You already know that great employees are at the heart of every successful organization. And an effective talent acquisition strategy ensures you get the right people for the job. But in today’s competitive market, it can be tough to find the right candidates. You have to proactively identify and attract them with a winning talent strategy.
Creating a talent acquisition strategy takes time and insight into your business’s strengths and opportunities. You also have to know what employees value in the workplace. Money is a top priority for workers, but so is a work culture that supports mental health, benefits that improve quality of life, and a sense of belonging.
What is talent acquisition?
A basic talent acquisition definition? It’s the process of identifying, attracting, recruiting, and retaining the best talent for available positions. Organizations develop talent acquisition strategies to fulfill their human resource needs in a structured, planned way.
Talent acquisition vs. recruitment
Talent acquisition and recruiting are closely related, but they aren’t the same thing. There are important differences between talent acquisition and recruitment. For example, recruitment focuses on the short term: identifying potential candidates, reaching out to them, and promptly filling open positions. Talent acquisition, on the other hand, takes a broader, long-term view. It considers the types of employees you’ll need in the future to help your company grow, plus what it takes to bring that talent on board. Recruitment is essential, but attracting and retaining the right people requires a more holistic strategic talent acquisition strategy.
Talent acquisition goals
The best talent acquisition strategy aim to accomplish some or all of the following goals:
- Develop a strong brand for the organization.
- Identify the type of employee who would thrive and serve your company well.
- Find out how and where to connect with these people (for example, conferences, trade shows, networking, or universities).
- Create a talent acquisition process, including interviewing, hiring, and onboarding, that makes candidates feel excited and valued.
- Implement a diversity hiring strategy.
- Monitor your company’s talent acquisition metrics to gauge whether your strategy is yielding the results you want.
Why is a talent acquisition strategy important?
A good talent acquisition strategy helps organizations in several ways:
- When you hire skilled, passionate people, your company is positioned to innovate, raise productivity, and stay competitive in today’s marketplace.
- It provides a pool of talent and better quality hires.
- It saves time and money by increasing employee retention and reducing turnover. With voluntary turnover costing over $600 billion per year, these savings can be significant.
The talent acquisition framework
Every company’s journey looks different based on their industry and needs, but most follow five basic stages of talent acquisition.
Stage 1: Build a strategy around your unique brand and goals.
The type of employee you want to attract will depend on your organization’s leadership structure, mission and vision, the positions you have available in the near future, and your budget. Understand your company’s position within your industry and how you stack up against competitors. This will help you differentiate yourself when networking with candidates and identify where your ideal prospects are likely to be found.
Consider what skill sets your organization needs and which might be missing or underrepresented. Try to forecast which positions will be hard to fill in the future and prioritize finding candidates who could step into those roles later.
Stage 2: Build talent pipelines.
When an employee leaves your company, you don’t want to be left scrambling to fill the gap. That leads to reactionary hires of “good enough” candidates. Your talent acquisition process should always be humming along in the background so you have a pool of solid candidates to reach out to when a job opens.
Here are a few ways to build this pipeline:
- Network at industry events
- Attend conferences
- Build relationships with university programs in your industry
- Keep lists of promising candidates you meet
There are likely other activities specific to your industry that would help you meet workers of all ages and skill sets. Keep your eyes open and your network wide.
Stage 3: Brand yourself to potential employees.
Your reputation precedes you, and you want it to entice your ideal employee. If your company message is muddled or your reputation is less-than-stellar, you’ll have a hard time finding top performers. Since potential team members might get impressions of your brand through social media, advertising, and other material aimed at consumers, think about how to position consumer-focused messaging in a way that also delights those you want to hire.
Stage 4: Invest in talent relationship management.
Once you’ve established a brand you’re proud of, it’s time to market it to talented folks in your industry. Manage your relationship with top talent so they’ll think of you when they need a job change. Here are a few key steps:
- Make them aware of your company and its career opportunities. You can do this through networking, social media campaigns, and other channels.
