December 17 , 2017

The Future of Recruiting — the Talent Advisor Model Dominates (Part 1 of 2)

As seen on ERE Media, November 6, 2017.

Note: This “think piece” is designed to stimulate your thinking about the future of recruiting

Whether you want job security as a recruiter or to simply understand the future direction of recruiting, understand that the recruiting function is already beginning to undergo a strategic shift toward the “talent advisor model.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a talent advisor is a consultant role where the advisor spends most of their time consulting with managers as to how to improve their talent-management capabilities and how to get the most out of their talent. This role provides expert advice on internal talent optimization and how to dominate the external talent marketplace. And because this big picture, a future-oriented approach is specifically designed to improve business outcomes, these consultants will have long-term job security in both up and down economies.

For decades recruiting has successfully operated under a transactional model, where recruiters primarily filled “orders.” However, that approach is already becoming reduced as AI and machine learning technologies gradually take over all recruiting process elements and most sourcing and candidate assessment. And to put it bluntly, that means that the typical recruiter role of “filling requisitions” will shrink both in numbers and in importance. So as the leading advocate for the talent advisor model, I suggest that if you want job security in recruiting, the only option is to “shift up a level” to a more strategic, more impactful, and more exciting role as a talent advisor.

Unfortunately, under the current role, the advice provided by recruiters is essentially ignored. Only 25 percent of hiring managers currently say that recruiters influence their hiring decisions, and only 35 percent are satisfied with recruiting’s impact on their business results (Source: CEB/Gartner)

The Many Benefits of the Talent Advisor Model

The primary goal of this model is to improve business results as a result of managers following the expert talent advice provided by talent advisors. But in addition, managers will be better informed about future talent problems and opportunities and the talent actions of their competitors that they must counter. Under this approach, managers will also have more innovators, technologists, diverse talent, and potential leaders. And finally, managers will have to spend less time on talent management, even as their talent results continually improve.

The Role of a Talent Advisor Explained

Even though there will always be some recruiters that focus on filling requisitions, the time has come when both the time and the resources of the recruiting function will shift toward a more strategic and future-oriented role. Internal talent advisors will act as consultants, rather than order fillers. Some of the focus areas that differentiate this new role include:

  • A focus on business results— rather than simply being satisfied with filling open jobs, the goal will be to directly and measurably improve business results. A talent advisor must be able to demonstrate to managers how by using a broader array of talent actions (e., recruiting, retention, and internal movement) they can significantly improve business results. And to fully understand the needs of the business units that they serve, talent advisors will need to become experts on their businesses and the critical success factors that lead to improved business results.
  • Focused on future needs— rather than simply focusing on current job needs, talent advisors educate their managers so that they hire talent that can meet both current and future talent needs. And that means that more new hires will have “future skills,” a steeper career trajectory, and the ability to transition into new roles as the firm changes and grows. In order to understand future needs, advisors must become experts in workforce planning and on advising managers on upcoming talent problems and opportunities.
  • Maintaining a competitive advantage— to get the best technical talent and innovators, more emphasis must be placed on understanding and dominating the external talent marketplace. Talent advisors, therefore, have an external focus on fully understanding the talent marketplace. And they spend more time conducting competitive analyses to ensure that their firm’s talent attraction factors and employer brand are constantly superior to that of their talent competitors.
  • Broadening the scope of talent advice— advisers help their managers understand different talent strategies and tools. So in addition to providing recruiting advice, talent advisors educate managers as to how they can more effectively move talent internally so that they continually have “the right talent in the right job.” Advisors also coach managers so that they retain top talent longer and replacements don’t have to be recruited as often.
  • Marketing experts of the four primary recruiting areas (branding, sourcing, assessment, and candidate selling), the two areas that will be little affected by technology and vendor offerings are employer branding and candidate selling. As a result, recruiting and its talent advisors must shift to a pure marketing approach. They use market research data to understand better the more valuable “passive candidates” and how to personalize the candidate selling approach.
  • A focus on priority jobs and talent— rather than the traditional approach of treating all jobs and candidates equally, the talent advisor helps managers understand which jobs and candidates have the highest business impacts. This prioritization produces superior results while simultaneously using fewer internal recruiting resources.
  • Data-driven— as the entire recruiting function shifts to a data-driven approach. Advisors lead the way in providing managers with talent advice that is based on hard data rather than intuition. Advisors use failure analysis to identify the causes of any hiring failures.
  • Best-practice sharing— advisors continually capture both internal and external talent best practices. And then they “nudge” their managers so that they easily remain on the leading edge of operational talent practices.
  • Optimize a manager’s time — advisors educate managers on how they can minimize the time they spend on talent transactions. The time that they do devote to managing talent will have a much higher impact on their overall talent results.

