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Agile Recruiting: Why TA Needs a New Operating Model

In our recent webinar on agile recruiting, 59% of attendees thought that digital transformation and organizational agility were the greatest challenge facing their business in the coming year.

Talent leaders know that the rulebook by which we’ve all been playing up to now is changing, and so they are turning to new organizational models, new ways to structure their teams and their companies, to adapt to this change.

The agile methodology has a lot to offer to the recruiting function: a better way to prioritize hiring projects, improved visibility for both recruiters and hiring managers, the ability to expand and contract as needed to face changing talent needs, and overall, a more efficient, iterative recruiting process.

Why are TA leaders looking at agile recruiting?

There are a few drivers behind this imperative for change and the subsequent search for new ways of working in TA. The most obvious, and the one that is best understood, is the demographic shifts in the global workforce.

For one, the share of available workers per region is changing. While more people are retiring in North America, Europe and Eastern Asia, we’re seeing a surge of available workers in India, Southeast Asia, Latin American and Africa. While this might not affect a team’s quarterly plan, it does mean that they need to adapt their long-term view of the talent market.

Beyond simple availability of workers, however, we’re seeing a change in the skills that are needed from these workers, as industries are evolving to rely on different core capabilities.

agile recruiting shift in skills

A second driver of change for TA leaders is the shift in work “formats”, although this is as much as cause as it is a result of business transformation, as we will discuss further down.

Across industries, business leaders are convinced that temporary workers and freelancers are going to substantially replace full-time employment - the only question that remains is how fast that will happen and to what degree.

agile recruiting operating model forms of work

Now looking at these two drivers-- changes in the demographics and skills of workers, and changes in the “forms” of work-- it makes sense to think through what it means for Talent Acquisition.

What agile recruiting implementation can do for TA teams

If candidates are open to, and even asking for, more flexible work formats, how does that change how we hire? Do we have to design a fixed role and hire one person for it, or can we hire a group of people who have a group of skills that can be bundled and unbundled to do a higher number of jobs?

If the speed at which skills are changing much faster than they did ten years ago, how do we make sure we’re able to advise hiring managers on these changes? Should the process by which we design requisitions start with recruiters instead of hiring managers? Should it be much more consultative and collaborative than it is now?

The reason recruiters are exploring agile operating models is because the agile methodology has good answers to all of these questions. Organizational tools like scrum teams, sprints or kanban boards are only part of it. Agile also means developing a more predictive approach to talent, thinking more in terms of tasks and projects and less in terms of defined roles.

agile recruiting operating model

A few prominent companies-- outside of the usual tech suspects like Google or Netflix-- have successfully implemented agile operating models. ING Bank deconstructed the internal organization of multiple functions, including marketing, product management and IT development, and reformed them into about 350 “squads” of 9 people, within 13 “tribes.

To achieve that transformation, it had to redesign 2500 positions and ask 3500 people to internally reapply to them. A colossal effort, but the results were worth it: since 2015, the new operating model has already “improved time to market, boosted employee engagement, and increased productivity”.

Other companies have started with smaller steps by simply moving towards an “internal talent marketplace” format, by facilitating internal mobility to move skills where they are needed on a project basis. 3M has been doing that for years, with a 4% boost in productivity as a result.


Transformation in business in general, and in TA in particular, is inevitable. What will enable enterprises to move ahead in the coming years is whether they are thinking proactively about this transformation, and challenging even the most basic assumptions about how they operate.

For TA leaders, this requires an even deeper shift in thinking: not only do they have to adapt to changes coming from other functions within their organizations, they have to step outside their own function to drive change as well, and push the rest of the company to rethink how it uses talent at the most basic level.


Selecting the Right Recruitment Marketing Technology for your Business

According to Aptitude Research, over 70% of enterprise organizations are investing in recruitment marketing capabilities this year.In order to help with this process, Kelly Cartwright, head of Talent Acquisition Technology Strategy at Amazon Web Services, and Madeline Laurano, founder of Aptitude Research, will be discussing some of the latest trends in recruitment marketing and key recommendations for evaluating providers in our next webinar.

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