A profile shot of a man and woman sitting on opposite sides of a metal desk and smiling at each other. The man is seated on the left; he has dark hair and a dark beard. He wears a gray blazer and holds a clipboard. The woman is seated on the right; she has long strawberry blonde hair and wears a white blouse with a partially transparent panel at the elbows. She sits with her hands folded.
A talent pipeline collects potential job candidates from both internal sources, like internships and past applicants, and external sources, like job fairs and staffing agencies. — Getty Images/Harbucks

A talent pipeline ecosystem consists of the processes, systems, strategies, and technologies used to find job candidates. The framework helps your small business source and categorize applicants. Instead of starting from scratch whenever you need to fill a position, your human resources team can quickly dip into your talent pipeline and identify qualified candidates. Take these steps to develop a plan and build a talent supply chain.

Outline challenges and objectives

Your talent pipeline should solve existing problems and meet future needs. To better understand your challenges, work with department leaders to get a clear view of your workforce needs. Perform skills gap tests on current staff, recent new hires, and former job applicants. Next, assess current and upcoming talent needs. Consider changes affecting staffing, such as business growth or internal restructuring.

At this point, your team can start developing short- and long-term recruiting and hiring goals that align with high-level business objectives. Define your talent management key performance indicators (KPIs), which allow you to measure your pipeline's effectiveness.

[Read more: Talent Recruiters' Insider Tips for Finding Talent in a Tough Hiring Market]

Craft a talent pipeline sourcing strategy

Think about the types of employees you hire, including temporary help, freelancers, and full- and part-time staff. Then consider the different ways that work best for finding qualified employees. Use data showing what worked previously and collect information supporting new methods. Also, during this process, look at technology tools for hiring, such as applicant tracking systems (ATS). Software platforms can help your company identify and communicate with prospects.

Internal and external candidate sources may consist of:

  • Website career portals.
  • Job boards.
  • Employee referrals.
  • Networking events.
  • Former employee and applicant database.
  • Online forums and social media.
  • Staffing agencies.
  • Recruiting databases.
  • Direct outreach.
  • Community or campus career fairs.
  • Recruitment marketing.
  • Internships.
  • Local high schools and colleges.

This is also a good time to consider joining or starting an employer collaborative. An employer collaborative refers to two or more businesses working together to achieve development and hiring goals. The U.S. Chamber Foundation's Talent Pipeline Management (TPM) framework provides six strategies for building talent supply chains, starting with an employer collaborative.

Develop a talent database

A talent container is critical to your pipeline strategy. It's a searchable database that stores information on all potential candidates. Companies with an existing ATS can integrate their database to streamline the process. A sourced applicant goes into your database and is organized into several categories, allowing HR to sort and rank candidates quickly.

A talent pipeline involves establishing relationships with people before adding them to your database.

A structured approach offers classifications, such as:

  • Primary skill set.
  • Preferred job type.
  • Years of experience.
  • Pay range.
  • Individual hard and soft skills.
  • Location.
  • Industry expertise.

[Read more: 4 Ways to Improve Your Talent Acquisition Strategy]

Engage and nurture pipeline candidates

A talent pipeline involves establishing relationships with people before adding them to your database. This approach helps you source highly qualified applicants and maintain a connection, even if you're not ready to hire. Similar to nurturing a customer, pipeline communication requires a personalized outreach strategy. It's a process of engaging with people in your pipeline and documenting pertinent conversations or changes to candidate files.

Talent pipeline management includes:

  • Posting or sending workplace and job updates.
  • Offering relevant resources and assistance.
  • Creating recruitment videos.
  • Performing candidate experience audits.
  • Sending emails or newsletters.
  • Designing compelling career pages.
  • Displaying employee advancement prospects.
  • Highlighting worker reskilling and upskilling opportunities.

Focus on upskilling and reskilling your employees

Small businesses should look internally to fill current and future job positions because current team members are critical to your talent pipeline. Moreover, job applicants view hiring companies more favorably when they offer employee training and development programs. According to Gallup's American Upskilling Study, "65% of workers believe employer-provided upskilling is very important when evaluating a potential new job," and "48% would switch to a new job if offered skills training opportunities."

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published January 24, 2023