5 ways to revolutionize talent acquisition

The world’s largest chemical company recently underwent a major overhaul of its talent-acquisition function, a transformation that moved TA into a strategic and collaborative role–and, according to TA leaders, has paid off in spades.

BASF Corp.’s TA team members Kate Burk and Tony Lioi led a session Feb. 20 at Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech LIVE! in Las Vegas about the company’s work to restructure its approach to talent acquisition, shifting from a reactive to proactive approach.

“We needed to transform our talent-acquisition group to become a strategic partner for the business,” said Lioi, manager of talent acquisition operators at BASF. Beginning in 2016, the company developed a five-pronged strategy with the aim of bringing its TA teams–which are segmented by exempt and non-exempt, executive, contingent labor and university recruiting–into more collaborative positions. The strategy included:

  1. Understand your case for change and get ahead of the pace over time.
  2. Focus your vision and structure on your critical few areas to drive impact.
  3. Differentiate your strategies based on business need.
  4. Build and showcase strategic capability of the team.
  5. Deliver impact through innovation and acceleration.

This model sought to enable the company to manage rapid change in the TA sphere: innovations in new technology, the expansion of the global market and the evolution of candidate expectations regarding alignment with business culture.

“The center of all of these changes is talent acquisition,” Burk said.

As it set down the path toward transformation, the company identified three strategic pillars to drive business impact in order to delineate its TA goals: strengthen its partnerships with candidates, customers and clients; improve the quality of hire; and pursue continuing improvement and innovation.

Among the myriad steps it took to accomplish those aims, BASF restructured its TA staffing, moving from a coordinator-recruiter-team lead hierarchy to three unique positions that work in tandem: recruitment relationship manager, talent acquisition advisor and outsourced candidate care. It automated many TA processes, including social-media job postings, in order to alleviate the administrative burden on many of its TA professionals, freeing them up to provide more consultative work.

“Historically, the business asks and talent acquisition does,” Burk said. “Now the business identifies a need and partners with TA to focus on a specific area for change, with TA providing a consultative voice to the conversation.”

BASF also moved to impact-based hiring, in which its TA staff was trained to understand talent gaps and needs and to then assess candidates holistically–moving away from education- and work experience-based hiring to include a fuller evaluation of a candidate’s unique skills and life experiences. Along those lines, BASF does not include a “job requirement” section in any of its open listings, focusing instead on outcomes.

When it comes to outcomes of the transformation, Lioi and Burk said hiring managers have consistently delivered positive feedback on surveys, particularly that they appreciate the flexibility and potential for partnerships that the new approach allows. Hiring managers have seen a dip in the ratio of candidates supplied to candidates interviewed from 12-to-1 to 8-1, a metric Burk predicted will continue to fall–as will the time to accept, which dropped seven days for client-facing groups between 2017 and 2018. The company has also picked up a number of awards in recent years, including several diversity-focused honors that cited it as a best place to work for LGBT employees, veterans and working parents.

“The focus used to be on pursuing candidates for an open job,” Burk said about the TA transformation, “and that’s shifted into this multifaceted, very strategic function that integrates itself into the business.”

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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at hreletters@lrp.com.