Elevating Talent Acquisition Across Asia - Moving from Order Taking to Being Consultative & Strategic

Elevating Talent Acquisition Across Asia - Moving from Order Taking to Being Consultative & Strategic

This post is part of the Elevating Talent Acquisition Across Asia series - a collection of personal viewpoints and experience in connecting Talent Acquisition practices to organizational outcomes.

The series is meant to provide insights, educate, challenge the status-quo, and provoke thought amongst HR practioners on delivering exceptional business results with the right Talent Acquisition strategy, practices, and capabilities.

Going beyond transactional and reactive recruiting practices

In my earlier post The Need to Go Beyond Transactional & Reactive Recruiting PracticesI stressed that elevating Talent Acquisition (TA) is essential in Asia if organizations are to meet their business objectives. I also clarified that recruitment is a subset of TA.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen changes in what candidates are looking for and what companies need to hire to succeed.  It has meant that talent acquisition expertise has gone from “nice to have” to  critical, for companies to retain their competitive edge. Even more importantly, talent acquisition has to transform from a reactive and transactional function to an equal business partner that influences all elements of TA, including recruitment. This means talent acquisition needs to go beyond filling requisitions and drive real business impact through influence.

Capabilities needed to go beyond reactive and transactional recruitment

Based on my personal experience, this goal is only achievable if there is an equal partnership between the business and the TA function, requiring TA professionals to  go from merely taking hiring managers’ orders to being proactive, consultative and strategic.   In other words, being decision influencers and consultative.  I refer to this as TA Advisory.  The difference between order-takers and TA advisors is clear: order-takers trust hiring manager assumptions, drive for satisfaction and aim to fill requisitions effectively.  TA advisors on the other hand challenge hiring manager assumptions and use business acumen and analytics to influence decisions. They not only master the operational process of filling positions but also work actively to build talent pipelines and provide strategic consultation to hiring managers.

Note that by equal partnership, I am also stressing the need for the business to partner with the TA function and take ownership of its role in bringing on board the right talent, for the right role, at the right time. This not only entails being open to having decisions and assumptions challenged, but also providing the necessary information on the business, the role, as well as doing its part in the end-to-end hiring process.

Why change the status quo?

I have found there is plenty of tension between the TA function and the business, who have different perspectives on the hiring process. Hiring managers tend to believe bringing new talent on board is straightforward and administrative. Even they can do it, if they go directly through an external contingency search firm.  It’s just about a job description, advertising, and then screening CVs, interviewing and making an offer, right?

But it’s not. It is far more complex when you need quality talent at the right time to achieve your business objectives. Aside from the fact that it requires a TA engine, there are a host of factors that pose a challenge. Quality talent is more entrenched than ever (passive). TA professionals are flooded with unqualified applicants.  Requirements are changing faster than most TA functions can keep up with, and organizations aren’t defining what they want from the labour market quickly enough. From a candidate’s perspective, hiring managers and the TA team aren’t following up thoroughly enough to ensure closure for selected (and non-selected) candidates. And from the hiring manager’s eyes, there aren’t enough high-quality candidates coming in at all.

The result is a tug-of-war between TA professionals who feel pressured to fill more positions faster than ever, and hiring managers who feel their hiring needs aren’t being fulfilled well enough or quickly enough.

Moving from order taking to being consultative & strategic

TA advisory is about embedding consulting and strategic thinking, as well as earning the right to influence hiring managers, by incorporating the elements shown in the diagram below into day-to-day operations.

Being “strategic” is more tactical than you would think

Many in the TA profession might be thinking, “Who has time to be strategic? My team is just trying to get the job done and keep hiring managers happy.” In this context, “strategic” is actually more tactical and achievable than you would think. It is about consulting to the business line and embedding strategic thinking into day-to-day operations. It is bringing deep knowledge of the business, the hiring manager’s needs, and the dynamic labour market to the table, thereby earning the right to influence hiring managers to make quality hires in time.

And, it is achievable, assuming that TA professionals seize the opportunity to be proactive and business-impact-focused, versus reactive and hiring-manager-satisfaction focused. This not only entails applying the elements of TA advisory, but hiring the right talent into the TA function to be able to deliver on this, as well as having the right practices in place when it comes to development, performance management and retention.   That said, it takes two to tango. The business (C-Suite and function heads) need to understand that in order to meet their objectives, they must open up to a different form of collaboration with the TA function and be open to changing the status-quo.

TA Advisory In Action

Here is a brief overview of how TA Advisory can be put into action through a partnership between the TA function and the business.  

Business Acumen:

When it comes to hiring decisions, optimize the decision based on the overarching talent strategy, rather than focusing on merely filling the momentary need. There is a wealth of information sitting with hiring managers, candidates, colleagues, and external media and research. Go beyond just articulating the talent strategy; understand its origins and impact. This entails deep knowledge of the business’ core mission, business goals, challenges and opportunities.  Hiring needs are better understood and sourcing strategies are more accurate when you also have a good picture of the organization’s:

  • Business model;
  • Operations;
  • Competition; and
  • Business strategy and the resulting talent strategy.

