What's a Talent Pipeline? Definitions, Considerations, and How to Build One

Post by Capsim
May 17, 2022
What's a Talent Pipeline? Definitions, Considerations, and How to Build One

“Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” 

When it comes to the battle over top talent in your industry, being reactive instead of proactive can put you several steps behind your competition. 

It’s no secret that talented employees are the key driver of organizational success. That’s what makes hiring processes and talent pipelines so crucial. By being proactive in attracting and engaging with top talent, even with your own employees, when they aren’t actively looking for a new job, you're putting your company top of mind for when they start to think of making a change. 

This article will cover all the basics of talent pipelines: what they are, why they are important, and how to build one. 

We’ll also discuss how inbox simulations can help you identify top-tier talent when building your talent pipeline.


Let’s Start with the Basics: What is a Talent Pipeline?

Before we can begin exploring the finer details of building and maintaining a talent pipeline, we must first understand what a talent pipeline is. A talent pipeline is, in some ways, exactly as it sounds: A system your organization creates to keep qualified candidates streaming into open roles.

When we think of a talent pipeline, recruiting and hiring often come to mind. Though recruiting and hiring are a part of your talent pipeline, you also need to consider the rest of the talent lifecycle in your pipeline development process. Upskilling, reskilling, succession planning, and leadership identification of current employees are vital parts of your talent pipeline. 

Your talent pipeline’s purpose is to help you identify, hire, and retain employees who have the potential to make a positive impact on your organization. 

Suppose you don’t take the time to invest in creating a talent pipeline. In that case, you may find yourself struggling to adequately fill critical roles in your organization, hurting morale, performance, and more.

For example, a McKinsey study found high performers are 400 percent more productive than their average colleagues. Can you afford not to have these types of people working and in positions of influence in your organization?

Related Read: Upskill vs. Hire: The 5 Benefits of Upskilling Employees vs. Hiring New Employees

On average, it takes over a month to fill a position. Many organizations are taking far longer than this average to fill positions due to the worker shortage in the current environment. Without a robust and efficient talent pipeline, your organization may find itself stuck working with a skeleton crew for months, trying to fill vital roles. 

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Why is a Talent Pipeline an Essential Tool for HR and L&D Teams?

We’ve established what a talent pipeline is and the organization-wide consequences of neglecting to build one, but what makes talent pipelines so essential for HR and L&D teams specifically? 

The point of a talent pipeline is to create a stream of qualified candidates, both internal and external. Integrating L&D efforts with your talent pipeline creation process enables your hiring and talent-seeking processes to be proactive rather than reactive while simultaneously keeping workers happier. 

Offering training and advancement opportunities can help your company’s retention rates rise by thirty to fifty percent. Investing in a talent pipeline can help you fill roles, but it can also help you lower attrition rates, leaving you fewer roles to fill. This aspect is essential in the current economic climate. In the face of the “Great Resignation,” employers need to spend more time and effort on retention than ever.

Your talent pipeline can help you build relationships with top talent, both internal and external. These relationships will help your teams win over incredible candidates or know that you already have a qualified candidate in-house when roles open, helping you fill them quickly with candidates who will help move your organization forward. 


5 Steps to Building a Talent Pipeline for Hiring and Recruiting


Step 1: Make sure you understand your company’s long-term goals.

The first step to building your talent pipeline is to take stock of your company’s long-term goals. When referring to “goals” here, we don’t mean the goals measured by your standard metrics. 

Your talent pipeline plan will need to consider things like location changes, new locations your company plans to expand to, or new departments or teams your company plans to add. 

The crucial question to ask yourself when determining goals here is to identify what future changes in the business could affect your hiring strategy and process. These changes inform the number of roles you will need to fill in the future and the types of skills required for those roles. Another name for this is talent mapping. 

It can be tempting to skip or rush your goal-identification process. But you shouldn’t shortchange this step. 

Use this as an opportunity to strike up crucial conversations internally across departments to ensure that talent mapping and brainstorming are comprehensive and that all parts of your organization are aligned. 


Step 2: Identify how you will source ideal candidates for your talent pipeline. 

The second step to building a talent pipeline is identifying how you plan to source your candidates. There are two main techniques you can use to source candidates. These two methods are attracting talent and finding talent, and they are most effective when used in conjunction with one another. 

Attracting talent is a process mostly done through building your corporate brand. In other words, what steps are you taking to influence peoples’ perception of your company’s values, culture, and work experience? You can build a positive organizational brand by collaborating with your marketing and communications teams for social media content, web content, and more.

When you focus your energy on attracting talent, you will be using direct response “push” methods to source candidates, such as posting jobs on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other internet job boards. 

Related Read: How to Build Your Own Upskilling Training Program

Finding talent is a much more active process. When you focus on finding talent, you will engage in networking practices, sponsor events, seek out graduate program tours, and request referrals from existing contacts. 

An important thing to remember when finding talent is to look for top talent externally and internally. You have many talented professionals already working in your organization: The best candidate for your open role may already be working for your company. 


Step 3: Build a relationship with talent

Finding talent is only the beginning of an effective talent pipeline. Your next step is to build and nurture your relationships with the talent you’ve sourced. Rather than simply asking these candidates to apply for a job, you’ll want to make authentic connections with professionals at this stage in the process.

