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HR & Recruitment

How to Build a Talent Pipeline? 5 Steps to Manage Your Hiring Process

build talent pipeline


February 23, 2023

The world is full of talented people. What makes it troublesome for companies is that not just any talent will do. Businesses need specifically talented professionals at particular time frames. And they have to beat the competition to consistently find qualified candidates.

Prudent HR representatives turn to their talent pipeline when positions need to be filled with the best-fit talent. A robust talent pipeline, however, requires time and effort to build. Below you will find some tips worth keeping in mind whether you are building your first pipeline or looking to expand your methodological toolkit.

What is a talent pipeline?

In order to build something we first need to agree on and clearly state what exactly we are building. A talent pipeline, also referred to as a candidate pipeline or HR pipeline, is a pool of qualified candidates that are ready to fill key positions within an organization once they become vacant.

Thus, a talent pipeline is made up of both internal and external candidates for open positions to come. HR would consistently connect with and refresh information about these prospects in order to keep them vested in the possibilities within the company. Pipelining talent is crucial for enabling HR to efficiently fill future roles that the firm depends on the most.

talent pipeline

The benefits of a talent pipeline

Such talent pipeline as described above is not easy to build and maintain. It does, however, have multiple advantages that make it all worthwhile. Let’s look at the main benefits.

Better hires

Talent pipelining enables companies to build relationships with top talent and get to know them better. Naturally, this leads to identifying the right candidates for positions even before they open.

Candidates in the pipeline are already selected based on meeting multiple criteria and have the qualifications needed for the job. It gives organizations consistent access to these professionals, allowing HR to nurture and prepare them for once the position opens and it’s time to hire. Because of these reasons, the newly hired candidate will most likely be the best available option.

Reduced time to hire

Once a key position in an organization becomes vacant, it is, in a way, already too late to start hiring. Critical positions are critical precisely because leaving them open even for a short period of time is costly to the business.

A candidate pipeline is filled with the right talent for the job that can step in as soon as needed. Hiring a replacement even before the previous employee has left is the best-case scenario all companies aim for.

Improved candidate experience

An unpleasant hiring process will, among other things, decrease the likelihood of candidates recommending the company to other prospects.

Conversely, constant engagement with the candidate in the pipeline as well as reduced time to fill an open position will lead to positive candidate feedback. This can also lead to more candidates getting referred to your company by top employees.

Building strong relationships with the best talent

When we are good at something, we want to connect with other people in our field, to network and share our knowledge. An effective talent pipeline allows your company to become the center of its own talent community filled with high-quality candidates for future roles.

Even when some candidates end up working elsewhere, staying connected often proves worthwhile. After all, long-term relationships lead to beneficial business partnerships.

How to create a talent pipeline?

There is no one recipe for building talent pipelines. The 5 steps below, however, provide a framework for creating a talent pipeline on which any dedicated HR executive can put their personal spin. 

Consider your company’s future plans

Finding better candidates starts with knowing your company’s needs and future goals. The extent of your pipeline and your candidate sourcing strategy will depend on whether your company is planning to grow in the next few years or expand specific departments.

Additionally, in order to have your talent pipeline filled with the right candidates, you need to analyze your company’s business objectives and key performance indicators (KPIs). Keep in mind, however, that the best fit depends not only on the qualifications of the candidate but how well they will adjust to the company culture.

Identify your target audience

Once you know yourself, you are ready to define what you are looking for. Create candidate personas for the key positions that you will need to fill in the near future. An informative candidate persona for your ideal candidate should define both their skills and expertise. Don’t forget to evaluate soft skills and current availability.

Thus, demographic data should be combined with data on their skills, interests, and previous experience. When you have a clear image of your ideal candidate, you can think of how it is best to contact them, which leads us to candidate sourcing.

Create a sourcing strategy

Decide on how you would want to start pipelining the talent. There are many ways to source active and passive candidates. Firstly, it is important not to forget the current employees who might wish to switch jobs or go for a higher position. Providing diverse future opportunities is crucial to reducing turnover rates among the best employees.

When it comes to external candidates, portfolio sites and career-oriented social media platforms could be the backbone of your talent acquisition strategy. Many candidates today, however, are passive candidates who do not actively look for a new job. One of the ways to find and start engaging with passive talent is networking events.

Enact well-balanced engagement strategies

Maintaining the talent pipeline requires constant and appropriate engagement. It requires a delicate balance to, on the one hand, communicate enough to keep the potential job candidates interested and, on the other, not to be overwhelming.

Thus, it is better to ask the candidate what media they wish to use to stay in contact. Communicate with them clearly and honestly in order to avoid creating false expectations. Show interest in the candidate’s career aspirations and the challenges that they face.

Re-evaluate as often as possible

Nothing stays the same for long and your talent pipeline should reflect that. Keep reassessing the candidates in light of their own changing qualities as well as your business goals. 

The resumes of your candidates might have changed since the last time you extracted data from them; thus, it’s important to keep adding fresh data to your candidate database.

building your talent pipeline

Talent pipeline vs. talent pool

Talent pipeline is sometimes used synonymously with another term - talent pool. There are, however, important differences that make these two concepts distinct from each other.

Talent pipelines or HR pipelines, as described above, are talent acquisition funnels filled with candidates that qualify to fill particular positions in your firms. Talent pools, on the other hand, are made up of potential hires to be considered in the recruitment process. You would look at the pools to find qualified talent to fill your talent pipeline.

Another term often used in this concept is talent communities. This refers to either talent pools or talent pipelines where candidates are able to communicate with each other and network. Your talent pipeline can lead to creation of talent communities thus providing additional value to the candidates as well as an incentive to stay in the pipeline.

Data for talent pipelining

A 2019 quality of hire trends report has shown that using data to drive decisions is among the top characteristics shared by companies that improve quality of hire. The success of data-driven decisions in HR could have only grown with AI’s increasing capacity to extract actionable insights from data.

The most important data, such as information about previous experience, can be found in employee data.

Additionally, it is worth looking at company employee review data. Insights about what employees say about their working conditions will help with nurturing the talent in the pipeline and set the course for creating a good candidate experience.

Various public web sources consist of data that can be useful for talent pipelining. For example, online job posting platforms or networking platforms for professionals. Professionally collected data from these sources organized into extensive datasets is what you need for transforming your recruitment efforts and creating a successful talent pipeline.

Talent pipeline management

Supervising a talent pipeline means creatively and efficiently managing quite a lot of crucial data. Having the help of software appears to be pivotal for success. In fact, companies that excel at talent acquisition are 4 times more likely to use software for talent pipeline management than those that don’t show such excellent results.

Candidate Relationship Management (CRM) and Application Tracking Systems (ATS) are still the pillars of software-assisted HR pipeline management. Automation in HR data management can be expected to grow with the constant development of such tools. 

Such automation should be balanced out with sincere human communication with the candidates. As mentioned, when it comes to engaging candidates, the apps and tools to be used should be discussed with the talent in the pipeline for their convenience.

Wrapping up

A strong talent pipeline provides an organization with streams of potential candidates for crucial positions. In order to have an efficient talent pipeline strategy an HR executive needs to have extensive knowledge of their company’s goals as well as the labor market conditions.

Leveraging various types of employee data and technological solutions for data management and analysis allows for an efficient recruitment process and the best results.

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