Rethinking Talent Acquisition for Sustained Business Growth and Agility

Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, details the top five talent acquisition trends facing organisations today.
By: | April 27, 2022

As anyone in HR knows, recruiting is highly complex, and even more so now. Recruiting processes are filled with opportunities to waste time and money, create, or reinforce possible bias and discrimination, and burden hiring managers.  And now, in many geographies and industry segments, the pandemic has evaporated talent pools. 

Talent acquisition (TA) is a critically important business function that needs to be built around business alignment, good data, and scale—all at once. TA leaders and recruiters must also be forward thinking.  Rather than merely filling the jobs that exist today, they must understand where the business is going and source candidates with the skills needed for the company’s future success.   

Today’s talent acquisition professionals also must possess general data analytics skills and an understanding of the many types of technology tools now available – for assessment, sourcing, candidate marketing, interviewing, tracking, scheduling, and more. 

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“Talent acquisition (TA) is a critically important business function that needs to be built around business alignment, good data, and scale—all at once.” – Josh Bersin.


Our recent research, scheduled for publication later this Spring, dug into all aspects of talent acquisition with the goal of finding how companies are currently conducting recruiting and hiring and what practices are having the biggest impact when it comes to business, people, and innovation outcomes.  The research is based on a survey of more than 600 respondents representing companies across the globe and industry sectors, as well as interviews with many TA leaders and analysis of 88 different TA practices.  In this article, we summarise the top five findings.

1. Employees are looking for a future, not just a job.  Successful hiring starts with a compelling employer value proposition.  

The pressures of the past several years have caused workers to take note of how their employers care for them. Now, as they look for new roles and challenges, they are looking for employers who are transparent and authentic and have a clearly defined mission. 

Our research found that practices related to employer branding have an outsized impact on outcomes. These include the continual refinement of the employer value proposition (EVP), especially when the process reflects employee feedback, and consistent and strong communication of the brand across all channels – not just on career pages of the corporate website. 

Powerful and authentic employer branding is not just for the outside world and prospective job candidates. An employer brand reflecting what it is truly like to work for the company is a primary driver of employee retention. Companies with authentic EVPs are also 5.4 times more likely to exceed financial targets, 6.1 times more likely to delight customers, and 7.4 times more likely to innovate effectively. 

2. The best recruiters bring in the best talent.  Invest in your TA team.

The best recruiters know your company’s culture, your business, and the market. They create strong relationships with hiring managers and understand all aspects of the roles for which they are recruiting.  They can also assess the readiness and fit of prospective employees and convince them that your company is the one they want to work for.

Unfortunately, while the demand for jobs continues to surge, many companies are also grappling with finding and keeping great recruiters to help fill open positions. According to a Wall Street Journal article, job postings for recruiters doubled during last year. 

Consequently, existing recruiting teams are overloaded with work and at risk of burnout. Our research shows recruiters now often have 50, 60, or even 100 requisitions on their plate at any given time. Recruiters also have the tough job of telling hiring managers that their offers are being rejected or that searches are falling flat. 

Our research shows that recruiter development is one of the practices most highly correlated with innovation and customer satisfaction. In fact, companies that invest in their recruiting team are 3.9 times more likely to be leaders in innovation and 4.5 times more likely to achieve high levels of customer retention.

The companies winning the talent war are rethinking the role of recruiters altogether. They are de-emphasising traditional skills such as building pipelines and focusing on broader capabilities such as business acumen, adaptability, data analytics, systems thinking, and bias mitigation.  Recruiters at these companies are also playing more strategic consulting roles – working with hiring managers to refine role criteria and understanding the skills needed for the company’s workforce of the future. 

3. It’s time to get serious about internal mobility.

In the past, internal mobility typically meant linear progression as employees and their managers created plans for advancement inside a job or function.  While this approach is still very common, current talent challenges require a different approach.

Forward-thinking companies like Schneider Electric, Delta, and Unilever are pursuing agile internal mobility  that facilitates the movement of employees to different jobs and functional areas in ways that align with business needs and career interests.  This on-demand internal mobility touches on almost every people practice, from hiring to learning to compensation. And, importantly, agile mobility is closely linked to work design: temporary roles, project-based work, rotational assignments, and internal mentoring are all potential strategies savvy organisations are employing.

However, our research shows fewer than a quarter of companies are proficient at internal mobility. Most efforts remain firmly in the realm of traditional, planned, hierarchical mobility, with 70% of companies still sticking to posting jobs for employees to find and apply to.

While successful internal talent mobility undoubtedly requires scalable, flexible technology, and strong, well-designed processes to support it, our research finds the biggest hurdles are tied to corporate culture. Too often, managers “hoard talent” because they are loath to let their best people move to other teams.  Some set higher standards for internal hires than external hires. Employees also face risks.