- Offer professional development opportunities like job fairs and career counseling sponsored by your organization. This demonstrates that your company helps its employees grow.
- Start spreading the word about openings at your company.
Stage 5: Time to recruit!
All of this preparation culminates in the recruitment process. When it comes time to fill a particular role, you’ll:
- Create a job description that speaks to the ideal candidate.
- Narrow your applicants to the best of the best.
- Develop an interview process that screens for the top qualities you want in your next hire.
- Start your new employee off on the right foot with a positive onboarding experience.
Tips for better talent acquisition
Try these “hiring hacks” to get a better ROI from your strategic talent acquisition framework.
When branding: Don’t make your company brand all about you. Consider what employees want and present your mission and work culture through that lens.
When hiring: When it makes sense to do so, consider hiring from within, especially for higher-level roles. This saves time and money since the employee already understands your company culture and mission.
When recruiting: Focus first on filling the roles that create the most value for your business—the longer those chairs sit empty, the more value you lose.
Where talent acquisition strategies go wrong
Building the best team possible for your company isn’t easy. Guard against these common pitfalls:
- Outdated strategies. Talent acquisition best practices evolve over time. Today, the most sought-after candidates are attracted by a work culture that promotes well-being, with generous PTO and benefits, flexible or remote work options, and healthy communication. And make sure to research competitive salary rates, which can change quickly.
- Not using skilled recruiters. Recruiting is a discipline in its own right, and a well-trained recruiter with a successful track record will know how to attract interested individuals and share the benefits of working for you.
- Unhelpful job descriptions. A job description should describe the qualities you want in a candidate, not just the tasks that come with the role. A poorly crafted job description is unlikely to draw the candidates you really want.
- Failing to evaluate outcomes. The talent acquisition process doesn’t stop at hiring. You’ll need to assess the new candidate’s experience during the recruitment process, and whether you’re happy with the employees you’ve hired. In other words, audit your talent acquisition strategy.
How to conduct a talent acquisition audit
Regular audits will keep your talent attraction strategy sharp and help you course-correct if you aren’t seeing the results you want. First, map out the candidate’s journey—or the way they experienced the application process from start to finish—and the internal steps taken during the hiring process. See how those two journeys match up and whether your internal team kept good communication with the candidate.
Then, evaluate a few common talent acquisition metrics to identify any problems in the recruitment journey that may need to be addressed. If you use professional recruiters, seek their expert feedback as well.
Finally, compare your talent acquisition process to that of your competitors. Identify what they’re doing well and try to emulate it, or improve upon their strategy to gain an advantage with future candidates.
Talent acquisition metrics
Reviewing your talent acquisition strategy isn’t a purely subjective process. These concrete measures can shed light on whether your plan is working as intended:
- Time to fill. This talent acquisition metric measures the length of time between when the position opens up and when you hire a suitable candidate. According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), the average time to fill is about 33 days.
- Cost to fill the position. The average cost to fill a position is around $4,000, though it can vary quite a bit. Remember to calculate the costs of recruiting, onboarding, and anything else that directly contributes to filling the position.
- Most effective recruitment channel. Calculate what percentage of your new hires found your company through various marketing channels and referral sources, and invest more resources in the channels that yield the best results.
- New employee retention rate. If a large percentage of new hires leave the company within six months to a year, you may have a problem with your talent attraction strategy.
- Quality of hire. Has your new hire delivered the type of performance at work that you were hoping for?
- The hiring manager’s feedback on the recruitment process and the quality of the candidate.
Level up your talent acquisition strategy
Once your general talent strategy is outlined, you’ll want to optimize each step to make your search as fruitful as possible. Here are some key talent acquisition strategy examples:
- Evaluate your benefits package.
Are your benefits compelling to today’s job seekers? In a Glassdoor survey, about 60 percent of employees reported that they strongly consider perks and benefits offered before accepting a job offer. And 79 percent preferred additional benefits over a pay increase.
- Prioritize employee mental health.
