What’s on the Minds of TA Leaders?

From mobility to diversity, modern talent-acquisition challenges run the gamut.
By: | February 26, 2019 • 5 min read

Talent mobility, development, and diversity and inclusion are among the topics keeping many TA professionals up at night.

That’s the consensus that emerged at an interactive session Feb. 21 at Recruiting Trends & Talent Tech LIVE!, in which seasoned TA leaders and professionals working in the field came together to discuss the biggest talent-acquisition challenges they’re facing—and brainstorm solutions.

Marie Artim, vice president of global talent acquisition at Enterprise Holdings, and Kristen Weirick, vice president of global talent acquisition at AbbVie, were the featured panelists in the event that was moderated by CareerXroads co-founder Gerry Crispin and President Chris Hoyt.

Buy Versus Build

Among the issues the speakers identified as leading TA challenges is the “buy versus build” debate—whether it’s better to invest in seeking external candidates or to build internal talent pools.

Artim said Enterprise tends to promote from within more than others in its industry, with 17,000 internal moves last year. However, more work needs to be done, she said, to ensure the right people move to the right jobs—so that they’re ultimately retained.

“Every conference I’m at, even here, people say they love to hire Enterprise people. It’s a compliment but we have data that has proven we have people leaving us to do jobs that we have open every day,” Artim said. “So we have to figure out how to make a better match, using science, to help people figure out their path through this massive organization.”

Last summer, the organization rolled out an internal-recruiting marketing strategy. Beyond the internal job board and email blasts about open positions, the TA team is now also using internal social-media platforms and blogs to focus employees’ attention on mobility.

“Employee experience is woven in, to tell the story of mobility, the opportunities in the business and the different paths from where people can come,” she said.

Crispin polled the audience and found very few organizations represented had a defined internal-recruiting marketing strategy akin to Enterprise’s.

“There’s an opportunity for us to be as strategic internally as we are externally,” Artim said.

The considerations involved in that process, Weirick said, include determining whether internal hiring should be competitive versus intentional, as well as identifying the critical skills that need to be developed among the current workforce.

HR and TA leaders need to know their talent—at all levels—to understand the moves they need to make and that the company needs them to make, she said.

Diving into Development

To help current TA leaders focus on their own development, Weirick and Artim shared insights about the sources that fueled the momentum of their career paths.

“I think the best development came from doing,” Weirick said. “It’s having roles that give you the opportunity to stretch your wings—and sometimes take a nosedive and break a wing here and there.” TA leaders, she added, also need to learn to trust the other members of their teams. There’s no way for the head of TA to be a technical expert in every single area of the function—it’s just too big, she said.

Moving away from trying to be the most competent in every facet of TA to “being someone who leads others by learning from your team is a huge transitional shift that happens in every good leader,” she said. “You have to trust your team.”

Tapping into mentorship opportunities across the organization is also key, added Artim. She said that, while fellow leaders in the HR space have been essential to her development, working with other business leaders from different areas has also given her a more well-rounded understanding of the company and her contributions to it.

“And within the industry,” she added, “get out of the office. Build relationships over time that you can cultivate, that you can learn from. You can learn as much about what you need to do by just listening, finding out what others are doing and figuring out how it transfers.”

Inviting Inclusion to Dance

“We have to continue to invite diversity to the party, but we need to make sure we’re asking inclusion to dance.”—Cynthia Marshall, CEO of Dallas Mavericks

The speakers shared this quote from Marshall—the first black woman to serve as CEO of an NBA team—to drive home the point that any TA leader needs to understand that diversity falls flat without true inclusion efforts.

“If you don’t have a culture of inclusion—an organization where every voice is being heard, regardless of who it comes from—diversity is not going to thrive,” Weirick said. Having top leadership who role models this idea is essential, she added.

At Enterprise, Artim said, the CEO and COO are both women, which is an important first step toward the principle that inclusion should be shown, not told, she said. “You can say you’re doing different things, but you have to really show it; that’s where the rubber meets the road.”

When it comes to embedding D&I in talent acquisition, Weirick said, one of the biggest challenges for today’s TA leaders is accessing diverse talent, which is connected to finding the right sources.

“If you’re sourcing talent from the right places, you’ll have more diversity in your initial pool—and that should then carry through the TA process, as long as there isn’t an internal, systemic issue,” she said. “The more [diversity] you have at the front end, the better off you’ll be.”

Instead of just focusing on attaining a certain number of diverse candidates, Hoyt added, TA can also set requirements for diversity of interviewers—and if the team has to dig deep to meet that requirement, that could suggest a problem.

Accountability is also a key consideration, Crispin added, as recruiters should be expected to generate diverse pools. However, many organizations don’t provide any demographic data about candidates to recruiters—only about half of Fortune 500 companies do, he said.

“All those recruiters are working twice as hard to figure out who these people are since you don’t give them the data,” Crispin said. “You have to hold recruiters accountable, so they should be able to have the data—and know how to use it in a way that adds value.”

Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]