Why is talent acquisition (TA) so challenging today? Here’s a little story that captures what goes wrong between candidates and so many organizations.
A (TA)le of two generations
Me: How’s the job search going?
24-year-old son: OK. I sent out three or four applications yesterday.
Me: You need to put about two zeros behind that.
Son: Why? No one ever gets back to me.
My son, a recent college graduate, has been looking for his first job as a chemist. He’s applied for many entry-level jobs, including at a local manufacturing company. The position for an industrial chemist was available in 10 different cities, so my son filled out a separate application for each locale. He also signed up to be part of the company’s talent community. Here’s what happened:
- He never heard back on any of the 10 applications.
- He is bombarded with emails about new requisitions, saying, “Hey you might be perfect for this job!”
- He says, “Forget it! Why don’t you at least get back to me on the 10 applications I also have in?”
And so forth and so on. As I encourage my son to keep the faith and continue applying, his story illustrates so much of what is wrong with TA.
- It’s oriented around the employer, not the candidate.
- The application process is tedious, not easy.
- TA functions as a series of disconnected processes, not a contiguous lifecycle.
- Behind the scenes, siloed HR applications are not talking with each other.
Why TA needs to be rethought
The global HR technology market size is projected to reach $35.68 billion in 2028, expanding at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.8% over the next six years. That’s a tremendous amount of money to be pouring into what today is essentially 20th-century technology attempting to solve 21st-century business problems; if companies are so desperate to hire, they need to consider:
1. Workforce demographics: According to the US Census Bureau, in 2022 Gen Z makes up 20.2% of the U.S. population, and Millennials at 21.8%. These generations’ vastly different expectations of employers have been widely chronicled – here’s a recent sample – and many companies are fundamentally changing the way they work to embrace them. Work from home (WFH) and hybrid work strategies, climate action and workplace mental health are among these workers’ top priorities.
2. Recruiting expectations: Simply put, recruiting practices have not kept pace with demographic and societal change. Millennials and Gen Zers:
- Put mobile first. An astounding 91% of job seekers expect to apply for a job on a mobile device.
- Are Zoomers. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of job seekers expect a video interview.
- Are on the move: About 40% of Gen Zers and 24% of millennials would like to leave their jobs within two years.
- Are open to leaving their current job: Today’s “passive” candidate pool includes 89% of people who already have a job, who say they are “willing to learn about a new opportunity.”
- Want to go fast: Sixty-two percent of candidates say it should take less than 14 days to complete the entire application-to-job offer process.
How to fix TA
Against a backdrop of these realities, here’s what I believe our industry needs:
- Put the candidate first: After decades of customer centricity, it seems like a “brief glimpse of the obvious” that today’s workers, like customers, have many choices. And once they’ve chosen a job, loyalty is hard-won; according the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and millennial survey, about a third would quit without another job lined up.
- View TA strategically: Most organizations look at talent acquisition simplistically, a function of just two things: job requisitions and applications. This narrow view makes it easy to routinize the TA process, resulting in a non-stop, one-way flow of candidates into the ATS system. Here, they languish in a purgatory of sorts – like my son, who never heard anything about the 10 applications he submitted yet was encouraged by the same company to apply for more positions.
- Rethink TA technology: Many TA systems have legacy technology at their core, expanded in a makeshift fashion, additional modules “bolted on.” These systems are part of a siloed HR technology environment filled with multiple systems that don’t communicate. Things that should be easy, like applying for the same position in different cities, become a nightmare for the applicant. Steps that should flow seamlessly in the candidate journey and job seeker lifecycle are disjointed and complex. Most dashboards give spot analytics but not strategic insights.
Talent acquisition is a supply chain
In my view, the bigger picture for talent acquisition is that it’s far more than “reqs and apps”; it’s a supply chain, in which passive candidates are a valued resource. Just as the pandemic has shown us how fragile supply chains are for everything from cars to cakes, the talent supply chain has broken down, too. How to fix it? Come back for my next blog, “The Talent Supply Chain: Why It’s Broken and How to Fix It,” to find out.