As leaders face increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business conditions, one thing is clear: talent is an organization’s most powerful and sustainable competitive advantage. For that reason, one of a leader’s top priorities should be to improve the talent pipeline by attracting, developing, and retaining the best possible employees. Unfortunately, unlike the pipelines that deliver water on demand to people’s homes, talent pipelines don’t send great employees into an organization as soon as a key position becomes available. This means that leaders must continually keep talent on their minds and in their day-to-day behaviors. The leaders of best-in-class organizations share four key mindsets that help keep top talent flowing through their pipelines.
“I am in the best possible position to source new talent.”
Attracting top talent can no longer be an activity delegated solely to the HR department. Because leaders (at all levels) are closest to an organization’s needs—and to those who might be best suited to meet those needs—they must expand their job responsibilities to include being talent scouts who are constantly on the lookout for prospective new employees. Wherever they go and whatever they do, they must view everything through the lens of “how can I make connections that will support the company’s needs both today and into the future?”
Whether they’re attending conferences, reading business journals, or standing in lines at coffee shops, talent scouts recognize possibilities where others don’t and cultivate relationships (even where there aren’t positions that need to be filled immediately). These leaders are also creative in terms of where they seek out talent. Rather than mine the same tired sources that their competitors are exploring, they look in novel places and identify candidates who aren’t necessarily the “usual suspects.” And when they succeed in these efforts, they help develop rich and sustainable talent pipelines.
“My actions contribute directly to the employment brand we project in the marketplace.”
Given the instantaneous and ubiquitous nature of information today, prospective candidates can learn a lot about an organization before ever agreeing to an interview. Increasingly, leaders are coming to appreciate that just as important as a company’s customer brand is its employment brand, which is the cumulative effect of the culture, behaviors, and policies that affect employees. Leaders who want to support a positive employment brand must ask themselves the following questions:
- How do prospective candidates and employees currently perceive the organization, and how well is this perception serving us?
- How do I contribute to the organization’s reputation?
- What does my social media footprint say about me and, by extension, about the organization?
- What steps am I taking to deliver on the promises we make to prospective and new employees so that they’ll stick around, become optimally engaged, and be able to share their talents to the greatest extent possible?
Building an effective employment brand—one that will attract the best and the brightest—demands attention on the part of all leaders. It begins with cultivating the right impressions in the marketplace, and those impressions must also come to life and create a congruent experience for people who choose to join the organization.
“It’s my job to anticipate and understand talent needs and gaps—not just in my department or group but throughout the organization.”
Effective leaders constantly scan their environments to understand how changing business conditions will affect the work of their groups. They look at economic, environmental, demographic, political, and other factors to plan for the future. Highly effective leaders also use this information to anticipate and begin taking early steps toward attracting the talent that will be needed for that new future. They recruit and hire today with tomorrow in mind. But taking care of one’s own part of the business is no longer enough.
In the past, talent was frequently treated as a local or departmental resource. Siloed organizations led to fiefdoms, territoriality, and—too often—the loss of key contributors (who then joined the competition). Given today’s highly interconnected organizations and competitive employment environment, talent must be recognized as an enterprise-wide resource.
Leaders who think more broadly and abundantly about talent understand that everyone is in this together. They see the value of building awareness of the talent needs not just in their own departments or groups but across their organizations. Because what happens elsewhere may be an indicator of challenges to come, these leaders anticipate and monitor both their own shortcomings and needs as well as those of their organizations. Consequently, they are better poised to learn, respond, and share insights and resources to benefit the organization as a whole.
“I have a responsibility to help continually improve organizational processes to support the talent pipeline.”
It’s frequently said that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to ensure that an organization can attract and retain the talent it needs to thrive. Although HR may own some of the processes, leaders can provide in-the-trenches perspectives that can inform improvements to the organization’s competitive advantage. These perspectives can help shape important questions that shed light on talent pipeline issues:
- Are competitors offering new benefits that are luring candidates and employees away?
- Are unnecessarily protracted verification processes causing the best candidates to accept other offers?
- Are opportunities for advancement insufficiently transparent to capture the imagination of prospective employees?
Answering these kinds of questions is the first step toward addressing issues that may be compromising an organization’s ability to attract the talent it needs.
In any business, regardless of its field or industry, people are the key to driving results. Without strong recruitment, a company won’t have the people it needs. To ensure a free-flowing talent pipeline, leaders must play central roles in attracting and hiring new talent for their organizations.
Julie Winkle Giulioni works with organizations to improve performance through leadership and learning. Named one of Inc. magazine’s list of top 100 leadership speakers, she is the coauthor of the bestseller Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go and contributes to a variety of publications. She can be reached via her blog, www.juliewinklegiulioni.com.
This originally was published at SmartBrief.com.