The Paradigm Change from “Recruiting” to “Talent Acquisition -”


Talent acquisition is a problem I have repeatedly confronted while consulting with small businesses for several years now. Given the strong US economy — due in large part to President Trump policies — talent acquisition has emerged as a top human resource management issue in 2018.

Summarizing the difficulties associated with finding the right people, a 2016 survey by the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM) revealed that roughly half of organizations surveyed pointed to three – (3) alarming recruiting problems: (i) a low number of applicants (51%,) (ii) a lack of needed work experience among available candidates (50%,) and (iii) competition from other employers (49%.)

I would summarize the distinction between “recruiting” and “talent acquisition” as one of intensity. “Recruiting” generally refers to filling vacancies. So, “recruiting” is reactive, short-term, and tactical. By contrast, “talent acquisition,” which I would define as a comprehensive, ongoing strategy to identify present and future talent, has the exact opposite focus: it is proactive, long-term, strategic, and cultural.

There are many costs associated with not adopting a talent acquisition strategy that plague small businesses today. Problems I’ve worked to improve in my consulting with clients during the last couple years include the following:

·        Lost Revenues Due to Open Sales Positions: Minimizing lost revenues because of open sales positions is a common problem I see, and was something I helped to address on a recent consulting project I completed this summer in Mobile, Alabama for an HVAC contractor that needed to grow both their sheet metal and coatings sales;

·        Customer Service Problems / Delivery Delays: While working with one of the largest manufacturers of industrial fans and exhaust systems located in Cincinnati, Ohio last year, I showed this client how to work smarter to reduce the customer service problems they were experiencing because of delayed delivery times of more than four weeks that were directly related to area recruiting issues;

·        Weak Employee Onboarding and Training: In San Jose, California, I helped reduce low productivity due to significant applicant skills gaps and poor employee onboarding and training by recommending process improvements at a CNC machine shop that produces high quality machine parts for prominent, area tech companies, like Apple and Google;

·        Employee Retention: Focusing on employee retention to cut the cost of turnover is another problem typical to both fast-growing and poorly managed businesses. At a national specialty contractor outside of Detroit, Michigan that builds cell towers, I recommended a performance-based incentive plan to help them reward and retain productive employees; and

·        Other Talent Acquisition Costs: Other talent acquisition costs include things like reduced time to hire and recruiting costs. For an INC 5,000 design-build firm in Louisville, Kentucky I worked with a couple years back, I was able to help this company significantly reduce their temp. service fees (which amounted to roughly $300,000 per year) by showing them how to strengthen their in-house HR capabilities.

Given the many costs associated with not having a talent acquisition strategy, adopting a talent acquisition focus today is a must. Below are my ten – (10) steps small businesses can take to establish a talent acquisition strategy:

1.  Taking Steps to Boost Your “Employer Brand -”

If you aren’t out there promoting your brand, how can you expect anybody else to ?

Ways to improve your “employer brand,” include things like keeping your web site current and creating a “careers page,” which could include YouTube videos featuring interviews by different kinds of satisfied employees.

I also encourage clients to seeking out “best employer status” for their area.

2.  Making a Conscious Effort to Improve Your Talent Sourcing Capabilities on the Internet –

There are many ways to accomplish this: for example, by conducting Boolean and Google searches, looking at job boards, and utilizing social media sites like, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to promote your business.

3.  Improving Your Human Resource Management Recordkeeping –

There are sourcing software solutions today (a.k.a., “ATS” Applicant Tracking Software) that didn’t exist in years past. ATS software allows you build applicant pipelines, so you can more quickly identify available pools of talent when needed.

4.  Periodically “Testing the Waters,” By Attending Job Fairs And Running Job Listings to See Who is Out There –

Running job listings on ZipRecruiter or to see who is hiring and downloading resumes posted on and to see who is look for jobs are two strategies I regularly employ on consulting engagements.

I often refer to when hiring, because in many markets identifies compensation levels offered to area applicants that can help you gain an edge when negotiating compensation.

5.  Courting Future Employees –

Business owners should be engaged in industry networking. Business leaders should be talking in advance to qualified candidates with whom they cross paths, and HR managers should be “dripping” on individuals who can fill future positions or bring future talents to your business as it grows.

Your management team should also be looking for future leaders for your company. Managers should all have company LinkedIn profiles and be networking with industry professionals.

Last, you should be asking suppliers if they know of anybody who might not be happy with their present employer.

6.  Considering Outside Recruiters –

Although recruiters are not my first choice, they can be effective when recruiting managers and technical employees with industry experience. Use to find recruiters who might be able to assist you recruiting executives.

7.  Strengthening Your Human Resources Management, And Employee Retention Systems, Procedures and Controls –

Strengthening your HR systems, procedures and controls includes everything from revisiting your mission statement, to drafting formal employee job descriptions, doing skills gap analyzes, creating employee training programs, periodically evaluating employees, assigning mentors to employees, promoting from within, creating succession plans for key employees, and performing exit interviews.

You should, furthermore, be asking applicants how you can improve the experience of applying for a job at your company.

8.  Doing Things to Boost Employee Morale –

Recognizing outstanding employees, implementing an employee of the month program, giving out atta-boys, holding contests, and awarding outstanding performers are ideas all top performing businesses employ.

Each year you should also be giving your employees a survey to identify how you can make your company a place they never want to leave.

Happy employees will refer their friends, and can be one of your best sources of recruiting. Be sure to offer a generous employee referral bonus.

9.  Ensuring That “Talent Acquisition” And “Talent Management” is a Company Wide Effort –

As mentioned above, management should be part of your talent acquisition strategy. Managers should be involved in the recruiting, interviewing and onboarding processes; and the company should also encourage a learning culture.

10.               Last, Add A “Personal Touch” to Your Hiring Process –

Here are some ideas for personalizing the hiring process: take the candidate out to lunch with your managers; call the candidate after the interview to discuss selling points about your business you didn’t mention, and/or ask him or her more questions; invite the candidate to a company event, and put together a training plan for the new employee.

For years now, we have been saying the most important asset of any small business is its people. This statement is truer today than ever. In 2019, small businesses that don’t have a talent acquisition strategy need to be thinking about one if they want to remain competitive in the marketplace.