I’m going to start this blog from a contentious point: The process of talent acquisition is broken – a model has been created, promoted and defended which is simply unfit for purpose.

There you are I’ve said it. Now before I’m howled down and flamed by hard-working recruitment managers the world over, let me explain why I say this, because not only do I think it’s true, I think it’s costing your companies a fortune in money, time and lost productivity.

The fact is that companies annually spend billions of dollars, pounds and euros developing business strategies for two, three and five year development plans, analysing competitor data, market projections and internal metrics, but in many cases they do so with little or no coherent reference to the single most fundamental question: Who is going to do it?

In the past, as Professor Peter Cappelli noted in the Harvard Business Review, there was a model of internal development to meet these needs. In the fifties and sixties companies knew who would deliver their future results because they trained them and developed them in-house to do just that. All the elements which we now see as uncommon and novel, such as structured development and executive coaching, were normal in any major company. As much as an employee could look forward to a job for life, he or she could also foresee a career-long development path. But, the uncertainties of the markets in the seventies, eighties and into the nineties largely destroyed this model. It was so much easier to do nothing and hire-to-fit as required; the ‘just-in-time’ model applied to the workforce. The spectre of large populations of inappropriately trained staff terrified corporate executives and so they decimated the old internal development model in favour of a ‘hire as you need’ approach. But this model has created tremendous problems of its own, problems which I believe are only getting worse.

At a time when all the major western economies are complaining of decreasing educational standards amongst the young, most companies are cutting back on their training budgets. Many executives laud this reduction as an opportunity to cut costs, and make someone else pay for training, and so the pool of genuine talent contracts. The constant in-fighting for the same limited pool of people creates salary inflation, encourages job-hopping and reduces average productivity.

All of this might be forgivable, if the ‘just-in-time’ model was being successful for companies, but from what we see in the marketplace, I don’t think it is. Hiring decisions made at the last minute lead to ten to twelve week average hiring times, whilst competition from equally desperate competitors means perhaps one in three offers are accepted, leading to huge wastage of management time. In fact, the ‘just-in-time’ model has led to increased hiring costs, increased management costs, increased salary costs, longer hiring timelines, lower productivity and higher attrition. It’s not the fault of the recruitment managers, they’re just working within the framework they’re given, but the fact is that it is a broken model.

Yet having no obvious alternative, and understandably balking at the cost of re-establishing complex training programmes, companies are being forced to simply stick with it and hope for the best whilst they continue to develop business plans and strategies with no surety as to who is going to be able to deliver them… kind of makes me think of the poor old ostrich…

Yet an alternative approach does exists, it has been in place in industry, in the very companies facing these issues, for years. It is called Supply Chain Management. Applied to talent we call it ‘Talent Warehousing’. Talent Warehousing allows a company to identify its likely strategic talent requirements across a twelve month period and proactively identify suitable candidates in advance of need. Or simply put, we find them before you need them. By utilising proactive methods like market mapping, research and networking, the pool of talent is drawn from the whole of the market, not the 5-10% usually represented by whoever is active on job-boards and agency databases at a given moment. This ensures a higher average quality of candidate whilst reducing competition. Key to success of this approach though is the careful, on-going management of this warehouse of talent. This enables the development of a rapport with potential candidates, building an understanding, appreciation and desire that leads to higher offer acceptance rates, quicker achievement of optimum productivity and reduction in attrition. Furthermore, a candidate who wants to join you does not have to be bought. By making the client an employer of choice salary inflation is controlled at the same time as the employer brand is enhanced.

By aligning talent with strategic business goals, Talent Warehousing eliminates the costly issues of the ‘just-in-time’ model. It delivers better, more productive talent that will stay with you longer, whilst reducing hiring times, hiring costs and lost management time. But most fundamentally it provides not only the people necessary to deliver the board’s strategy, but offers clear visibility of the available talent pool. And after all, it’s surely better to know what is out there, than to hope for the best, like the poor old ostrich?

By Jason Collings

Jason Collings is director of UK based recruitment process outsourcing company, Quarsh. Quarsh provide unique and strategically designed recruitment and HR outsourcing projects for both SME’s and large organisations.