For instance, if an employee applies for a different job but then does not get it, their manager might interpret the action as a sign of dissatisfaction.  Companies such as IBM, Nestlé, and General Mills have offset these challenges by setting up mentoring and coaching programmes and creating explicit managerial policies, some of which even going so far as to reward managers for hiring from within. One healthcare company has stopped posting jobs internally, instead working directly with employees to invite them to apply for open jobs based on their career interests and qualifications.

Our research shows when companies go beyond the most basic practice of posting jobs on an internal portal and encourage a culture of movement and growth, they are 3.7 times more likely to see innovation rise and nearly 5 times more likely to be recognised as a great place to work.

4. Put skills and capabilities at the center of your talent acquisition strategy.

By now, most executives firmly grasp the challenges—and risks—associated with maintaining a skilled workforce. The half-life of skills continues to shrink, the time it takes to reskill has ballooned, and companies cannot find the skilled workers they need. But there remains much debate and uncertainty over what to do about these challenges.

The fact is employees are more eager than ever to learn and develop new skills that enable them to perform better and grow into new roles. The best companies are channeling this energy to attract and retain talent where it is needed most. Companies like IBM, AT&T, and Schneider Electric have long been skills development machines, making sure employees have the skills the company demands, and the sources needed to acquire them.

Others, like Walmart, are investing to create new opportunities for learning. Several years ago, the retailer launched an initiative to upskill its frontline workers and solve talent shortage in various parts of its business. For example, the company established partnerships to encourage employees to train for positions in pharmacy operations or cybersecurity.

Executives have long valued hard skills such as fundamental and advanced skills in math, science, computing, and data science.  However, now tasked with doing business in a constantly evolving environment, executives are now recognising the value of individuals who can communicate effectively and demonstrate dexterity with problem-solving and critical thinking. Other power skills in demand are teamwork, time management, tenacity, flexibility, and curiosity. 

When companies hire for both behavioural and technical skills, there is notable short- and long-term performance improvement. For starters, companies bringing these capability combinations into their workforces are 5.7 times more likely to be innovation leaders. Recruiting candidates who exhibit a growth mindset, curiosity, and creativity makes companies 7.3 times more likely to achieve high levels of engagement and 8.3 times more likely to be recognised as a great place to work.

5. Technology can strengthen your talent pipeline.  Use it to your advantage. 

Technology has long played a key role in the recruiting process. But is it really helping in the war for talent? The short answer is yes: our research shows that virtual hiring tools, automation, talent intelligence platforms, and even AI and chatbots do drive key metrics like your ability to attract and hire great candidates or maintain a quality talent pipeline. For example, companies employing AI throughout their recruitment processes are four times more likely to boast a strong candidate pipeline. Likewise, those that leverage a variety of digital-hiring solutions, such as online assessments, virtual interview platforms, and pre-hire chatbots, are twice as likely to be able to attract and recruit the right talent.

However, there can also be a downside. Some TA leaders related that when they added digital recruiting solutions, TA operations become even more complex, data was exceedingly hard to manage, and, perhaps worst of all, the experience for all involved became more fragmented and difficult.

We found two things matter most when it comes to using technology for best advantage: adaptability and design. As a company adapts or expands its recruiting practices, there are always new workflows, business rules, and reports to add. So, tools must be highly adaptable and easy to change by users.

The ability to continuously refine workflows and operational processes is one of the technology practices that emerged as a top driver of outcomes. When a company can simplify or automate administrative processes for recruiters, for example, it is three times more likely to hire the right people.

Technology must always be in service of creating great experiences for all – recruiters, hiring managers, and candidates. The best organisations get this right by designing their TA technology to be simple, easy to use, and intuitive. L’Oréal’s recruiting platform is so easy to use that many recruiters have now become proficient in data analytics, regularly leveraging diversity metrics to adjust and course-correct hiring approaches proactively. At McDonald’s, owner-operators who multitask as recruiters in their own restaurants provided significant guidance on the design of the high-volume hiring platform to ensure it met their specific needs. As a result, they have wholeheartedly embraced the solution.


The case for evolving the recruiting function has never been clearer. Old tried-and-true practices are simply not going to be enough to build and maintain a talent workforce that is innovative and engaged in today’s talent market. The best companies are re-imagining TA by putting people at the center, experimenting with new strategies, and applying technology in smart ways to unlock innovation in all recruiting-related processes.

Josh Bersin is a Global Industry Analyst and CEO of the Josh Bersin Company. Join Bersin at HR Tech Festival Asia 2022, where his session titled, Preparing for Ongoing Disruption: Where HR Should Focus, will take place on Wednesday, May 11, from 10.05am-11am (SGT).