Talent Pipeline: What It Is, How To Build One, and Best Practices

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In a world where technology is rapidly changing, and talented individuals are pursuing their independence in the gig economy, it’s not surprising that recruiters need 31% more candidates in their pipelines to fill open positions.

Companies that want to attract top talent must invest in effective talent pipelines. Through these talent pipelines, you’ll attract the best possible talent, reduce your time to hire, and keep your company running like a top.

In this article, we'll break down what talent pipelines are and how to use them in your recruitment success. 

What is a talent pipeline?

A talent pipeline is a steady stream of qualified candidates that recruiters and HR managers can access when positions become vacant. These potential candidates can be existing employees poised for promotions or external candidates sourced by other means. A talent pipeline strategy makes talent acquisition easier since you can access active and passive candidates.

How to build a successful talent pipeline

There’s a distinct process that supports a successful talent pipeline. Each step is like a jigsaw puzzle: only when you put all the pieces together will you have a talent pipeline that brings in a steady stream of job candidates and attracts the best talent. Below are the steps that help the puzzle come together.

1) Develop a comprehensive overview of your company's hiring needs

A traditional pipeline is a system of connected pipes used to transport gas and liquid. Similarly, your talent pipeline needs to be grounded in a system that connects your talent pool to you and your team. The glue that binds this system together is a deep understanding of your company's needs.

Look closely at vacant positions—and those likely to become vacant in the near future—and begin thinking about succession planning among teams within the organization. Speak with hiring managers to identify skill gaps they hope to fill with new hires, and align their department needs with the company’s overall business objectives. Put your findings together to map out a clear plan for your company’s hiring needs based on your ideal candidate persona.

2) Choose your sourcing method

If you have a well-known brand, talent will likely come to you and actively apply for jobs through your career page. Less visible brands tend to have a harder time getting in front of candidates and need to use a mixture of talent sourcing methods to find and attract the right people. Regardless of which bucket you fall into, here’s a list of some of the most popular channels to find the best candidates.

Social sourcing

Social media is a huge driver for brand interactions among Generations X, Y, and Z—the people who now make up the bulk of the workforce. That’s why finding talent on social media and building a strong employer brand on social media should be a priority. Although LinkedIn is a top source for social sourcing, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, GitHub, Behance, and YouTube are also great places to find high-quality talent.

Referral program sourcing

An employee referral program provides a structured way for you to accept and manage talent referrals from employees. Providing incentives for these referrals encourages employees to recommend high-quality candidates. A study by CareerPlug shows that candidate referrals were 18 times more likely to be hired than applicants from job boards. Referred candidates are more likely to be a good fit and be excited about the new job—even if they were initially passive candidates.

Networking events

Networking events provide great opportunities for you to meet both active and passive job candidates face to face and build connections. However, you shouldn’t only attend networking events that focus specifically on recruiting or things related to your industry. For instance, you could attend a networking event by a local professional development organization, such as Rotaract, to meet more people and build your talent pipeline. 

The benefit of attending these events is the exposure to a wider professional audience—you never know who’s in the market for a new job. These events (think conferences, lectures, happy hours, etc.) can put your business in front of multiple career-focused candidates at once. 

Recruiting databases

Recruiting databases are central places for hosting candidate data. They function as applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help recruiters and HR managers keep track of candidate applications and resumes and streamline the hiring and onboarding process. These databases can help you assess which talent sourcing methods bring in the best talent.

Job boards

Job boards are particularly useful for helping companies access a wide pool of candidates. You’re most likely to find candidates for entry-level and mid-level positions on job boards—top talent for executive and senior positions is best sourced through referrals and networking events.

Curated lists of passive candidates

Most American workers are passive candidates. Workable’s Great Discontent 2021 Worker Survey shows that 37.3% of American job seekers are passively looking for work, 29.4% aren’t looking for new opportunities, and 33.4% are actively looking for jobs. If you aren’t curating lists of passive candidates, you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to build an effective talent pipeline.

Want to learn more about talent sourcing? Check out our talent sourcing guide.

3) Start reaching out to new candidates and building relationships

You identified the talent you want to add to your talent pipeline during the talent sourcing process. Now it's time to reach out to those candidates and invite them to your talent community so you can build relationships with them. A talent community brings active and passive job candidates together based on shared interests. These communities often include content specifically related to these interests and opportunities for further networking at community-specific events.