One of the most in-demand benefits is mental health support. Harvard Business Review reported that “Mental health challenges are now the norm among employees across all organizational levels,” with 76 percent of surveyed workers reporting at least one mental health symptom in the preceding year. As a result, employees are increasingly expecting mental health benefits as part of their compensation package. Eight in 10 workers say that how companies support employee mental health will be an important consideration when they look for their next job.
Mental health benefits are table stakes. The other piece that significantly impacts employee mental health is the overall culture of the workplace. Factors that can contribute to a culture of mental wellness include:
- Flexible schedules
- Hybrid or remote work options
- Robust benefits for mental health services
- A provider network of culturally competent therapists from diverse backgrounds
- Supportive policies for personal leave
- Generous PTO
- Reasonable workload expectations, including the ability to “unplug” on vacation
- A culture of psychological safety
- Open discussions of mental health in company meetings, emails, and other communication channels
- Employee resource groups (ERGs) or similar programs that create a sense of belonging
- A culture of mental wellness not only draws talented applicants to your door, but also improves employee productivity.
- Focus on the employee experience.
Consider all aspects of your work culture that could please or frustrate employees. Career-minded people want rewarding work, so tell prospective candidates about interesting projects or accomplishments at your workplace. Help them envision career trajectories they might pursue while working with you so they feel they’re stepping onto a path rather than just “taking a job.”
People are also more likely to join companies that prize collaboration and build a sense of community. Research shows about half of employees feel disconnected from their co-workers—a problem that impacts their mental and physical health, job performance, and life satisfaction, not to mention organizations’ ability to retain talent. And they’re looking to their employers to help them foster those connections. Companies that do so get better rankings and are more likely to be named a great place to work.
- Offer learning and development opportunities.
In a rapidly changing business landscape, workers need up-to-date skills and capabilities to thrive. While most organizations (74 percent) recognize that upskilling employees is important for their success, only 10 percent say they’re ready to support workforce development in this way. Yet offering these opportunities makes employers more attractive to job seekers, and also better positioned to innovate and retain talent.
Show your employees you’re invested in their growth by providing development opportunities, from internal programs and resilience training to conferences, workshops, discussion groups, and continuing education programs. You might also consider finding other industry professionals who’d be willing to participate in a mentoring program or a lunch-and-learn.
- Train managers.
Managers play a key role in defining healthy work practices and creating the type of work environment that attracts top performers. Examples of useful trainings include:
- Interviewing, onboarding, and other talent acquisition skills
- Communication skills
- Identifying mental health concerns and responding with appropriate resources
- Creating a supportive, stigma-free workplace
- Develop diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) talent acquisition strategies.
Diversity strengthens any workplace by bringing new perspectives, ideas, and solutions to the table. Successful DEI talent acquisition strategies begin in your day-to-day company culture, long before the recruitment process starts. Here are a few DEI talent acquisition ideas:
- Provide DEI training
- Show your commitment to DEI. For example, use inclusive language and images on your website, cover DEI topics on your blog, and release official company statements in support of diversity.
- Review your job descriptions for any language or requirements that may be exclusionary. For example, many positions require applicants to have a college degree even when a degree is not necessary to perform the duties of the role. Those who can’t pursue higher education because of financial constraints or family responsibilities are automatically excluded, even though they may be just as fit for the job as a new grad.
- Be cautious about relying only on your referral network to generate leads. It’s human nature to gravitate toward people we relate to, so your referral sources will likely continue to feed you the same types of candidates with similar backgrounds and experiences. Use referrals as well as other sources of lead generation to ensure a broader pool of candidates.
A modern approach to talent acquisition and retention
Every company aims to be the type of workplace job seekers flock to, but few HR professionals have the resources to do this without support. Lyra partners with organizations to build healthy work cultures that address today’s workforce challenges. Our Workforce Transformation program offers organizational development tools and services to help create a healthy culture, coach managers and employees on mental health, and empower benefits leaders to create data-driven mental health strategies. Learn more about how Lyra helps organizations create an employee experience that boosts talent acquisition and retention.