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Here’s What Your Peers Are Doing to Strengthen Talent Acquisition

A study by APQC examines what companies are doing to better attract and retain talent.
By: | April 5, 2019 • 4 min read
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With seven million open jobs and six million unemployed in the United States, 2018 marked the first year since the turn of the century with more job vacancies than available workers. With low unemployment numbers in the Eurozone and Asia-Pacific as well, we’re facing a global-scale talent shortage. Hiring costs are on the rise as companies compete to identify and acquire top talent. The environment for today’s recruiters is more challenging than ever—and that’s exactly why now is the time for innovation.

Here at nonprofit business-benchmarking organization APQC, we recently surveyed 552 companies from across the globe to learn how they’re approaching talent acquisition in this competitive landscape. Our findings are summarized below.

Tools and Tactics for Smart, Cost-Effective Sourcing

APQC’s survey results reveal that sourcing is the most important area for innovation in talent acquisition. Employers are expanding their toolkit of sourcing approaches, and employee referrals are one of the primary tools.

Referrals remain one of the best ways to find qualified and interested candidates. Employees know better than anyone else which qualities make for a successful hire.

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However, although most organizations have a formal employee referral program in place, our survey finds there’s great potential for improvement in terms of how organizations support these programs. Employers need to reinvigorate their employee referral plans by continuously publicizing them, leveraging technology to make it easy for employees to refer leads, providing updates to employees on the status of their referred candidates, and offering compelling rewards to employees who participate. Surprisingly, APQC’s survey found that less than half of respondents offer bonuses for referrals that result in successful hires. Remember that a $500 bonus is a very small price to pay for an outstanding hire.

APQC also finds that most organizations’ talent acquisition strategies rely on flexible labor in addition to permanent hires. Specifically, most make use of remote and on-site freelancers and contractors as well as third-party contingent labor. Smart companies secure the best flexible talent with attractive compensation and a positive work experience.

Companies are also reskilling current employees to fill future job openings. Training and development has long been overlooked as a talent-shortage solution. Reskilling brings great benefits to the organization and employee alike, but if it’s only executed via classroom or computer-based training, it may be unfeasible for short-staffed organizations. To do re-skilling right, you need to plan ahead. Develop multiple career paths and create opportunities for on-the-job training and knowledge sharing now, because it will pay off in the long run.

A Failure to Capitalize on Analytics

Predictive analytics are a boon to many HR processes. In talent acquisition, predictive analytics helps recruiters identify what the best candidates look like, where to find them, and the best ways to hire them. Predictive analytics uses aggregated hiring data to predict future trends and outcomes. It can help recruiters understand key drivers in terms of candidate decisions, employee performance, marketplace factors, and organizational needs. With analytics, HR can make better decisions throughout the talent acquisition process, from recruitment marketing to candidate selection to hiring.

Vendor solutions for predictive analytics are more affordable than ever, and organizations are heading to an early majority adoption rate. However, our survey finds that many companies aren’t fully capitalizing on the potential of analytics. Less than a third are analyzing historical patterns, while less than a quarter are developing scenarios and predicting outcomes.

Why aren’t more companies taking advantage of advanced analytics? The survey shows that the biggest problems are getting data out of systems and integrating systems. There are a few other challenges too—vaguely defined metrics, a lack of HR professionals with statistical skills—but it’s wise for HR organizations to focus on systems integration and centralization. Many companies are already undergoing or planning major digital transformations, and HR should get a piece of the pie.

Automating and Streamlining Recruitment and Selection

In this competitive landscape, recruiters don’t have time to waste on repetitive, non-value-added tasks. That’s why so many companies are automating the administrative aspects of recruiting. APQC finds that:

  • 68 percent of companies have automated interview scheduling;
  • 62 percent have automated contract generation, issue, and acceptance;
  • 57 percent have automated application sifting and ranking; and
  • 54 percent have automated pre-start onboarding.

Cloud delivery is driving this trend with its affordable and easy-to-use automation capabilities. Automation not only frees up time for the recruiter, it also creates a smoother and more responsive experience for the candidate.

It’s vital to provide candidates with a streamlined experience, because today’s top performers aren’t going to put up with inefficient and burdensome processes. They know their value, and they expect potential employers to recognize it within a reasonable timeline. Otherwise, they’ll go work for a competitor instead. Leading organizations know this and are continuously improving their selection processes.

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Nearly all of those surveyed by APQC provide tools to help candidates decide whether to continue the application process or withdraw. Videos about job fit and assessments that gauge organizational fit are the most commonly-used approaches (both are used by almost half of those surveyed), but virtual job try-outs are also prevalent. The information collected via screening tools can be a valuable artifact to further evaluate candidates that make it through the screening phase.

The Need to Think “Big Picture”

Companies want to reduce recruitment costs and get the best candidates, but HR will need to take a big-picture approach to achieve both goals. Long-standing vacancies are costly and have a negative impact on current employees, so recruiters may be tempted to cut corners to fill positions. But mis-hires can be just as detrimental to company culture and the bottom line. Cost estimates for a bad hire range from one-third up to multiple times the employee’s annual salary. Bringing on a new employee with the wrong skillset or attitude can also upend the productivity, synergy and culture of teams.

Costs are easier to measure, but APQC’s survey finds that most companies think quality of hire is the best reflection of talent acquisition performance. There’s no set formula to measure quality of hire, and most organizations aggregate a collection of metrics including length of service, engagement scores, performance data and manager satisfaction. In this competitive environment, it’s wise to measure aggressively and often to understand what a best-fit candidate looks like for your organization.

Elissa Tucker is APQC’s principal research lead for human capital management.

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