Talent Operations

Recruiting Skills in 2020: How Talent Teams Grow

The boundaries delimiting the traditional talent organization are becoming increasingly blurred as the nature of work changes.

In our most recent webinar, we invited Kevin Blair in to talk about the recruiting skills of 2020, or the skills he thinks are needed by recruiting teams as they take on the new year. Because of the changing nature of the talent team, and the advent of new ways of working, skills that were useful a few years ago might not be as relevant today.

*This post is the first in a three-part series. The following two installments will be coming in the next few weeks. *

Reskilling, retraining or restructuring a team takes more attention than talent leaders might feel they can spare at the start of a new year. But that is why leading teams is hard; you have to disengage from the day-to-day and the immediate, in order to manage the risks associated with the long-term. Making sure your recruiters are set up for success with the right skills and support is part of that.

Why do teams need new recruiting skills in 2020?

As recruiting professionals, you probably hear or read the phrase “ways of working” at least twice a day. It can refer to anything from freelancing and the gig economy, to remote work, to robotics and automation used to enhance employees’ work.

These changes in the way of working happen at many levels. With freelance platforms like Upwork or Fiverr, and sharing economy startups spanning a wide spectrum of products and services, the difference between employees, contractors, gig workers, etc… is not as clear-cut.

Companies are not just hiring ‘lifers’ and developing them through rotational programs anymore.

They might resort to part-time workers, to outsourcing, to freelancers. This means that organizations have more ways to source talent, which is good, but it also means they need new skills to adapt to these new ways of sourcing.

Another spot with blurry lines is the scope of talent attraction and talent development. It used to be much clearer: HR, and later talent acquisition teams, received requisitions, and 360º recruiters filled them. Now talent is at the top of the list of internal issues for business leaders, and so the pressure is on TA leaders to step outside of traditional hiring best practices.

They have to think about internal mobility, external branding, community building, analytics and forecasting… Aspects of the business that were traditionally outside of their remit are now slowly being brought in, or at least brought closer to their day-to-day.

The drivers of growth for talent acquisition teams

So recruiters need to reconsider the way they work, from the scope of their role to the distribution of their time and attention. But what drives that need to change? And how do you talk about these drivers clearly to an external stakeholder so they understand why change is necessary?

Recruiting skills in 2020 drivers of change

The list above is not comprehensive or mutually exclusive, but it shows patterns that people can recognize even if they are not in talent professionals.

The gig economy is a good place to start, because it’s a popular subject and not only in talent management: Worldwide, the total freelancer population is estimated at around 84 million, or less than 3 percent of the global labor force of 3.5 billion. It’s not a huge number, but it has a strong ripple effect.

Before remote work, freelance platforms and worldwide high-speed internet, the pool of skills available to a recruiter was a lot smaller. This change might not have had an impact on the majority of roles to fill, but it certainly helped recruiters approach sourcing for scarce skills differently.

You can now hire someone on the other side of the globe to do that niche data infrastructure job that no one in your city wants. Not only that, you can also easily find that someone, because they advertise their niche data skills with helpful keywords on Linkedin. The talent market is more fluid and more transparent.

On the flip side, it is also more competitive. Between the growing presence of “social everything” and user-generated content platforms like Linkedin or Glassdoor, candidates are spoiled for information. They can research and compare everything, from salaries to reviews to growth opportunities, and employers have to do a better job to get their attention.

Which naturally leads to the conversation around consumer-grade experiences. Some companies are doing a great job using the same techniques as marketing teams to offer seamless, personal multi-channel experiences, and meet their candidates where they are. Those teams are winning the talent game.

Finally, in part because the pool for great talent is so much more competitive, companies need to get better at identifying people who might be a great fit. They are learning to do more with the candidate data they have, and going to the source instead of relying on past experiences to hire someone: Are they able to learn? Are their current skills transferable? Should they be hired for themselves and not for the job?

All of these forces of change are at play for talent teams trying to catch up–and for a lucky few, to stay on top. They’re forcing teams to look at new skills, talent operations, and a new talent operating model.

Recruiting skills in 2020 and the new talent operating model

The changes above mean that the current ways of working of talent teams are suboptimal. It’s almost a natural “generational shift” of a sort, because all these complex layers of change necessitate a totally new structure or organism to deliver results.

For one, the talent function needs to tie its activities directly to the bottom line, and that is hard to achieve with the current way things are done. For example, many talent leaders currently split capacity and resources of their teams equally among requisitions, instead of in proportion with the positions’ impact on the business.

Another example is the metrics and KPIs used to tell whether or not the talent team is performing well: most of them are focused on whether the machine runs smoothly, on whether recruiters are effective and utilization is optimal. With a different talent operating model, talent teams can instead measure their success by measuring their impact on the health of the business.

The last one is a bit more controversial, but it has to be explored as well. In the current way talent teams are built, recruiters and sourcers are mostly self-directed, and have individual goals. If the talent team is to tie back its work to commercial impact, then it has to ensure that things like individual goals, prioritization, and resource allocation are aligned with team goals.

Talent teams gaining in maturity

Getting to this new operating model takes time. The chart below visualizes the steps of that growth, but it also highlights that, as an industry, we’re all over the spectrum.

Some industries are more specialized and segmented than others, for example. Within the same industry, you’ll find companies over both ends of the spectrum. You will even find companies who span the whole thing: they have strong future-facing analytics but are still struggling to cut back on their reliance on agency for critical hiring.

Recruiting skills in 2020 growth roadmap

The above is not a growth roadmap for every talent team, but it isolates some aspects of the changes that these teams go through as they mature. It helps talent leaders get the conversation started around recruiting skills in 2020.


One of the world development reports published by the World Bank Group in 2019 says that “The most significant investments that people, firms, and governments can make in the changing nature of work are in enhancing human capital.”

The way talent teams must grow is not by doing the same things over a different channel, or using robots instead of people. Talent teams will need automation in recruiting tasks, and new technologies, and a better use of new communication channels and new talent pools, but that is only a surface-level change.

They mostly need to learn how to do entirely new things requiring entirely new skills and processes. We will talk about these skills, and how to acquire them, in the next part of this series: “Recruiting Skills of 2020: 4 New Recruiter Roles”.


Talent Attraction Index 2019

We analyzed and ranked the talent attraction practices of the Fortune 500, and learned how the world's most successful companies attract and engage the best candidates.

Download the full study.

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Nada Chaker

Content and Campaigns

Nada Chaker leads content and campaigns at Beamery. She writes and reads about the latest news in Talent Acquisition, but also about business strategy, startups, food and indoor plants.

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