Candidate Experience

Settling into Maturity with a Talent Operating System

According to McKinsey & Company, even a small increase in the quality of your talent force can bring in 3x gains in overall business productivity.

One of the main shifts in talent acquisition in the past few years has been the trend towards platform consolidation. In other words, companies want all their talent acquisition activities to sit in a single talent operating system–a sort of background infrastructure that allows different tools and solutions to talk to one another, while enabling all candidate data to live in one place.

One of the main reasons for that shift is that enterprises are on the cusp of reaching true talent acquisition maturity. Business leaders are willing to invest in comprehensive talent transformation, not just incremental change, because they clearly see the disproportionate impact it could have on the success of the whole business.

The true impact of talent quality

Based on data from Aguinis and Ernest’s “The best and the rest: Revisiting the norm of normality in individual performance”, the impact of high-quality talent on the company’s overall performance follows a Pareto distribution, meaning that the best employees have a disproportionately high impact on the performance of their organization. In fact, the study calculated that what it defines as high performers are “400% more productive than average ones”.

This excerpt from “Attracting and Retaining the Right Talent” by Scott Keller and Mary Meany for the Organizations practice is a great example of how that impact happens.

“Suppose involves cross-functional initiatives that would take three years to complete. If you took 20 percent of the average talent working on the project and replaced it with great talent, how soon would you achieve the desired impact? If these people were 400 percent more productive, it would take less than two years; if they were 800 percent more productive, it would take less than one. If a competitor used 20 percent more great talent in similar efforts, it would beat you to market even if it started a year or two later.”

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This should not be a shocking insight–if you think about it, the whole VC industry has been functioning on the assumption that if you invest in one or two extraordinary people in a crowd of average founders, it’s largely worth the risk. And you can ask any VC worth their salt–a firm invests in the founders and their teams, not really in an idea, or even in an industry.

Talent acquisition maturity: from hustlers to leaders

It took some time for the executive culture to shift enough to allow for more focus on talent attraction strategy. While business leaders always talked about the importance of having the right people in place to succeed, they didn’t place a proportionate focus on their talent strategy. This attitude has been changing over the past couple of decades, fortunately, and CEOs now expect more from their HR executives.

Now most successful enterprises are experimenting with talent attraction and retention strategies, and investing in a true transformation of their Talent Acquisition function, from the ground up.

The discipline I believe so strongly in is H.R., and it’s the last discipline that gets funded. Marketing, manufacturing — all these things are important. But more often than not, the head of H.R. does not have a seat at the table. Big mistake.” Howard Shultz, Former Starbucks Chairman/CEO

However, most talent leaders are still in the early steps of that journey; they are still hustling for great talent, campaign after campaign, one initiative at a time, as opposed to predictably producing and retaining great quality candidates, and repeatedly measuring and improving on every aspect of their talent strategy.

Why a Talent Operating System is needed for the next step

The sign of a mature organization, no matter the function or industry, is its ability to set itself goals that enable growth, and to consistently deliver on those goals. For talent acquisition, this would mean that the talent acquisition strategy would be discussed in quarterly board meetings at the same time as go-to-market strategies, and be given the same attention as an M&A proposal or a financing decision.

A mature talent acquisition organization is able to bring insights to executive conversations that other functions do not have, such as what new skills are becoming more in demand in specific industries and why, or why the company is losing to specific competitors in certain talent markets, and how to change that. In other words, it has the information and the capabilities needed to be an advisor to the business, and not just an order taker.

Talent teams who operate using a hodgepodge of tools that work in isolated silos do not have either. They lack the information they need because consolidating any kind of data from multiple tools after the fact is highly inefficient. As a consequence, reporting on the full candidate journey and the performance of every aspect of the recruiting strategy stays at surface level, and cannot be done in real-time to help teams iterate and change course as needed throughout their initiatives.

These teams also lack the capabilities needed to be the strategic partners and advisors they can be to the rest of the business. They do not have the 360 degree view on all recruiting activities needed to manage multiple specialized workstreams. They cannot deliver a high-quality candidate experience at scale. They cannot keep jumping mid-stream from one tool to another and hope to compete with companies that build long-term relationship with talent and offer a seamless candidate experience all without straining their resources.


It is important to note that talent acquisition maturity does not simply come with buying and implementing a talent operating system. The technology is necessary, but not even close to sufficient. However, it is an excellent starting point, mostly because it forces the team to reexamine its processes and workflows when learning more about how such a technology would work.

For teams who feel the urgency of their disadvantage when it comes to competing for the right talent, a talent operating system can become a good forcing function, and push them towards exploring the other changes they need to embrace, from team specialization to proactive sourcing and relationship building, to digitization, employee activation, and many other changes needed to become a mature talent organization.


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, joined us to discuss some of the latest trends in recruitment marketing and key recommendations for evaluating providers.

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