Drinking from the Talent Acquisition Fire Hose

Hi, my name is Robin and I’m trying to understand the complexity of Talent Acquisition.


Now, I would understand if you’re saying, but wait, Robin, isn’t it your job as the Talent Acquisition Practice Leader to comprehend it and make sense of it for the rest of us?


Just six months ago, I transferred from Deloitte Consulting’s Talent, Performance & Rewards practice to its new acquisition, Bersin by Deloitte. To explain how I got here from there, I’ll provide a brief professional biography: I’ve spent the last 20 years in consulting in various roles, from direct client service helping organizations with their talent-related challenges to managing complex internal transformations. My interest in talent research was sparked in early 2002 when I wrote a paper for my Northwestern MS in Communication program where I predicted a future “resume tsunami” of the employees who still had jobs after the constant rounds of layoffs during the recession caused by the IT market crash and 9/11 in 2001.


By 2004, my prediction was spot on with some organizations experiencing unsustainable voluntary turnover rates between 40-50%. I realized there was no academic research on this topic and went back to Northwestern for a PhD where my dissertation focused on the retention of downsizing survivors. After graduating in 2007, I joined Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice determined to help companies with their talent and retention challenges. As part of the Talent Strategies practice, I created a retention service offering with two different methodologies and sector-specific research and I managed the global longitudinal Talent survey series, Talent 2020. When I was asked about moving to Bersin by Deloitte (BBD) to focus on talent acquisition, I realized that it was a logical career step since retention is basically the “re-recruiting” of existing employees—or to put it another way, the employee value proposition that helps retain employees is the same one that attracts new employees.


In the past six months, I’ve been drinking from the talent acquisition fire hose: attending two conferences (BBD’s IMPACT and HR Tech), presenting at a third to over 30 senior TA Leaders (LinkedIn Talent Connect), interviewing over 15 senior TA Leaders, conducting briefings with over 25 solution providers, writing The Talent Acquisition Primer1 and two case studies currently in press. I’m also in the process of developing both a performance and maturity model for High Impact Talent Acquisition.


What have I learned? I have found that, today, the importance of effective talent acquisition cannot be overemphasized. Attracting, developing, engaging, and retaining skilled employees are no longer simply the concern of Talent Acquisition Leaders and Recruiting Managers but are consistently listed as one of the top concerns of global Chief Executive Officers, alongside growing their business and becoming more profitable.2


We’re living in an era of a talent paradox where layoffs continue and unemployment is high, but many companies cannot find or keep the skilled workers they need.3 At the same time, in many ways, the “war for talent” is over. Guess what? Talent won. The Internet revolutionized employees’ ability to search for jobs and market their skills. Current and potential employees know everything there is to know about an organization with a quick internet search. Employees can find open positions located anywhere in the world they may wish to explore. Employees with critical skills in scarce supply can easily find organizations willing to pay them more money to switch employers. And with the advent of social media came the ubiquitous ability to passively look for jobs (even when happily employed!) by entering one’s employment experience in a social or professional networking site.


And the talent acquisition market is huge. In the U.S. alone, we estimate that the total market size for talent acquisition is currently about $124 billion—a figure that includes internal staff salaries, advertising, technology, tools, and services. The uptick in spending is partly driven by an increase in staffing, with full-time headcount within talent acquisition organizations increasing by 6% year over year.4 Similarly, the global talent acquisition solution and service provider landscape is vast and navigating the acronym and funky title soup might feel like traversing the “Wild, Wild West.”


Then there’s the open talent economy which is “a collaborative, transparent, technology-enabled, rapid-cycle way of doing business.”5 Thanks to globalization, companies can now recruit based on skills alone, without the additional “filter” layer of physical location, resulting in a continuum of different types of employment—full-time employees, joint ventures, contractors, freelancers, people who do work for your company for free (aka open source talent). Today’s open talent economy, which gives people unprecedented freedom to decide their own career paths, makes the market for employees increasingly competitive and expands the scope for sourcing employees to a lot more than full-time employees.


Lastly, talent acquisition intersects many other aspects of talent management; it cannot function effectively in a vacuum. For example, competency models should be used to recruit talent with specific skills and capabilities. Competitive employee referral programs should be part of an organization’s branding strategy as a way of attracting top talent. This need for alignment means that it is increasingly important that talent acquisition is a highly integrated part of a company’s overall talent strategy.


As I embark on dissecting and navigating the twists and turns of this complex, dynamic function called talent acquisition, I hope that you will travel on this journey with me. Given its complexity, I’m happy to report that you’ll be seeing talent acquisition research from a number of my colleagues—for example, Josh Bersin provides his industry knowledge on the business of talent, Kim Lamoureux who used to lead the Talent Acquisition practice and now focuses on Leadership & Succession, Katherine Jones, PhD, writes about talent acquisition technology, Karen O’Leonard focuses on talent acquisition analytics, and Stu Agtsteribbe leads our solution provider practice (and there’s a myriad of talent acquisition vendors!).


I’m looking forward to interacting with you and hearing your thoughts on talent acquisition. If you’re available, please join Kim Lamoureux and me for a complimentary webinar focused on High-Impact Talent Acquisition Strategy: Alignment with the Business on December 12, 2013, 2:00 p.m. ET / 19:00 BST. Last, but not least, I’ve recently joined the Twitterverse, so please engage with me @RAEricksonPhD.



1For more information, The Talent Acquisition Primer, Bersin by Deloitte / Robin Erickson, Ph.D. & Kim Lamoureux, October 2, 2013. Available to research members at www.bersin.com/library.

2 For more information, TalentTrends™ 2012: A Year of Guarded Optimism, Bersin & Associates / Josh Bersin, Karen O’Leonard, and Kim Lamoureux, July 2012. Available to research members at www.bersin.com/library.

3 For more information, The Talent Paradox: Critical Skills, Recession and the Illusion of Plenitude in the Deloitte Review / Robin Erickson, Jeff Schwartz, and Josh Ensell, January 2012.

4 For more information, Talent Acquisition Factbook, Bersin & Associates / Karen O’Leonard, November 2011. Available to research members at www.bersin.com/library.

5 For more information, The Open Talent Economy: People & Work in a Borderless Workplace, Deloitte Consulting LLP / Andy Liakopoulos, Jeff Schwartz, and Lisa Barry, July 2013

This entry was posted in HR. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.