massive groups or targeted segments. We can be letting our ‘pool’ know how great we are. We can be controlling the dialogue and getting the jump on our talent competitors, altering or reinforcing perceptions of our employment experience. But are you?

A global search on LinkedIn showed HR professionals possessing the following skills: “talent pools” –  2975 users “talent pooling” – 748 And then I searched on phrases where there seemed a greater opportunity for dialogue: “external talent management” – 89 “employer brand promotion” – 19. (1 in the UK) “talent pool communications” – 1 “talent pool relationships” – 1 “external talent relationships” – 0

Golden opportunity

Now I may be being pedantic (and these numbers are based on the limitations of my network), but the figures and ratios above  imply that lots of people are holding CV’s on databases but few  are doing much else.  These CV’s belong to real people – the people who might tip off a golden candidate about an opportunity with your business. The resourcing team has their contact details and knowledge of the functions they work in.  It is a huge opportunity to promote yourself as an employer of choice irrespective of size. Are you ignoring a chance to reach potential  brand ambassadors for your organisation? Suggestions

  • Send out a quarterly newsletter at a company level talking about your culture and achievements, maybe with tailored content around departmental insights.
  • Promote current vacancies
  • Create an incentive programme for referrals
  • Even remember their birthdays!

Why not? You have their attention.  The worst thing they can do is unsubscribe.

Research I have done in the external talent space taught me that what people want is to be linked with organisations through occasional polite and engaging contact, not “stuck in a waiting room” as one respondent memorably put it. These are talent ambassadors that could be tipping off high calibre colleagues about vacancies in your business and promoting your brand.  Even in these days of viral marketing and online attraction, word of mouth is still the way most people tell me they hear about vacancies.

Being external, it is very easy to criticise companies for focussing on the short term needs in their efforts to attract candidates. Internal resourcing can swiftly change from a strategic initiative to a transactional function when short term cost per hire might be the only metric directors visibly care about.  I also appreciate that introducing the phrase ‘external talent management’ to replace the established ‘talent pool’ is a big ask, but at least the former implies a dialogue that promotes your employer brand,  whilst the latter is (to me at least) a euphemism for an online filling cabinet.

In the eternal battle between HR as a cost centre and HR as a value creator, the opportunity to really stand out as an employer of choice through strong employer brand promotion and  external talent management seems too good to miss.

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