The Skills and Capabilities Required to Be a Successful Talent Advisor

Obviously, with a significantly more strategic role, talent advisors need a completely different skill set. If you want to transition into a talent advisor role eventually, here are the skills that you will need.

Five essential foundation skills

  1. Recruiters must be experts — advisors must gain mastery of their field so they can consult, answer all questions, and provide data-based advice. Demonstrating that they are true talent experts will help to ensure that their advice will be followed.
  2. Business acumen is essential — a talent advisor knows the industry, the business, and the critical success factors that make a hiring manager’s team effective. This up-to-date knowledge allows advisors to talk intelligently with both hiring managers and candidates.
  3. Continuous rapid learning in a changing world — the advisor is continually learning across industries so that they can apply leading-edge talent practices.
  4. Consulting skills — advisors must be able to approach, get the attention of, and then “nudge” hiring managers so that they listen to and follow the adviser’s guidance.
  5. Influence skills — without pressure or rules. Advisors use influence and persuasion skills to get hiring managers to devote more time to recruiting and then to act optimally.

10 additional skills that talent advisor will need

  • Relationship building — advisors must excel at building trust relationships with managers, employees, prospects, and candidates. But that trust must be built on knowledge and expertise as opposed to personality.
  • Multi-function advice — rather than exclusively focused on recruiting, advisors must know and recommend other talent options (g., internal movement, retention, the use of overtime, and when technology should replace employees). Rather than focusing exclusively on cost, advisors must also provide solutions with the highest business impacts.
  • Communication skills — advisors must know how to communicate with and to maintain the attention of always busy candidates and hiring managers. That means that advisors must first learn and then use the communications channels that are preferred by those who they are communicating with.
  • Business case— effective advisors require the ability to build a strong business case. Managers that they advise will then be able to get sufficient resources to increase their talent and business capabilities.
  • Time management — talent advisors must excel at managing their own time and the managers who they advise. Time management is especially important in the cases when the talent advisory responsibilities are added to standard recruiting duties.
  • Candidate centric — they convince managers not to be arrogant and instead to be candidate-centric. They use market research data to fully understand what candidates care about and the costs of a bad “candidate experience.”
  • Candidate selling skills— in a tight market, selling is a critical skill that advisors must possess. They also need to be able to transfer strong selling approaches to hiring managers.
  • Metric and data usage — advisors must have the ability to understand and use metrics. But they also must be able to prepare metrics reports that drive action because they are easy for executives and hiring managers to read, scan, and understand.
  • Transparency — the talent advisor must be transparent with the hiring manager so that each manager always feels completely informed.
  • Technology knowledge — they know how to use the emerging talent technologies so that talent results are optimized.

Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, many recruiting leaders and transactional recruiters have already failed to see the need to shift to this new strategic model. However, the tide wave of new technologies and vendor offerings will forever change recruiting. So recruiting leaders should look to other business functions to see how technological developments have in the past forced them to raise their capabilities to a more strategic level in order to remain relevant. And rather than looking to benchmark recruiting powerhouse firms like Google, Facebook, and Amazon that have yet to make the transition, they should look at firms like Waste Management that are already well into this strategic transition.

Part II of this article (published on ERE.net on November 13, 2017) will cover the many action areas that differentiate the activities of a talent advisor from a traditional recruiter.

If this article stimulated your thinking, please take a minute to follow or connect with me on LinkedIn.

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About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.