According to PwC’s latest CEO Survey, 83 per cent of UK business leaders are worried about how to source and acquire key skills, vital to the long-term success of their organisations. Similarly, in his recent book, Hire Power, author John Wallace highlights how 87 per cent of CEOs struggle to find the right people, for the right jobs, at the right time. 

In the past, HR and Recruitment leaders have advocated that the answer to mitigating against future skills shortages was to create broad pools of ‘potential’ talent, calling it a pipeline. These pools could contain tens or even hundreds of thousands of profiles.  However, while historically these databases would have had an element of value, in the digital age we need to rethink the definition of a viable pipeline.

The truth is that hefty databases, packed with the names and last-known job titles of professionals who have never been contacted, are now next to useless. If you’re searching internal data-sets this large and unwieldy, you may as well be using Google.

Add to this the fact that a 2016 survey from Alexander Mann Solutions, in cooperation with Social Talent, found that three quarters of candidates who are considered for a job do not meet role requirements – and 72 per cent of individuals contacted regarding an opening do not respond – therefore it’s clear that there is a huge amount of wastage surrounding existing practices.   

But that’s not to say HR leaders cannot gain significant value from strategically pipelining for the most niche and hard to fill roles. That means identifying, screening and maintaining engagement with that most prized talent.

Where many organisations fall down is that they fail to recognise that true pipelining takes significant investment in time and resources, both at sourcing stage and beyond. Unless you have modelled your teams differently, recruiters are fully loaded with live positions – you cannot expect them to pipeline for every eventuality on the side of their desks.

It’s important to tap into talent which is both niche and passive. While wider employer branding campaigns should, of course, speak to disparate stakeholders, there is less focus required to engage active talent – by nature they are open minded and more easily sold into joining the organisation.

Ultimately, it’s an investment decision. Unless you want to double the size of the talent acquisition budget, HRDs must work with the business to assess wider strategic workforce planning strategies, determine and clearly define the most business-critical roles and concentrate on these.

It’s worth keeping in mind that a normal hiring cycle for specialist roles may be more than 45 days to offer and 100 days until start date, so to reduce this time it is crucial that teams are committed to regularly communicating with pipelined candidates in a personalised way – and have the capacity to do so.  

Finally, as with any investment, it is important to measure success to ensure that resources are being directed effectively – and that this can be demonstrated to the wider business. This data can then be harnessed to build timelines and determine where organisations are likely to need to invest moving forwards and inform future strategic workforce planning strategies.

Any business is only as good as its talent, but while hiring managers would dearly love recruiters to pipeline for every future role, HR strategists must question the value of such activities when you take into consideration cost and effort. By working smarter, not harder, HR leaders can put the pipelining myth to bed and win in the war for talent.

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