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Keeping talent in the swim

Talent pool management has become a real issue for many companies, and getting the right people quickly has never been more crucial, or more difficult. Wanda Goldwag Non- executive Chair, True North Human Capital Ltd.

It is precisely because there is now very limited flexibility about when people can be hired that the need to identify skill shortages, map which industries and localities people are likely to be found in and keep in touch with likely candidates has become so crucial. In addition, global sourcing has become necessary if you are going to get the best people. You can’t just rely on the talent you find in your own home market. In less rigid times, if two or three good people applied, for example, for a technical role in a growing IT department, one might be hired immediately and one offered a role starting in a month’s time. Now as each role needs to be approved separately and justified, often to a Director in another country or at Head office, this is simply not possible. You are only allowed to hire when there is an absolute vacancy which means that only when someone has left or been fired can you start looking for a replacement person, therefore almost guaranteeing that there will be a period where the role is not filled as the recruitment process is started.

The more specialist the role the more important it has become to keep in touch with people who could quickly fill the vacancy and who do not need to be persuaded to join your company

We are therefore seeing the contradictory situation that too many unsuitable people are chasing too few vacancies and flooding companies with their CV’s. So once a role is advertised, the recruitment process is complicated and delayed as perhaps thousands of unsuitable applications are handled. Talent pooling is therefore your ‘contingent plan’ what used to be termed ‘succession planning’, but it is not just about individual roles these days but is now about engaging with whole skill sets and talent that can fill critical roles that drive the bottom line success. The more specialist the role the more important it has become to keep in touch with people who could quickly fill the vacancy and who do not need to be persuaded to join your company.

So how do good companies manage this dilemma? Firstly, a candidate attraction strategy is created in the same way as you would create a plan for launching a new product or service. The plan needs to be underpinned by clear processes, so that mangers understand how they identify people to put into the pool, and then the company needs to agree, in a clear documented manner, what communication methods and technology will be used to manage the pool. Good ATS (applicant tracking system), of which there are a myriad to choose from, needs to be able speak to existing and potential new talent and alumni and across a number of channels.

An internal communication programme is required to launch the scheme to inform all the appropriate staff that a talent pool programme is being created, and then ask them to work with Human Resources to carry out a resource planning exercise to identify what the key skill shortages in the company are. With line management, the human resources team also need to identify what pay rates, grading structures and career progression needs to be offered to ensure that when talent is identified, appropriate rewards to attract them will be in place.

Once a programme is put in place to identify individuals who can’t currently be offered a role but who would be appropriate once one of the agreed skill shortage vacancies arises, the next stage is to create an on-going communications process with the talent pool. Different types of companies will create different communication schedules, but for most there will be regular phone calls or email newsletters to keep prospective candidates in touch and feeling cared about and most importantly, connected to the business. Some companies create LinkedIn and Facebook groups that both internal and external people can access. Wherever possible line managers are encouraged to use the prospective talent pool as a source of information, referrals and opinions making them feel that they are already contributing to the business and increasing their chances of buy in when finally the right vacancy is available.

Obviously, it is essential to be able to interface with social media, job boards and graduate and alumni sites, while conforming to strict data protection regulations. The tracking system needs to be able to keep in contact with everyone in the pool but, not constantly. The communications plan needs to be relevant, timely and interesting to the recipient and designed with one thought in mind; to make them want to work for the company. Finally, immediately a vacancy occurs, the talent pool is contacted and the appropriate people made an offer. If the talent pool has been well managed, this should be an almost seamless process.

Wanda Goldwag Non-executive Chair
True North Human Capital Ltd.

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