TA teams often left out of workforce planning, Bersin research finds

Skills scarcity is currently a predominant challenge for business organizations, and many find themselves at a crossroads in deciding how to use talent acquisition as a solution, says Stella Ioannidou, Josh Bersin Company’s senior director of research.

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“It’s a pivotal time when they need to decide if talent acquisition is a service function or a strategic partner of the business,” she told HRE.

Ioannidou manages a research portfolio focused on skills, AI, talent intelligence and people analytics—what she calls “the nerdy stuff.” She leads her organization’s research initiatives exploring rising and declining skills, data-driven insights on becoming a skills-based organization and technology solutions supporting this transition.

Ioannidou’s recent project, the Talent Acquisition at a Crossroads report, built in collaboration with talent acquisition firm AMS, found that many talent acquisition leaders emphasize the need for their teams to be more strategically integrated into business planning.

Talent acquisition and business planning

The report surveyed over 130 worldwide HR executives (the majority from the TA sphere) and found that most TA leaders see skills shortages as their top work-related challenge. They also face pressure to improve recruiting efficiency but say they lack strategic support from HR and business leaders. One TA leader noted in the report, “We are considered a low-cost fulfillment center, and that’s not the value we provide.”

The Josh Bersin Company’s research found that these professionals believe the TA department should not merely fulfill talent requisitions but also understand the underlying reasons for these hiring needs and identify the necessary skills to achieve desired results.

Ioannidou told HRE that TA leaders would prefer to be in a position to anticipate future needs rather than merely reacting to them. This is particularly true in 2024, as the volatility of the economy and changing business demands were revealed to be two of the most significant macro pressures TA practitioners face.

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In addition to a need to be more closely aligned with the business, Ioannidou said respondents also highlighted the importance of developing skills in analytics, market knowledge and translating market insights into talent acquisition strategies.

She said they wanted to be more of a “consultant and a business partner to other business units and even across other HR teams to understand how their work and their impact in bringing in talent actually interrelates with the ecosystem.” Yet, only a third of TA leaders reported they feel they are strategic partners in their organizations.

Barriers to strategic talent acquisition

Ioannidou said that when her team started this research, they set out to discover how talent acquisition differs among industries, such as pharma and professional services. Despite expecting significant differences, the Bersin research team found common themes across geographies and industries, especially the issue of skill scarcity. Ioannidou said all sectors reported difficulty finding the skills they need.

Stella Ioannidou, talent acquisition
Stella Ioannidou

Volatility and automation, including AI, were also major concerns for talent acquisition teams, especially in professional services, where technology integration is crucial, according to Ioannidou. Shifting business priorities and demands emerged as the top concern in most regions, and nearly half of those surveyed said rapidly changing business priorities leave them scrambling.

As captured in the report, TA professionals pointed out that “everything keeps changing all the time, our priorities are all over the place and we’re trying to keep up.”

This is often tied to the lack of a workforce plan, according to Ioannidou, meaning business leaders don’t know how new hires will be utilized long-term. According to the study, 42% of TA leaders believe their company lacks a workforce plan, and 40% think their organization isn’t ready for a strategic approach to talent acquisition.

Furthermore, even if there are workforce planning discussions, TA teams often “have no visibility on that,” says Ioannidou. The visibility barrier needs to be removed for TA teams to be able to support the interconnectivity between talent acquisition and internal mobility.

Interestingly, the survey also revealed that TA teams are often the most analytics-driven in HR, said Ioannidou. Considering that executives and boards want human resource teams to deliver data to support their functional business decisions, it might be a surprise that TA needs aren’t the first line of support for leadership gatherings.

“If there’s a meeting and somebody is asked, ‘What’s going on with the workforce?’ it is usually TA that has some data points to talk about: the turnover, the vacancies, even just the basics,” the researcher points out. “If no one in HR has any analytics, the TA team has something.”

Jill Barthhttps://hrexecutive.com/
Jill Barth is HR Tech Editor of Human Resource Executive. She is an award-winning journalist with bylines in Forbes, USA Today and other international publications. With a background in communications, media, B2B ecommerce and the workplace, she also served as a consultant with Gallagher Benefit Services for nearly a decade. Reach out at [email protected].