December 26, 2018

5 Essential Steps for Building an Effective Talent Pipeline


To grow and succeed, businesses need to define, attract, and develop the right mix of critical talent. Unfortunately, many businesses wait for employees to quit before searching for replacements. This reactive process puts them a few steps behind their competitors when it comes to finding the best talent for their roles.

To ensure it has a steady flow of the right talent that can be tapped whenever a role opens up, a business must create a proactive talent pipeline. Why is this important? Because it means you’ll have the ideal candidate ready to fill the gap in your business if someone unexpectedly quits or if the business begins to grow more rapidly than expected.

No matter which industry your company operates in, it needs a strong talent pipeline to support its hiring needs. Here are some essential steps to take when building and optimizing your talent pipeline:

1. Map Your Current and Future Hiring Needs

To build an effective proactive talent pipeline, it is essential that you first understand your company’s strategic direction in terms of both current needs and plans for future growth. Map out where your hiring needs are now and where you expect them to be in the future, based on existing and forecasted project plans. This will help you prioritize your hiring efforts going forward.

Another important consideration is employee departure. What would happen if your key team members were to leave mid-project? The answer to this question will reveal any gaps in your talent pipeline and help you create a seamless succession planning strategy.

To measure the success of your existing talent pipeline, check on metrics like sources of hire, turnover rate by department, open jobs vs. filled positions, time to hire, and the ratio of offers to acceptances. Use the data to identify where your pipeline could use improvement. For example, say your overall candidate quality is high but your offer-to-acceptance ratio is low. This may suggest you need to rework your compensation package or employer brand.

2. Build an Employer Brand

Ever hear the phrase “too much of a good thing can be bad”? This principle applies to employer branding: Having a great employer brand can attract talent that is interested in your culture, but not the work you do. When creating your employer brand, make sure you’re directing your messages toward talent that can meet your firm’s actual needs.

Your employer brand describes the kind of employment experience you offer and how that relates to the work you do. Just like your internal corporate values, your brand won’t be for everyone, nor should it be. Instead, it should be designed to attract those who will thrive at the company while discouraging those who won’t.

3. Assess Your Candidates

Many simple, customizable assessment instruments can supplement recruiters’ and hiring managers’ intuitive, subjective judgments with quantitative data, thereby painting a fuller picture of a candidate’s skills. For example, a micromanaging candidate may be very successful when working with subordinates, but less so when working with peers.

Do not compromise your standards when you are identifying future talent for your organization. Conduct periodic reviews to ensure your pipelines are still producing the right people for your open roles. In terms of internal hiring and leadership development, this review process can also be used to help design individualized development plans for your high-potential employees.

4. Train and Develop Existing Employees

The talent-pipeline model isn’t just about finding the right candidates for open roles; it’s also about positioning your existing employees for success through ongoing development. Use assessments to identify skill gaps in your existing teams, and then build a dedicated training program to address those gaps. The program could include internal and external coaching, cross-functional experiences, and internal assignment opportunities both nationally and globally.

Regardless of the specific makeup of your internal training and development program, make sure to develop a brand identity for your program. Communicate the brand widely so all team members are aware of the initiative and eager to participate. Note also that a strong internal development program can also be a major selling point with potential candidates.

5. Monitor Your Pipeline’s Performance

To ensure continuous performance, you must evaluate the effectiveness of your talent pipeline. Be ready to identify future areas for development and improvement. Set key performance indicators (KPIs) for each area of the pipeline, and monitor outcomes against those KPIs.

It is important to note that some KPIs can be based on hard metrics, while others can be based on more qualitative data. For example, the effectiveness of your employer brand can be measure according to the amount of interest you receive in available positions, while employee development programs may be tracked against turnover rates.

Review your outcomes at least every six months, but adjust the timing to fit the needs of the business.

A version of this article originally appeared on the IQTalent Partners blog.

Chris Murdock is the cofounder and senior partner of IQTalent Partners.

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Chris Murdock is the cofounder and senior partner of IQTalent Partners. Chris has more than 12 years of executive recruiting experience and leads search execution and client relationships while supporting searches across the firm. Prior to founding IQTalent Partners, Chris was a sourcer with Yahoo!’s internal executive recruiting team in the corporate offices in Sunnyvale, California. Previous to Yahoo!, Chris was an associate in the Menlo Park, California, office of Heidrick & Struggles, where he recruited for software, hardware, professional services, and semiconductor clients. Before Heidrick & Struggles, Chris worked in the retail practice of TMP Worldwide in Atlanta, Georgia. While with TMP Worldwide, he worked on CEO, general merchandise manager, and various VP- and buyer-level searches. Chris earned a bachelor's degree from Vanderbilt University.