Talent Operations

Recruiting Skills in 2020: The Role of Recruiting Operations

Changing the way a team is fundamentally structured is always hard, but it’s even more so when you don’t exactly know what the new structure should look like.

Many talent teams are working to meet the increasing expectation placed on them by the business, and part of that effort includes creating a brand new function within their ranks: recruiting operations.

The general motivation for that change comes from understanding that the talent function now needs to grow in two directions. First, it needs to scale up and “operationalize” the same way marketing and sales teams have done in the past decade. Second, it needs to become more proactive, provide insights to the business, both at the C-suite level and in the day-to-day activities of hiring.

This post is the last in a three-part series based on a Beamery webinar with Kevin Blair. The series also includes: Recruiting Skills in 2020: How Talent Teams Grow Recruiting Skills in 2020: 4 New Recruiter Roles

The undefined nature of recruiting operations

Talent is much more of a constraint to business initiatives today than it wass a few years ago for a number of factors. Companies are competing fiercely for the same talent–the mean vacancy duration in the US is on the rise–and candidates have more access to job information, and are less constrained by geography or language. It’s only natural that CEOs would be more worried about obtaining the right talent to execute on their vision than about any other internal business issue.

Talent leaders’ response to these rising expectations is to restructure their teams, acquire new skills, and expand their scope. As we discussed in a previous post, recruiting operations is one of those new recruiter roles, and plays a significant role in changing the way talent teams relate to the rest of the business.

The difficulty resides in the fact that recruiting operations, even as a concept, is still relatively new. The function of recruiting operations, or talent operations, takes different forms in different companies, and the talent industrie doesn’t really have a consensus on what good looks like.

Given that Sales and Marketing teams went through a similar process not too long ago, talent leaders have at least a place to start, however, and can refine their approach to the function as they go.

We’re also starting to see talent teams formally appoint talent operations or recruiting operations managers and specialists, and there is a common pattern emerging from these early adopters of the trend, giving us a starting definition of talent operations.

Talent Operations is the function, team members, and processes responsible for enabling the overall talent function to work efficiently, scale where necessary, identify and fix issues, and create new value through incorporating new processes, technologies or organizational behaviors.

Enabling TA with a recruiting operations function

So where can talent leaders start to refine that definition and adapt it to their own organization? Different enterprise teams have different versions of what that function looks like, where it sits, what the scope of its role is. Is it part of the recruiting team, or a wider talent and people enablement team? How much ownership does it have over areas that sit awkwardly on the edge of operational concerns, like technology implementations, innovation, or analytics? How much focus should it have on optimizing the existing, versus offering new ways of working and new avenues to create value?

The following is a good framework to approach the task of setting up a recruiting operations function, either from the ground up, or by refining and slightly re-jigging an existing team.

recruiting operations

The considerations to keep in mind when fleshing out the recruiting ops function mostly fall under one of those buckets:

  • How should we design the talent technology stack? What solutions will meet our current needs but also afford us the most space to grow? What integrations do we need to consider, and what form should they take? What should the talent data infrastructure look like?
  • Are we reporting on the right metrics? Are we focused as much on efficiency and optimization as we are about growth, forecasting, risks, and planning? Can the talent team bring future-facing insights to the rest of the business based on the data it collects and analyses?
  • Is the recruiting ops function equipped to identify, investigate, and resolve issues with everything from the failure of some of our recruitment campaigns to the quality of our candidate data?
  • Have we structured the team in a way that balances empowerment with accountability? Will the recruiting ops person be empowered to deploy and implement changes or improvements when necessary? Do they have access to the information they need?
  • And finally, who is the best person to fill this role? Should we hire externally for it, or train someone from our current team?

Recruiting operations: a link back to the commercial

Tying recruiting activities to the bottom line is a big reason why talent teams need a more formal operations function, so any new roles there should be able to tie back recruiting activities to their impact—good or bad—on the business.

For example, they should be able to help talent leaders allocate resources to benefit requisitions that have the most impact on revenue, or represent the highest risk to important business initiatives. They should also enable talent leaders to create new value—by identifying insights about the talent market that can help other executives, for example—and not just reduce costs.

In order to step outside their traditional reactive role, talent leaders need to be armed with proactive information: forecasts about the company’s propensity to hire based on skill availability, compensation and past offer data, and competitiveness of new talent markets. They need their recruiting operations function to be comfortable modelling the team’s utilization, reverse-engineering financial objectives into talent objectives, and building retroplannings that provide visibility to their leaders.

Ideally, in the long run, they should be able to better quantify the most elusive parts of talent acquisition, retention, and internal mobility. How much is an employee worth to the business? And how can we forecast that worth, and compare it to the cost of attracting them, hiring them, and making sure they stay with the company?


A well-designed recruiting operations function can bring many benefits to the talent team. We know this because it’s increasingly clear that the way talent teams operate right now is suboptimal, and there is appetite for a change in that area from the rest of the business. The challenge that talent leaders have to face now is to decide what this function should look like exactly.

There is no convenient guidebook to help with that task, which makes it harder. But it also means that talent teams who figure it out first, will scale faster, gain a foothold in tomorrow’s talent markets, and build trust with the rest of their organization earlier than the competition. Given that finding great talent is not becoming any easier, these advantages can make all the difference.