5 Ways to Successfully Build Talent Pipelines

By Mervyn Dinnen
Our recent White Papers on recruitment challenges in both the NHS and charity sectors highlighted many of the problems with taking a reactive approach to recruitment. Waiting until a person resigns or leaves before starting the search for a replacement lengthens the time to hire, placing extra burden on remaining team members who may have to cover the work, and leaving the hiring manager at the mercy of a competitive, skill short market. Staff morale and productivity can be affected.


Experienced talent is scarce, and rarely openly job-hunting, so if they do look around will usually find they have a range of options. To compete, public sector organisations need to take a much more proactive approach to recruitment, building relationships with prospective employees ahead of vacancies arising. The way to achieve this is through talent pipelining, which effectively means developing relationships with passive candidates ahead of having specific vacancies, shifting the emphasis from reactive recruitment to a more proactive approach.

Instead of trying to fill immediate vacancies, recruiters in the public sector need to take a longer-term view, looking to build a network of potential future candidates. This approach relies more on marketing and employer branding - one of the sector's key strengths - to build awareness and interest in future opportunities and to encourage applications even if there isn't a specific live vacancy. This can help to reduce recruitment costs and shorten time to hire, whilst also ensuring that future employees are fully aligned with organisational culture and values.

All of this can be incorporated into current recruitment practices and strategies by embracing a slightly different mindset and approach.  Here are five ways to help build successful talent pipelines...

Forward Planning
To start you will need some visibility of future recruitment needs. This can be achieved by working closely with hiring and team managers looking at previous patterns of work and labour flows and understanding the triggers for needing to hire. The recruiter acts more like a business advisor and consultant than a vacancy filler, looking at the types of skill that are always in short supply, the average number of vacancies and identifying gaps in succession planning. Attention needs to be paid to recurring skill shortages and talent gaps, key roles for which there are no obvious internal replacements and future growth plans.

Future Skills
Any plans for future growth may well require skills that we either do not currently have in the organisation, or that need strengthening if we do. Pipelines are a good way to create a pool of candidates who possess the skills we may need at a later stage. Again a close working relationship with hiring managers should help recruiters to identify areas in which the skill base is weak and those new projects or service offerings that may require knowledge not currently in the organisation. The chance to get involved with new projects will often be a key driver for passive candidates looking for a fresh challenge.

Employer Brand
The key to developing a strong talent pipeline is in understanding and showcasing your employer brand. In the public sector this is usually a sweet spot as the values and purpose of the organisation, and the positive impact their work has on the lives of others, are attractive to potential candidates and signify a good place to work. Social media platforms offer a great way to share these benefits, with images and positive stories, publicising activities and initiatives as well developing communities around common interests. There is also an opportunity to showcase internal culture; particularly useful as passive candidates, and hiring managers, will be able to ensure before any job offer that there is a culture match.

Keep them Engaged
Creating the network, and identifying and reaching out to passive candidates are only parts of a successful pipeline; you need to keep them engaged and interested too. This means regular, but not intrusive, communication and updates, and content about the sector or specific projects and activities. Remember that this is a relationship based on mutual interest, hence constant updates or newsletters may raise expectations amongst the pipeline that there will be a vacancy soon or that they have already been identified for something. Communication needs to be informative and appealing, but also clear and unambiguous.

Broaden Sources of Hire
A talent pipeline can help bring to the recruiting mix candidates from outside the usual recruitment channels. The wider reach from the stories and roles you share may attract prospective candidates who wouldn't normally look at specific job ads. There are also supporters, collaborators and the personal and professional networks of employees and alumni, and previously unsuccessful candidates, who might not have been the right fit at the time they applied, but have now have gained broader experience. All of these can offer referrals and introductions.

Talent pipelines are a long-term investment, but crucial in reducing the disruption and cost of reactive recruitment. They help to create relationships with prospective candidates who might not respond to traditional advertising or sourcing approaches, and also position the recruiter and as a business partner and career advisor. For internal managers they facilitate smoother workforce planning and for employees provide some reassurance that staffing gaps can be quickly and effectively met.

Our recent research showed talent pipelines to be on the agenda for many. With proper planning, great content and engaging conversations they could be the answer to many skill shortages and help reduce the cost, and time, for each hire too.

Mervyn Dinnen is an award winning blogger and a content & social engagement strategist. He specialises in the Recruitment and HR sectors and is a regular speaker and panelist at industry conferences. By Mervyn Dinnen | September 8, 2015


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