Making the Case for A Passive Talent Strategy: a Six-Step Roadmap

August 13, 2012

What’s easy: knowing you need a passive candidate recruiting strategy to acquire top talent. What’s difficult: securing the resources necessary to actually define and implement that strategy.

So, how do you make the case? We asked LinkedIn Recruitment Product Consulting Manager Mark Freeman, who advises customers on how to maximize their LinkedIn investment.  Through his extensive experience as both recruiter and consultant, Mark has worked with companies in all stages of passive candidate recruiting adoption. Below he offers advice on how to sell the need for recruiting passive talent in the first place, and how to measure and track its effectiveness.

What is the most common objection to having a passive talent recruiting strategy, and how do you respond to it?

[caption id="attachment_5026" align="alignright" width="268"] Mark Freeman, Recruitment Product Consulting Manager, LinkedIn[/caption]

Lack of resources is the most common objection. Some companies mistakenly think that if they don’t have a large, high-powered sourcing team, they won’t benefit from a passive talent strategy. Others say they lack systems to manage talent flow and to ensure up-to-date, engaged pipelines.

The reality, though, is that employers who want to compete in today’s war for top talent have to be proactive with their relationship outreach. Talent acquisition teams simply aren’t maximizing their value if they are not pursuing passive candidates. As for the systems objection, I’m naturally biased of course, but LinkedIn’s Recruiter platform with Talent Pipeline technology addresses the above obstacles in a very effective way. It’s such an empowering and useful tool that doesn’t necessarily break the bank.

What are some ways to build a case for passive talent recruiting?

Consider taking a concept from the operations playbook, as Jim Schnyder of PepsiCo did in describing the concept of ‘just-in-time-talent’.  Just as the goal with supply chain management is to anticipate a company’s manufacturing needs and have just the right resources at any given time, the goal with talent acquisition is to anticipate a company’s hiring needs and manage the flow of talent nimbly. In this model, recruiters are forward-thinking advisors rather than reactive supporters, and they can present better talent faster to hiring managers.

Remember, whenever making a business case for recruiting passive talent, it is critical to translate the costs and benefits into dollars.

What are some ways you’ve been able to measure ROI for recruiting solutions?

To see the true ROI picture, source of hire – or rather, sources of influence or impact - are key. Some companies need to reduce their dependency on ATS source codes which capture only a piece of the puzzle. Quality of hire is another critical metric, one with which you can measure the effectiveness of your passive talent strategy very well.

Time-to-fill and cost-per-hire are important but often over-relied upon metrics to evaluate recruiting flow efficiency. Other metrics to consider include time-to-present candidate slate, quality of candidate slate, interview ratios, process time to hire, and productivity loss (in dollars) per time elapsed.

Once you activate a passive talent-centric pipelining strategy, you should see most if not all of your major metrics move in the right direction. Passive talent metrics empower recruiters with tangible facts and figures, giving them more autonomy and expertise. Presenting and interpreting relevant data makes recruiters more like consultants and can significantly improve their relationships with hiring managers.

Can you share a success story related to the introduction of a passive candidate recruiting strategy?

During 2008’s economic downturn, the company I was with faced recruiting cuts due to a sharp reduction in job openings. We designed and implemented a passive talent strategy that not only prepared us well for when the economy recovered, but also justified keeping the recruiter headcount in the interim. So while requisitions reduced from about 40 to 10 per desk, new goals were set in regards to seeking out and engaging with top candidates,  delivering our employer brand messaging, and ‘staging’ the talent for when the economy recovered. Ultimately the results were tremendous for our hiring managers and our bottom line, and the recruiting function transformed for the better. By adopting a new framework and acquiring new skills, the formerly reactive recruiting department became a much more proactive and consultative one.

If I’ve never created a passive candidate recruiting strategy, where should I start?

Follow these initial steps and you’ll be well on your way to hiring the most talented candidates.

Step 1: Solicit team and manager buy-in. Inspire your colleagues by discussing the potential of a passive candidate strategy, and present case studies and/or success stories as evidence. (For inspiration, check out our passive talent resource center and our recent interview series with our customers who are most successful at recruiting passive candidates.

Step 2. Conduct a needs analysis. Evaluate your existing recruitment framework, if any. Audit all sourcing and recruiting tools and resources, and identify gaps in skills or capabilities that might prevent you from successfully engaging passive candidates.

Step 3. Develop a detailed business proposal. Translate the needs into a clear benefit versus cost equation supported by quantifiable metrics. Make sure it’s feasible for you to implement.

Step 4: Solicit and obtain senior executive sponsorship.

Step 5. Implement your plan using fundamental project management techniques: establish scope of work, set clear deliverables and timelines, and identify responsible parties and/or contributors. Even if you’re acting alone to make this happen, it’s important to take a project management approach for smooth execution and rollout.

Step 6: Monitor your team’s participation and adopt the right metrics to ensure all are engaged and implementing the strategy.

How did you make the case for recruiting passive talent? Tweet your thoughts using the hashtag #passivetalent