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Talent Acquisition Trends of 2017: Prepare for Bold Disruptions


New Year’s Eve is fast approaching. It’s the time of the season when we traditionally reflect on the lessons of the previous year, take stock of our lives and resolve to attain greater successes in the coming 12 months. In 2016, we learned a lot about the challenges that recruiters, job seekers and hiring managers face in a market that has fluctuated wildly, and in a burgeoning on-demand economy. Let’s look at the milestones that defined 2016 and anticipate the talent acquisition trends that could shape our industry in 2017.

The Highlights of 2016

Historic Growth

Since 2008, the recession and its slow recovery have informed many aspects of talent acquisition. However, 2016 saw positive momentum toward remarkable employment gains.

  • From January through November, 2016 gave us 1.98 million new jobs – a clear indication of a healthy and prosperous market for the new year.
  • Unemployment rates hit their lowest marks since 2007, contributing to a historic streak of positive job growth – the longest on record.
  • Across industries, we witnessed 74 consecutive months of job creation and expansion.
  • Despite four years of flat wage growth, average hourly earnings rose 2.5 percent in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), breaking the cycle of stagnation.

Tight Labor Market

The tight labor market also presented hiring managers and contingent workforce leaders with challenges in acquiring the best talent. As Glassdoor’s Andrew Chamberlain noted in ERE: “The economy set a new all-time record of 5.85 million unfilled job openings, the most since the BLS started collecting surveys of open jobs in 2000. The ratio of unemployed Americans to open jobs is 1.4 to 1, down sharply from July 2009 when that ratio was 6.6 to 1. With fewer unemployed people looking for jobs, sourcing is simply harder.”

Hot Hiring Sectors

As we discussed in November’s piece on data ethics, 86 percent of U.S. jobs today involve performing services rather than manufacturing goods. And those jobs tap heavily into the Internet. Even back in 2013, Indeed showed that six out of 10 tech-related jobs spanned occupational categories such as sales, finance, management and operations. “Every company has become a tech company,” Indeed concluded. That trend has continued to flourish. Chamberlain also found an explosion of tech-related roles in Glassdoor’s data, as he demonstrated in his article:

“An increasing number of traditional employers need to hire what have been typically considered tech roles — data scientists, software engineers, mobile developers, etc. Our technology-driven lifestyles mean that more employers in finance, retail, healthcare, etc., need employees who can derive insights from data, create a mobile app, or code a website.”

The need for tech-savvy professionals to power the evolution of traditional markets may be contributing to the growth of these breakout industries, as well.

  • Employment in professional and business services rose by 63,000 in November and has risen by 571,000 throughout 2016.
  • Health care added 407,000 jobs last year, with 28,000 in November alone.
  • The construction industry also appeared revived in 2016, and continues to trend upward. Over the last three months of the year, residential construction created 59,000 jobs.

Talent Acquisition Trends of 2017

Design Thinking

With innovation dominating the competitive drive of 21st century organizations, the pyramidal command-and-control model is no longer effective. In our July 2015 article, we looked at how thought leaders are moving toward an integrated network structure (a “team of teams”). Design thinking, which Jon Kolko proclaims has come of age in a Harvard Business Review piece, represents the mindset shift that makes this structure possible.

The complexity of modern technology and business practices deeply impacts the workforce, particularly as it grows more blended and nuanced. Contingent workforce program leaders have already developed the nimble “teams of teams” that clients need. Not only do they inherently facilitate an integrated network approach to talent management, they also exemplify design-centric ideals. We’re witnessing this more and more as MSPs transition from their 2.0 to 3.0 states. “Program managers are moving beyond the procurement or HR mindset into a new realm that is both futurist and operational,” Staffing Industry Analysts’ Bryan Pena observes.

Rigid structures can no longer accommodate the elaborate interactions that need to occur between rising numbers of technologies, stakeholders and talent categories in a given workplace. Those enterprises willing to collaborate with contingent workforce leaders to adopt a design thinking approach may find themselves better positioned to respond quickly to changing business dynamics while building cultures that thrive. What does this mean for 2017? A push toward procurement as a service. Spend Matters posted an excellent article on how the on-demand economy is creating opportunities for on-demand procurement solutions, fueled by a design thinking approach:

“The as-a-service delivery model will give companies access to subject matter expertise and technology that is delivered on-demand. Organizations will be able to pay for only the services and technology they need and, importantly, use. Activities will be unbundled and will be available on a plug-and-play basis. This shift will present significant opportunities — and challenges — to the c-suite, procurement service providers and practitioners. As I talk to clients and industry thought leaders, consensus is building on the possible impact of the as-a-service delivery model on procurement.”