4) Analyze your talent pool

Look carefully at your talent pool through the lens of trends in the talent market, long-term company goals, and current company needs. You want your talent pool to meet current demands and reflect future talent your company will need to remain relevant and competitive.

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are there existing employees in the talent pool who would fit in well for this role?
  2. If not, who within my external talent pool would be the best fit?
  3. Does my talent pool include people from all races, ethnicities, and backgrounds?
  4. Are the people in my talent pool truly equipped to help the company meet its strategic objectives?

5) Send offers and start nurturing the leads in your talent pipeline

The fundamental purpose of a talent pipeline is to help you have a steady stream of candidates to choose from when job vacancies arise. When there’s a vacancy at your company, who's the first person in your talent pipeline that comes to mind? Reach out to that person with an offer and prepare for a counter.

There’s a war for top talent, and you won’t necessarily win by offering higher compensation. Your best candidates are looking at your company's benefits and how they match up with your compensation package.

6) Create (or strengthen) onboarding and training processes to get new hires up to speed

New hires often feel dissatisfied with their onboarding. In fact, a Gallup study reveals that only “29% of new hires say they feel fully prepared and supported to excel in their role after their onboarding experience." Four core elements make a good onboarding and training program:

  • Operational knowledge: How does the company work? What materials and tools are needed for success within the company? What’s the chain of command like? What does the new hire need to know in order to operate efficiently?
  • Social knowledge: Are you providing opportunities for new hires to meet department members and staff across the organization? How are you creating opportunities for the new hire to feel like part of the organization? How do you make new employees feel welcome?
  • Strategic knowledge: Does the new hire know and understand the company’s vision, mission, goals, and culture?
  • Professional development: What are the new hire’s career goals? How can you create a career plan that includes learning and development opportunities so the new hire can achieve those goals?

7) Track the right metrics and get feedback

You’ll only know your talent pipeline is successful if you look at the right metrics and get feedback from hiring managers. Here are some of the most important metrics for you to track:

  • Time to hire: Has the talent pipeline helped reduce our time to hire?
  • Candidate response rate: How many candidates responded?
  • Job offer acceptance rate: How often were job offers accepted?
  • Candidate satisfaction score: What was the candidate’s experience like throughout the process?

Key benefits of having a strong talent pipeline

Having a strong talent pipeline saves recruiters from recreating the wheel every time your organization has a new opening. It gives your recruiting team a solid foundation to pull from, which can fast-track you to making great, qualified hires. Here’s a look at four more of the most significant benefits of a strong talent pipeline:

Brings in a steady flow of candidates

The process of building a talent pipeline is ongoing. Members of your HR team should actively use talent sourcing strategies to keep people coming into the pipeline. Remember that you’re building a talent community of like-minded people—keep your community active, relevant, and engaged.

Evaluates the quality of candidates before the hiring process

About 54% of HR leaders say that their biggest challenge with talent acquisition is finding and attracting top talent. An effective talent pipeline includes some of the top talent your company wants to attract and provides opportunities for you to build relationships with them. You have the power to add or remove people from your pipeline so that the quality of options is top-notch.

Creates a better experience for the candidates

Relationship building is at the center of an effective talent pipeline strategy. By building these relationships, you’ll make your brand memorable to the people you want to attract. You’ll also spend less time convincing passive candidates that vacant positions are right for them and more time congratulating them for becoming part of your company.

Enables a higher retention rate among new hires

New hires are more likely to stay at a company if they’re part of an active talent pipeline. The trick is to ensure your talent pipeline management strategy doesn’t force your brand onto job candidates. Instead, it provides opportunities for them to connect with your brand and others about shared interests. You’re nurturing relationships and setting the foundation for highly engaged employees.

Build and manage your talent pipeline with Emi

There are many moving parts to manage in a talent pipeline. There’s the strategic vision, sourcing the candidates, nurturing them, and hiring those who fit vacant positions. 

Trying to do all this manually means that some things will fall by the wayside, so you need a tool that helps automate and streamline all aspects of the talent pipeline process. Emi is that tool. See how we helped 7-Eleven centralize and accelerate retail employee hires, or schedule a demo with us to learn more about how we can empower your recruiting team to bring in the best talent.

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