HR & Management

Four things talent leaders should do to add real business value

6 min read

27 December 2015

Hiring high quality talent consistently delivers a huge competitive advantage for organisations. Talent acquisition professionals have long known this to be true, but now – according to the results of a report entitled "Talent Acquisition 360" – 89 per cent of business leaders also agree that talent is a critical competitive advantage for their firm.

As business leaders recognise that their organisation’s ability to perform and compete depends squarely on hiring and retaining the right people, talent acquisition leaders have an opportunity to demonstrate their strategic value to the businesses they support.

But according to our research, those at the top think there is a significant gap between the importance of recruitment activities and the performance of these tasks by recruiters.

Some 90 per cent of business unit heads stated that delivering quality hires consistently should be the top priority for their talent acquisition team. However, just over half rate their performance as effective.

To earn trust from the top, talent leaders need to bridge this gap and ensure their function lives up to expectations. Here are my four top tips for making this a reality:

1. Build a first-class team

The talent acquisition function is only as strong as its people, so you need to start by closing the skills gap in your own team.

Define the core competencies of recruiters for the kinds of hires your organisation requires and conduct regular evaluations of your team to ensure they are performing effectively.

High quality talent expects a high quality candidate experience. The best recruiters make smart use of technology to facilitate the process, but they also deliver high-touch recruiting that puts the candidate first.

And, as recruitment is a profession like any other, you also need to ensure your team has access to continuing professional development so they are equipped to meet the needs of the business.

2. Understand your customer

Our research shows that the effectiveness gap is partly driven by a lack of alignment in definitions of success between talent acquisition and the rest of the business.

Talent leaders need to execute against strategies that support the overall business goals, and this must be derived from a deep understanding of the business objectives and expectations of leaders.

Begin by carrying out a functional review of the talent acquisition department, inviting input from business unit leaders. This will provide talent leaders with a clear idea of what business leaders are looking for.

Clear and regular communication will strengthen your relationship with business leaders. Keep them up to date with the recruitment strategy and process so that they can picture where they fit into it.

3. Demonstrate your strategic value

Talent leaders should be using their knowledge of the business and their customers’ expectations to add strategic value wherever possible.

Business unit leaders already expect this, as 75% of respondents rated talent acquisition’s ability to provide strategic thinking to shape business decisions as important or very important.

One way in which talent leaders can demonstrate their strategic value is by using HR data to inform business decisions. If your company is planning to open an office in a new city/region, use local talent data to advise on the feasibility and budget required.

The best talent leaders also highlight the broader business outcomes of their activities. Work with senior management to agree KPIs that demonstrate how your team is contributing towards the achievement of tangible business objectives.

Demonstrating talent acquisition’s added value will begin to turn sceptics into advocates.

4. Deliver quality hires consistently

Talent acquisition teams need to deliver quality hires as a standard.

When firms are on a high growth trajectory there can be pressure to fill roles quickly, which can lead to expensive hiring mistakes.

Talent leaders should take a critical look at their selection, assessment and screening process to ensure the best talent is hired. Work with business leaders to identify the key attributes and competencies that high quality employees consistently exhibit, and use this to inform your model for talent measurement and evaluation.

Even when there is no role to fill, your recruitment team should proactively scout top candidates to ensure you have a healthy talent pipeline. This ensures you can fill roles quickly without compromising quality or cultural fit.

Some talent acquisition teams are already having success at meeting business leaders’ expectations by working with outside partners. Our research reveals that organisations using Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) service providers are twice as likely to rate their organisations’ talent acquisition performance as effective.

With a first-class team that delivers quality hires consistently, and understands and contributes to achieving business goals, talent leaders can’t fail to demonstrate their value as indispensible partners.

Seb O’Connell is executive vice president and MD for Europe at Cielo.