Why You Should Acquire, Not Hire Talent

Written by Sheu Quen

6 minute read

Understand the difference between talent acquisition and recruiting, and know when to recruit or acquire with these seven best practices.

Recruitment and talent acquisition are two very different schools of thought. Imagine planning for a vacation:

Some people stay up late, packing for a week’s worth of clothes the night before an early flight. They booked the trip on short notice because the deal was too good to pass up, so there is no real agenda. They will figure it out when they reach their destination.

Others work from an itinerary they prepared months in advance and start setting aside clothes and other essentials in the weeks leading up to their trip. They buy and read travel guides. They know exactly where they are going and what they will do when they get there.

That’s what recruitment and talent acquisition are all about. One is a quick fix while the other is a long-term plan. Both approaches may be used intermittently, depending on the circumstances, but one is more tactical in nature while the other is strategic. The objective may be similar, but the two differ vastly in approach.

Recruitment vs. Talent Acquisition

Source: Forbes

Many people think that recruitment and talent acquisition are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. But organisations that have an eye on the big picture will know there is a key difference between the two. Let’s think of them in terms of reactionary hiring versus a more forward-thinking approach to filling positions. 

What is recruitment?

Recruitment is the process of screening potential candidates for a specific role and offering it to the best candidate. Recruitment tends to be reactive, is narrower in scope, and homes in on the open position. If you are looking to fill an open position for data collection on the finance team, an applicant with experience with the selected financial management system and strong analytical skills would be ideal.

What is talent acquisition?

On the other hand, talent acquisition tends to be more proactive, is more than just one position, and can be applied to succession planning. Talent acquisition is an ongoing strategy to find specialists, leaders, or future executives for your organisation.

If a VP of Sales is planning to retire but there is no clear replacement within the organisation, an open high level sales position can be filled with the intent of promoting the new employee into that role.

According to Ryan Naylor, founder and President of LocalWork.com, talent acquisition “is more focused on the strategic side of tougher positions to fill. It is important to project three to six months ahead of when you need to fill leadership and specialty positions. If your company is awarded a new client and you need to deliver the work ASAP, it can be tough to recruit for those positions in a short period of time.

Recruitment vs. talent acquisition in a nutshell


So, Should You Hire or Acquire Talent?

Many markets are changing and new skills are needed. Organisations are pushing towards green technology, which leads to a greater need for reskilling and the hiring of non-traditional backgrounds, such as environmental science or cybersecurity.

Organisations must ask themselves which positions will be difficult to fill when a vacancy or need arises. These call for a recruitment approach. Alternatively, niche markets, technology skills, highly specific experience, and leadership roles call for the long-term and thoughtful approach of talent acquisition.

While some agree that areas with highly specific skills or great skill shortages are those that need a talent strategy, others believe all industries should focus on talent acquisition rather than recruitment. The belief lies in that acquisition builds stronger companies, fosters teamwork, and boosts productivity.

So, when should an organisation do recruitment or talent acquisition?

When do you need recruitment?

Recruitment is all about filling immediate vacancies. When you recruit, you already have an idea of what and who you’re looking for – a new role was created or because an employee left.

The focus also tends to be on the current needs of the company. This raises the questions of “can this person perform the job we want them to” and “who would best perform the tasks we want to see in this position”.

When do you need talent acquisition?

Talent acquisition is an ongoing process with the aim of bringing awareness of the right talent to an organisation, and attracting the best employees who will be motivated and engaged.

The focus is often linked to the overall growth strategy of the organisation. This raises the questions of “how do we attract the best talent” and “what are we able to offer to the best talent”. 

Organisations can consider a talent acquisition strategy especially…

When they need niche talent

Talent acquisition strategies are often needed if the organisation operates within a niche market, and requires talents with specific skill sets that may be difficult to come across.

These industries and their corresponding positions deal more with technology, such as cybersecurity, cloud infrastructure, software development, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

When they are looking for growth

Organisations looking for growth can benefit from having a talent acquisition strategy in place. They can then look for new ideas, skill sets, and levels of employee engagement towards the organisation.

When people don’t know them yet

Organisations competing for the best talent find getting job applications challenging if potential employees don’t know who they are. Hence, employer branding is an important part of your talent acquisition strategy.

When they aren’t sure what they need

Recruitment helps to fill an existing or newly-created vacancy, but talent acquisition helps to source for talent without being sure of what their specific task for the job would be.

It is more important to find people and let them do their own best work than to tie them into a specific task, to be performed in a specific way.

Both recruitment and talent acquisition have an appropriate time and place. But talent acquisition often wins out over recruitment because of its approach towards talent as a strategic investment.

Source: Forbes

How to Move From Recruiting to Acquiring Top Talent?

Attracting the best talent isn’t a one-time event for organisations. It is a continuous process of networking and building relationships with top talent. Newcomers will be attracted to the organisation as a great place to work, and the organisation will thrive.

Because talent acquisition is a proactive, long-term approach, organisations need to make it a business priority that evolves and adapts to meet the changing needs of talent challenges. Here are seven best practices to follow when switching from recruitment to talent acquisition.

  • Get leadership buy-in: Explaining the cost of reactive recruiting to your leaders and how talent acquisition is beneficial is critical in helping them realise why investing in it is worth it.
  • Create organisational alignment: Everyone in the organisation can play a role in supporting talent acquisition strategies if the goals are communicated clearly and how each person can help.
  • Empower talent acquisition leaders: Talent acquisition strategies should align with the organisation’s mission, vision, and values. As such, stakeholders from all departments should have a say in it.
  • Invest in enough resources for success: Time, materials, and people are required and mandatory to successfully execute the talent acquisition strategies.
  • Identify internal mobility support: Cultivating top talent from within the organisation can provide cost-effective means of fulfilling talent acquisition goals.
  • Use the right technologyAccording to a study by LinkedIn, 68% of respondents said that “better recruiting tools and technology” was the best way to improve talent acquisition in the future. The study listed ‘technology to track soft skills’ as critical, according to the respondents.
  • Agility is equally important: Talent acquisition may be underpinned by a long-term strategic focus but there should be an understanding of how to respond to changing market conditions and disruptions.

Understandably, talent acquisition makes sense because attracting, engaging, and advancing the right talent in your team is an ongoing process. Yet, the whole thing can easily fall apart when one or more of those processes falls out of step with the others. Are you ready to learn more? Check out our talent acquisition strategies in graduate programs, recruitment, and sales profiling, and add them to your organisation’s game plan.

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