Building a Talent Pipeline

Building a Talent Pipeline | Kathleen Duffy | Executive Search Expert

Building a Talent Pipeline

Why You Should Be Hiring for the Future… 

I recently participated in a virtual executive forum. These gatherings are more challenging without the energy of face-to-face interaction, and it can be difficult to get a sense of the real people who appear on-screen. The host attempted to break the ice with her first question: “You can only keep one office supply item for the rest of your career. Which one do you keep?”

My mind went first to my cellphone, and I wasn’t alone. There were a few laptops and one man who was positively effusive in praising his Herman Miller desk chair. But the office item cited most often? The humble Post-It note.

It’s interesting to think that this simple item that so many people use was discovered by accident. Spencer Silver, a researcher at 3M Laboratories, was trying to make a powerful adhesive. The adhesive he created was strong enough to stick to objects, but it pulled away far too easily, leaving no mark. Several years later, a colleague was looking for a way to find his place in his choir hymn book without damaging the pages. He spread the adhesive Silver had discovered on tiny strips of paper, and the Post-It was born.

The microwave oven, penicillin, the pacemaker, and even potato chips are all the results of the same kind of happy accident, a changemaker discovered while looking for something completely different. As I work with HR leaders who are seeking the best talent for opportunities within their organizations, I have seen how an understanding of this phenomenon can create a competitive recruitment advantage. The highly skilled individual you’ve connected with may not be the perfect fit for today’s opportunity, but what about tomorrow’s? Are you hiring simply to meet your current needs, or are you creating a talent pipeline that will build out your organization with the best and brightest minds?

I realize that the highly competitive hiring market makes it difficult to look beyond short-term goals, but this narrow focus can lead to overlooking an opportunity to hire someone who may become a top contributor in a different role. Just as a successful organization needs to implement long-term strategic planning, recruiting for what’s next should be part of that future focus. 

A talent pipeline isn’t simply a passive group of individuals who are left over after a competitive hiring process. Instead, a talent pipeline is built from highly qualified talent who have been carefully vetted and who you’ve identified as a strong fit for any future roles that might become available. An effective talent pipeline is the result of a thoughtful visioning process in which your organization’s goals for the next six months, the next year, and the next five years are assessed as part of a human resources strategy. It’s knowing that a candidate has the necessary skills for an opportunity that will support your company’s future growth.

I encourage my clients to engage in proactive recruitment, to prepare for future challenges and opportunities before a new position is formally created or a key contributor indicates that they are leaving. Recruitment shouldn’t be narrow and responsive; it should be an ongoing process in which you are constantly building your talent pipeline to prepare for future opportunities. Candidates you interview shouldn’t be viewed through the lens of a single position. Instead, you should start by assessing their fit for your organization and then identifying how their talent could effectively be deployed.

The result: an innovative HR vision that identifies the individuals who can meet today’s challenges and respond to tomorrow’s opportunities.