Labour Market Expertise:

Learn what the talent market looks like for important divisions. Use competitive analysis to understand what key competitors are doing and proactively educate hiring managers on these labour trends. Use this understanding of the labour market to decide when, where, and how to find top talent. Then flex this knowledge to shape hiring manager expectations on what is possible. It’s often said that knowledge is power and if that’s true, using learned expertise to inform hiring managers can only boost their confidence in you.

Candidate Relationship Management:

In Asia’s competitive labour market, managing candidate relationships is critical not only to convert talent but also for the overall branding of the company. TA advisory requires earning candidates’ trust through personalized and credible interactions, providing realistic job previews, enlisting hiring managers in doing candidate outreach, and helping candidates make informed decisions about working for their organization. TA professionals can also improve candidate management by using the following touch points throughout the recruitment process to reinforce the brand, get feedback from applicants on the hiring process, and communicate about next steps:

  • Sourcing;
  •  Application submission;
  •  Assessment and selection;
  •  Offer management; and
  • Onboarding.

Strategic Sourcing Expertise:

Sourcing is not about posting and praying. It’s about:

  • Lead generation;
  • Pipeline management;
  • Social recruiting; and
  • Focus on passive candidates (in addition to active candidates).

Begin by creating a compelling Employee Value Proposition (EVP) that showcases the benefits and opportunities of that position. Look at lead sources that may have pre-qualified leads like alumni networks and referral candidates. Consider nontraditional candidates who may not meet the traditional criteria of a role but can fulfill the duties of that position. Don’t assume that the avalanche of candidates available on recruiting websites necessarily signifies quality. If anything, it means more mediocre resumes to sift through to find the right fit. Focus on skills, attributes and experience versus qualifications, as the former wind up being more important in everyday work than the latter.  

Process & Technology Expertize:

While the strategic and consulting skills are critical, don’t lose sight of project management skills, familiarity with technology (from ATS and CRM to social media) and knowledge of the end-to-end TA process. These provide structure, rigor and purpose to the recruiting process, so that positions are filled in the most systematic way possible. Skilled TA professionals’ understanding of process means they can also customize the recruiting process based on the position and company needs.

Effective Use of Analytics:

Most TA functions are not engaging with analytics in their work because they lack the knowledge and quality of data to convert into insights that the organization can use to drive business outcomes. Recognize that analytics matter, and provide value to both daily activities and performance impact.  Analytics also enable evidence-based consultation to influence sourcing strategy and hiring decisions. Use of metrics to influence business decisions requires:

  • Selecting the right metrics to measure;
  • Measuring functional effectiveness; and
  • Enabling the TA team to use analytics effectively.

Building Effective Partnerships:

When TA professionals build strong relationships with hiring managers (HMs) and HR Business Partners (HRBPs), it leads to better candidate quality, shorter time to fill and improved quality of hire.  However, in Asia, I have found that most TA professionals fail to appropriately achieve strong levels of partnership and manage unreasonable expectations in areas such as:

  • Candidate quality;
  • Time to fill;
  • Sourcing channels; and
  • Hiring manager’s role in the end-to-end TA process.

To strengthen these partnerships, the TA function must advise the line and:

  • Outline HM and HRBP involvement in the end-to-end process;
  • Listen actively and distill critical information about the job and the respective business unit needs;
  • Set and manage expectations for the partnership;
  • Help select better talent;
  • Share perspective and influence by gathering and applying the right data (evidence) to influence decisions; and
  •  Enlist HM’s to actively participate in candidate outreach.

Moving forward: hiring and developing TA Advisors, not order takers

The TA function needs to do more than just fill requisitions. It needs to be strategic and drive real business impact through influence.  The changes in labour market, candidate expectations and internal needs mean that a proactive talent-acquisition-focused strategy is the best way to thrive in the long run.  Aside from process efficiency and automation, TA advisory capability needs to be embedded. To do that, companies need a TA function that has members  who are decision influencers, not order takers, and advisors who earn the right to influence staffing decisions by having a deep knowledge of the organization, its mission, and the relevant labour markets. Organizations must also encourage this newly assertive role for TA and truly partner with this function to serve the larger business strategy.

Having identified what TA Advisory entails, how do we identify and hire talent who have these capabilities? It is not an easy process as previous experience in sourcing, HR, or sales doesn’t necessarily equate to having TA  Advisory aptitude. Not only does attracting and selecting such talent require a different approach to what is in place today, it also requires a different approach to managing and retaining this talent.  I will cover that in an upcoming post.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

About the Author

Sadaf Pitt is a Talent Acquisition advisor whose career spans two decades across North America and Asia. She has held diverse roles in a variety of sectors before she discovered her true passion: Transformative & Strategic Talent Acquisition. She is a strong advocate for boosting Talent Acquisition’s voice and value in Asia’s leading MNCs. She is also an adult Third Culture Kid (TCK) and Multi-Local. Answering the question, "Where are you from?" is a tricky one for her. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter.


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