Attracting and retaining top-talent has been CEOs top internal concern for two years in a row now.
We’ve been thinking about what a good talent operations definition would be, recently, as we are increasingly aware that business leaders think about talent differently now. It’s become a more dangerous constraint on business success than, say, capital flows or disruptive competition, so they have been putting far more thought into the inner workings of their talent function: how to improve its efficiency, where most of its added value comes from, and what the cost is to the business if things stay the same.
The Marketing and Sales function went through the exact same process of “operationalization” in the past couple of decades, so CEOs don’t have to look far for ideas on how to provide the best support to this newly rising function. They even have a starting point for defining the talent operations function, and designing it to meet their goals.
Talent operations definition
Talent Operations is the function, team members, and processes responsible for enabling the overall talent organization to work more effectively, to execute locally and at scale, and to create new value by incorporating more modern practices, deploying more innovative technologies and delivering more consistent outcomes.
Improved candidates experiences are probably the biggest chunk of that “new value” that the talent operations function can bring to the table. By driving digital transformation and enabling organizations to leverage the billions of data points available to them from the talent market, talent operations specialists directly improve the company’s ability to get top candidates.
If we draw a parallel between the rise of marketing operations and the definition of the talent operations function, we can isolate a few driving forces in marketing that shaped this new function and will probably do the same for talent operations.
Building demand for employment
Marketers know that identifying the right prospects and providing a positive experience with the brand brand at the right time across the customer lifecycle is essential to making sales. In the past, marketers waited for potential customers to do their own research, identifying the right products and reaching out once they were ready to buy.
Today, we have hundreds of touchpoints with every single customer where we can collect thousands of data points throughout their whole life. Companies can’t afford to wait around for people to come to them; they rely on predictive analytics, large data sets and inbound marketing techniques to hunt for the right prospects and build demand for their products and services.
Talent is under the same type of pressure. Recruiting was a service provider to the organization in the past–providing resumes and candidates to the different departments as needed–but not anymore. Now, talent teams are proactive: they set up sourcers with the necessary technology to comb through available candidate sources and find the right people, they use CRMS to build and nurture relationships, and they market their employer brand to both passive and active candidates.
This to a more proactive, future facing and specialized talent function means that it’s Talent Operations job to run the alignment exercise. The talent ops function is where every other team can go to understand at what place in the candidate journey they intervene, what data they should look at to direct their decisions, and what processes or technologies they might need to perform better.
Data is an important underlying piece of the talent operations definition. Each role in the talent organization needs to have a clear understanding of What information they need: candidate personas based on analysis of past roles and of forward-looking market data, or performance of marketing campaigns and recruiting events, or impact of various aspects of the talent function, for example. How to access that information in the easiest way: is it in a personal dashboard? Will it be shared periodically? Will they get raw data or synthesized insights? How can they ask for different data points or insights?
Incidentally, this means that the talent Operations specialist has to ensure that all technical systems in the toolstack, such as ATS, CRM, Recruitment Marketing Software, Career Site, or Emails for example, are working together effectively. Otherwise, sourcing and blending together all this information into a single source of truth becomes impossible.
Measuring the Candidate Funnel
Marketing operations uses all the data that marketing teams have access to, and provides the business with insight that helps the teams work more effectively, in large part around the Marketing funnel ’s performance.
When done right, marketing is extremely data driven. Marketing teams look at their prospects in terms of a funnel, in order to be able to forecast the company’s future sales and performance.
This means measuring how many leads they generate, what happens with those leads once they enter the funnel, and how to market to leads at every stage of their journey with the business.
This again another parallel that perfectly highlights where talent operations can provide particular value–by building funnel models that provide predictability into the hiring process, from the size of pipeline needed to hit hiring targets, to optimal target markets to find the best candidate fits, to granular understanding of each cost driver to understand where to cut expenses and where to invest for growth.
Automating talent workflows to create delightful candidate experiences
Marketing automation software is a well-established industry for good reason. Marketers have spent years perfecting campaigns and the supporting infrastructure behind them, so that most parts of every workflow are entirely automated, from before a prospect even visits the website to the moment they make the decision to purchase.
From targeted advertisements using buyer intent data, to website personalisation, suggested content, and nurture programs–marketers know where to leverage technology to delight their prospects throughout the customer lifecycle. They make learning about products and services enjoyable and easy, they offer facilities to choose and purchase, they add personal little touches that make each customer feel special… all using completely scalable processes and automated workflows.
It is only natural that business leaders would expect Talent Operations teams to play a similar role for talent, by deploying and implementing the kind of talent acquisition tools that support strategic talent goals. They want digitally-enabled, flexible models for recruitment that make the candidate experience at the center. That is where they see talent operations creating impact.
Customer Experience vs. Candidate Experience: Your Candidates are your customers
Providing a good candidate experience is important to the modern talent acquisition function.
The “sales cycle” of recruiting has gotten longer, and it’s important to build valuable relationships with prospects.
A disjointed candidate experience immediately puts the employer at a disadvantage, as the standards have been set to a high bar competition already. Marketers worry about the exact same thing—a bad experience during the sales cycle is likely to lose a company some business.
Why does a Talent Organization Need a Talent Operating System?
Top candidates have more options than ever before, and in such a competitive setting, every aspect of the recruiting experience matters. It's on the talent operations function to design the new way of working that will bring in the best talent.