How Microsoft Uses This One Type of Data to Get Ahead of Talent Trends

November 20, 2018

Whatever your role — sourcing, recruiting, assessment, onboarding — there’s pressure on you to do it well.

So consider the role of Justin Thenutai at Microsoft: He leads the Excellence team for Global Talent Acquisition. Nooo pressure there. His job? Simple. Find “talent that can change the world.”

Justin’s Excellence team supports that huge ambition with sourcing and channel strategies, workforce planning, market insights and intelligence, and a lot of roles in between and around those.

In this week’s episode of Talent on Tap, LinkedIn’s head of recruiting Brendan Browne talks to Justin about how the Excellence team provides talent market insights to its partners, when the skills shortage will actually hit, and why the single most important data point for recruiters is total addressable market.

Don’t focus on winning talent away from your competitors — focus on understanding the Total Addressable Market

Even a few years ago, Justin says, it was hard to think of market intelligence without associating it with the word “compete.” Ultimately, focusing on the competition was not the best way to get ahead of it.

“We were very fixated on a core set of competitors and the win-loss ratios related to talent,” Justin tells Brendan. “What we’ve realized is that when you look at a company level you get focused on a very small percentage of the actual talent pool you’re going after.” Too many great candidates weren’t getting considered.

The answer? Justin says the recruiting team at Microsoft shifted its focus to the skills and experiences in the broader total addressable market (TAM) — the number of all candidates who fit the criteria of skills, experience, geography, and other requirements. Instead of recruiting from the same pool as their competitors, Microsoft could start to identify hidden pools of talent in cities and industries with strong supply and weak demand. This important change allowed Justin and his teammates to “focus our plans and our strategies against the broader set.”

TAM data will help you set the tone in talent conversations and guide hiring managers

When should a recruiter start to assess the total addressable market? “As early as you can,” Justin says.

A reactive approach driven by the initial req and hiring manager demands is neither sustainable nor productive. He advises getting into LinkedIn Talent Insights (LTI), the analytics tool that we recently launched to give talent professionals real-time actionable data and insight to help them make better-informed decisions. As a starting point, Justin says, use LTI to see how many professionals meet your criteria and where they are located.

Justin relishes the way Talent Insights can let you and your hiring managers see, in real time, how the total addressable market shrinks each time you add a requirement. “We now have the ability to visualize just how much more open the talent pool gets when you understand what is nice-to-have versus what truly is a requirement,” he says. “That changes the game.” And Microsoft is not alone in rethinking job requirements to grow its talent pool.

After studying factors such as compensation and supply-and-demand, you should also be determining the hiring timeline based on what you know about the likely difficulty of filling a role.

Justin tells Brendan that recruiters should leverage their data set. “Share that with your hiring manager,” he says, “to set those very expectations in terms of what may work, what we may need to adjust, and just what you should expect.”

Use data to plan for your future hiring needs and get ahead of the coming skills shortage

Despite the constant talk about “war for talent,” Justin has a surprising take on the skills shortage: He doesn’t think it’s arrived.

“The scarcity, AI, and automation,” he says, “while we perceive it be painful, I don’t think we’ve felt it yet.”

Why? Because recruiters are still delivering talent to their industries, even skill-strapped ones like technology, telecommunications, and financial services. But he does think the skills crunch is coming. “The scarcity of talent that we talk about today,” he says, “will be felt a year or two from now.”

What can companies do? Justin thinks the choices are stark: “You can either ignore it and say we’re OK today,” he says, “or get ahead of it.”

Justin says companies need to understand what the coming scarcity will look like and then optimize their recruiting plans, keeping in mind what the skills gaps will be and weighing that in decisions about where to locate. Companies, he says, should think deeply about how to start training their own workforces and about how to leverage their own learning and development courses and materials.

“All of those are going to be really critical here,” he says, “and getting ahead of it will give you a competitive advantage.”

It may be the perfect time for recruiters to roll up their sleeves, turn on their tools, “get curious about the data,” and see what kind of insights they can discover and what kind of strategies they can conjure up.

* image by Microsoft

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