• Fiona Thiele

Agility and Talent Acquisition, a successful combination for your recruitment needs?



You may think that agility is the new buzzword, and you are right. But!

If a trend is all over management papers and conference agendas, it does not mean there is no truth to it. In a recent Deloitte survey, 79 percent of global executives rated agile performance management as a high organizational priority. Another study among 7.300 business executives and HR leaders has shown that the highest risk in Human Capital is the excessive time to fill open positions. If we care to connect the two and start applying agility to recruitment, we might be onto something.


What is agility?


If we all know what agility means in a physical context, what does it mean in an abstract, professional environment? Agility first affects a process, then the people involved in that process, and finally the whole environment of that process. The easiest way to grasp the notion of agility is to have a closer look at how it affects a business environment, which we describe below. Further down we shall focus on agility in the talent acquisition and recruitment fields.


Agile principles and the business process


The list of principles mentioned below is not exhaustive but constitutes a minimum to define a process as agile:

  • customer satisfaction (internal and external) through early and continuous delivery of valuable products or services.

  • Integration of changing requirements, even late in the process.

  • Frequent delivery of products or services on a short timescale

  • The KISS principle: keep it simple, no bells and whistles, just the essential.


Agility: think of the autopilot of an airplane that integrates all available data to make the flight as smooth, time- and cost-efficient as possible.



Agile principles and people


A similar list of principles applies to the organization of agile teams:

  • Self-organizing teams work the best

  • Face-to-face interactions with stakeholders as the most efficient communication

  • method.

  • Agile processes promote human sustainability; in other words, the pace of work is set to a speed that can be maintained indefinitely.

  • All actors in the process must work together and communicate constantly.

  • To build and maintain motivation, people must get the support they need and feel entrusted with the project.

  • Iteration is built into everything: communication, improvement, schedules. Adjustment is constant, marginal, and by small increments, fluid. Therefore, improvement is built in automatically without disruptions or reorganizations.


Agility applied to recruitment and talent acquisition


Every recruitment is a project. By breaking recruitment projects into smaller tasks, building-in informal and frequent feedback loops, and setting clear prioritization, one enhances the agility of the hiring managers and recruitment team, hence contributing to the company’s overall success.


Gartner found out that the agile recruiting approach can lead

to up to 31% increase in recruiter productivity.


By applying agile principles, your recruitment processes are faster and more efficient. If not immediately, then after a necessary period of adaptation. Communication is improved by informality (just preventing part of the endless email streams and their - sometimes disappearing - attachments is an invaluable timesaver: talk to each other!).


Breaking down tasks into smaller parts make them easier to accomplish, less of a strain, and more engaging. This is particularly valid for complex, lengthy, and repetitive tasks. The more energy put into a shorter task, the faster it is checked off, requiring less preparation, mental strain, and overall energy input.


Quick and frequent meetings face-to-face save everyone time and nerves. Decisions are made and issues solved. For the more complex problems, people not involved or concerned are isolated from the discussion, an additional significant saving in time and energy.


In order to give a clear direction to the team, KPI’s are of uttermost importance so that the team knows where it stands, visualizes progress, and adjusts the process continuously. Up-to-date KPIs are also an opportunity for management to follow progress, feel the pulse of a team and its members, and praise them abundantly.


The condition for this is to have a second-to-none employer branding in place, lest you risk not being visible by the best talent.


Technology support can take various aspects, from the basic ones (Applicant Tracking Systems - ATS, automated emails, recruitment landing pages…) to more sophisticated ones (Artificial Intelligence - AI, chatbots, initial video interviews to “hook” the best candidates…) and so enhance the whole agile process. Just make sure to use (especially cutting-edge) technology where it is most efficient and adds value; beware of too much technology that becomes a time drain and requires attention and support, quite the opposite of agility.


Benefits of an agile recruitment organization


By far the most important benefit, and the ultimate goal of it all, is better and faster hires, and dare we say, happier candidates.


Several factors contribute to that benefit. An essential one is an increase in the speed of the process. The most courted candidates are often lost in the process because of decision bottlenecks, unavailability of decision-makers, or plain administrative hurdles.


Speed in turn is achieved by frequent feedback among the team members and with the candidate pool, keeping the potential hires abreast of progress in the process and therefore motivated.


Frequent feedback improves communication: no misunderstanding is left unresolved for longer than necessary if communication channels are easy, informal, frequent, and regular.


By now you will have guessed it: agility creates one big virtuous circle that influences the whole talent acquisition process. There is one other fringe benefit that one must not discount: the motivation of the team improves because results improve. With the right KPIs in place, it is easy to track the performance of the team and adapt the workflow to actual results…or lack thereof. Among the most useful ratios to track are:

  • The ratio of candidates submitted to the hiring manager vs. the number of candidates chosen for an interview.

  • Job offers acceptance rate.

  • The number of candidates interviewed vs. the number of jobs offers.

  • Source of hire.

  • Cost per hire.

  • Time to hire.


How can your recruitment function be agile enough to meet the hiring requirements of your business?


Now that we have, hopefully, demonstrated the usefulness of agile recruitment and talent acquisition, the question is: does it apply to your organization? You might have built an in-house recruitment team that knows the needs of your organization. But let’s face it – either you do not have the resources to maximize the operational recruitment efforts or your team is so involved in strategic topics that there is not enough room for the daily recruitment operations.


Your recruitments may be handled by your HR business partners, then either their core tasks suffer during recruitment peaks, or recruitment suffers because their focus is on their core tasks.


Agility comes with focus. If your inhouse talent acquisition experts want to prepare your organization for the challenges of the next century they need to work on strategies: how to get the required talent into your organization; building a strong employer brand; planning the needed workforce well ahead and defining the profiles that are business-critical in an increasingly disruptive environment.


And your HR business partners’ workload should not prevent them from really “partner” with the business, to listen, understand, and contribute. Their most important responsibility after all is to retain and develop the talent you already have in your organization. The more you can use your existing talent the less you need to hire from outside.


An alternative course of action: add agility through externalization

Why not take the hustle of daily recruitment operations off your shoulders? You could liaise with an external partner for your tactical recruitment and allow your in-house HR experts to really focus on your company’s business needs and the organizational challenges of the future.

Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) – an odd name for an agile concept – is the right keyword here. A true talent acquisition partner can deliver the external talent you need through a centralized service approach combined with embedded recruitment experts who work onsite within your organization.


Better talent, higher quality, lower cost – agile.

Are you now wondering if going RPO is the right thing to do for your organization and the specific challenges your Talent Acquisition is facing? Check out our RPO Quick Guide to find out more and to define your organization’s RPO suitability score. Download our RPO Quick Guide here.


Contact us, or book your first consultation free of cost and ask our talent advisory consultant how such an approach could translate into your reality.