How Mature Is Your Talent Acquisition Process?


You know your organization's talent acquisition process needs work. What you might not know is where to begin. Meaningful updates require total buy-in from the workforce, a substantial period of evaluation and ongoing process tweaks. Fortunately, many other business leaders find themselves in this position — and come out on top.


The first place to start? Evaluating your company's talent process maturity.


Excessive time spent filling positions is a major concern for organizations today. Research puts the average cost of recruitment at $4,129, with the average turnaround time at a whopping 42 days.1 All told, 52% of respondents to Mercer's Global Talent Trends 2019 study identified this excessive time as a top concern for their recruitment efforts.

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We have to be more proactive and see this as a unique process — especially for business critical target groups.
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– Michael Eger, a Partner at Mercer | Promerit


Talent Process Maturity: Qualitative vs. Quantitative Data

Part of the challenge of understanding talent process maturity is the age-old question of whether to focus on qualitative or quantitative data. Quantitative data only tells you about the needs of the organization in the past. To understand what the company actually needs going forward, you need a more qualitative approach.


Michael Eger, a Partner at Mercer | Promerit, argues that a more qualitative and creative approach is needed in the talent acquisition process. "We have to be more proactive and see this as a unique process — especially for business critical target groups," he notes.


Evaluating the process begins with looking at where you need to recruit. There's a tendency among large organizations to look at recruiting as a repetitive process and to keep recruiting from the same groups. This stems from the tendency of recruitment to be driven by what a certain department subjectively thinks it needs, rather than being driven by past data and future needs.


Rooted in the Past, Oriented Forward

Still, the talent acquisition process tends to look backward by its very nature. Rather than considering a different skill set or group of competencies, the focus is more on replenishing talent that has worked well in the past. Yes, talent acquisition should be informed by past needs — but it also needs to align with the vision of where the organization should be moving forward.


John Land, Senior Principal of HR Transformation with Mercer, explains that one problem with talent acquisition is that the groups involved in the decision-making tend to be stuck in what he calls "order-taker role."


"They're the last to know as they are not engaged in workforce planning. And they're expected to deliver on unrealistic deadlines as the teams conducting the workforce planning do not understand the recruitment landscape," says Land.


It's important to really understand the recruitment landscape, especially in today's tight labor market. There are different types of recruiting, too — for example, mass recruiting efforts, more targeted efforts, easy to recruit and difficult to recruit and so on.


Organizations must understand what proportion of each they have on their plate. Mass recruiting works for easier-to-fill positions, but especially in a tight labor market, more high-salaried positions require a more hands-on approach. This necessitates a greater understanding of the position as well as more points of contact.


Changing the Recruitment Process

One example of changing the process and viewing it more qualitatively is to take a sales approach. Sales and marketing have personas for their potential customers — why doesn't HR and related departments have personas for their potential new hires? This can allow your organization to create talent value propositions to help "sell" the organization to top talent in a tight labor market.


This means looking not only at your needs but also at what would make a given position or potential position attractive to an applicant. Maybe it's the compensation. Maybe it's the benefits, or maybe it's the responsibilities or the working environment.


It actually doesn't matter. The point is, when you know why someone would want the role, you're in a much better position to recruit for it.


Of course, some of this is repeatable, so you should strive to understand what can be replicated. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel where you don't have to. What's more, understanding what you can repeat will help you to gain a vision of what you cannot.


There are common problems in the talent acquisition process, even among skilled and mature organizations. For example, some team members can be very ad hoc in how they communicate with prospective talent. The problem might not even be your process — it might be that your brand or even the position advertised is unattractive. This is an area where the "sales and marketing" approach discussed above can make a big difference.


At the end of the day, your North Star must be the needs of the business and the vision. The Process Maturity Continuum is a tool that can provide you with insight into where your organization is at. Take a holistic approach: Defining strategy for target groups first, define processes second and, finally, determine what technologies you will leverage.

Michael Eger
Michael Eger

Partner, Mercer | Promerit

John Land
John Land

Principal, HR Transformation

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