Business Development Approach to Talent Acquisition

Some of the most popular topics of 2016 involved the candidate experience – a worker’s journey through the hiring process and the focus on engagement. In this digital era, where consumers and businesses are rapidly decoupling, recruiters must treat candidates more like customers. As we wrote in February, it’s becoming difficult to ignore how much the characteristics of consumers mirror the behaviors of modern job seekers.

  • Talent aren’t visiting staffing agency offices, reading printed want ads, or spending as much time on Monster or CareerBuilder. They’re interacting with recruiters through social networks, mobile apps and even SMS messaging.
  • Top candidates are identifying the jobs they want and targeting their searches to specific employers -- they’re no longer browsing job boards to see what pops.
  • They rely heavily on social media, like Glassdoor, to influence their decisions. Negative reviews from past and present employees carry as much weight as those that evangelize the organization.
  • They are less attracted to opportunities from job postings and ads -- they want a strong sense of connection with a company’s culture, promoted through a compelling employment brand and career page.

In 2017, we expect to see this movement continue. In a business development approach to staffing, recruiting professionals think of prospective talent as leads that need to be enticed and nurtured. And they begin to follow similar sales processes to ensure success.

  • Define a meaningful value proposition -- give the candidate a reason to consider leaving his or her current position for one that offers a better culture, closer alignment with personal and professional aspirations, opportunities to develop new skills or advance, and more.
  • Refine the value proposition into a message that has impact and a hook.
  • Get that message out through every channel that matters.
  • Manage leads, stay in contact with them, and follow through until the deal is closed.
  • Use applicant tracking systems the same way business development professionals use CRMs: develop a pipeline, measure leads through analytics, monitor conversion rates, and use the data as business intelligence for honing processes and forecasting.

New Talent Pools

As talent acquisition specialist Marvin Smith explains in Sourcecon, everyone is fishing in the same talent ponds. To overcome the ferociously competitive nature of sourcing the best candidates, every individual involved in hiring will need to consider embracing bolder, more disruptive staffing models.

“This last year the cry of talent shortages became much louder,” Smith writes. “While there are certain deficiencies, that feeling may be exacerbated by increased competition. Some research from CEB (Corporate Executive Board) illustrates this point; they report that 90% of more of the S&P 100 are recruiting for the same 21 roles. Then if your factor in that somewhere between 64% (CEB data) to 97% (SocialTalent data) of recruiters/sourcers use LinkedIn as a primary talent source, then we begin to see that we are all feeling the competition.”

The most impactful sources of talent acquisition in 2017 will likely shift away from job boards and even LinkedIn. We’ll see greater reliance on sources such as:

  • Online labor marketplaces
  • Freelancer networks
  • “In-network” talent
  • Social networks and social media

Bold staffing professionals are aggressively designing and advocating evolutionary programs that capitalize on open marketplace models. That’s exactly where gig professionals congregate – in the crowd. UpWork and 99Designs prove that open marketplace models can flourish. We’ve proven the same with our own Crowdstaffing solution.

Next-generation hiring techniques will inherently develop crowd-based networks of skilled talent and independent recruiters. Unlike online recruitment solutions, however, the process is supported by staffing curators to ensure complete labor compliance, quality and customer service. A Crowdstaffing model streamlines recruiting and hiring processes for time-strapped procurement managers. And it’s the move toward fluid, performance-based structures that will unleash the potential of the sharing economy for procurement.

Talent Communities

Staffing professionals have the time corporate recruiters don’t to invest in canvassing and marketing to the best candidates. Skilled workers today are being considered by at least three competing organizations. They have the latitude to reject non-competitive offers, lackluster employment brands, incompatible values and environments that don’t convey a sense of commitment to workers. Staffing curators talk to prospective candidates -- both active and passive -- to identify talent who will be suitable for current and future positions with a variety of clients. They are developing and maintaining vibrant talent communities. This trend will certainly grow in 2017.

  • They collaborate with procurement to determine the business objectives and the career goals of their talent, developing communities of meshing values that support both needs.
  • They make the candidate experience the foundation on which everything in the community is built.
  • They target communications to their audience, using emails, social media, newsletters, career sites and other resources that are accessible, meaningful and preferred among their community members.
  • Elite recruiting professionals share information on career advancement strategies, personal branding tips, upcoming opportunities, client business cultures, employees, perks, compensation, innovations and more. They develop and curate these messages through a variety of media, including blogs, podcasts and videos.

New Year, New Talent Acquisition Strategies

The incredible development of a healthier economy in 2016 left us with the foundation for amazing opportunities in the year to come. Technology, as Len April wrote on Tuesday, will play one of the most instrumental roles. And yet, successful hiring requires a solid mix of art and science. I believe we’ll see these realms unite in 2017 to strengthen and evolve our industry, our clients and our talent force. We wish you all the best for the new year!

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