Connect with your talent regarding their goals, aspirations, and experiences. Be careful not to press too hard—these professionals may not be ready for a job change just yet, and if you seem too eager, you may damage the relationship you are trying to build. 

Help your sourced talent get to know your organization. Work with marketing and communications to create valuable content about your company’s values and day-to-day processes. Providing potential candidates with hands-on experiences tied to your organization can help the candidate learn about your company while providing you with the insights you need to see if the candidate is a good fit for your organization.

CapsimInbox provides inbox simulations for exactly this purpose. Our inbox simulations allow candidates to take real-world job duties for a test drive while providing your hiring team with crucial data about the candidate’s hard and soft skills. Using an inbox simulation is an intelligent way to help both the candidate and your organization ensure a good fit. 


Step 4: Assess your talent pool

The fourth step of your talent pipeline building process is to assess the pool of talent you’ve sourced and nurtured. Refer to the talent mapping you completed in step one. What skills do you need in your candidate pool? 

Remember to look for soft skills and technical and job-related skills—for a candidate to succeed in your organization, they will need to be a good cultural fit and know the ropes. 

Assess your talent pool’s soft skills and EQ. Are they intrinsically or extrinsically motivated? Do they have what it takes to be a top performer in your organization?

Assessing soft skills is often easier said than done, but there are several methods you can use. Let’s cover three options for soft skill assessment:

  • Online Assessments
    In an online assessment, candidates will respond to prompts such as “I can remain calm in stressful situations” by rating their agreement on a scale from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree.”

    This type of assessment is beneficial because it is measurable and simple to apply at scale. However, the sterile, clinical nature of the testing environment and the self-reported nature of the data itself can make these assessments less accurate.
  • Q&A Sessions
    Q&A sessions are one-on-one conversations where an interviewer asks each candidate open-ended questions to help the interviewee share real-life stories. The data from this type of assessment is valuable because it allows candidates to answer questions in their own words and requires them to give examples of times when they have demonstrated proficiency in the desired soft skills.

    However, these sessions are vulnerable to bias on both the sides of the interviewer and the interviewee. Additionally, the qualitative data gathered makes these responses challenging to score, rank, and scale.
  • Inbox Simulations
    Lastly, you can measure soft skills using an inbox simulation. This method requires you to put your candidate into a real-world situation and evaluate their behavior in that environment.

    One pro of simulations is the authenticity of the experience: Rather than reporting how they would act in a certain situation, you can observe how the candidate does act in that type of situation. Additionally, simulation results are unbiased and measurable, and the method is incredibly scalable.

Once you have the results from your desired measurement method, you can determine whether or not the candidates in your talent pool fit your organization’s cultural needs and have the hard skills and experience needed.

Use this data to narrow down your pool to include only the candidates who are likely to be a good fit for your organization long-term. 


Step 5: Continue to nurture and connect with talent

The last step of building your talent pipeline is to continue nurturing and connecting with your pool's talent. Keep a mix of active and passive candidates in your pool. Active candidates are looking for a job right now, whereas passive candidates may be interested in switching roles in the future. 

By nurturing passive and active candidates, you ensure you have the talent population needed to fill roles now and in the future.


Maintaining a Talent Pipeline Throughout the Talent Lifecycle

The talent pipeline doesn’t end when the hiring paperwork is signed. To effectively maintain your talent pipeline, you will need to continue your nurturing efforts through the onboarding process and beyond. 

Focus your L&D efforts on skills gap analyses, compliance training, upskilling and reskilling, and more to retain the talent you have obtained externally. You should also engage in succession planning and leadership development to help feed the internal side of your talent pipeline. 

It’s difficult to predict when an employee will leave. When a gap emerges, you will need to backfill the role as quickly as possible—especially if the role is a mid-level management position or higher. Focusing on leadership development and succession planning can help you prepare internal candidates to step into leadership roles when they become available. 

It can also be challenging to predict when new opportunities may arise for your growing company, requiring you to build a new team with an entirely new set of skills. The better you understand your own people's strengths, interests, and talents, the easier it will be to move the right people into the right roles.

While recruiting and hiring receive the most focus when it comes to talent pipeline, winning companies focus an equal amount of energy maintaining an internal talent pipeline of their employees.


Inbox Simulations can Help You Build Your Talent Pipeline

This step-by-step guide provides you with everything you need to build and maintain a winning talent pipeline for your organization. However, to fill that pipeline with ideal-fit candidates, you will need to be able to assess your candidates’ skills effectively.

When considering how to measure your pipeline’s skillsets appropriately, you’ll likely use one of the three tools we discussed in step four of the pipeline building process. Only one of the tools discussed is objective, free of bias, and easily scalable to a growing organization: Inbox simulations.

Inbox simulations allow you to put your talent pool through a “day-in-the-life” of a worker in a similar role to the one they are considering moving into in your organization. Rather than relying on interviewer and candidate biases to determine their skills, you can see how they manage real decisions in a controlled environment. 

You can also use inbox simulations beyond the hiring process. Current employees can develop new skills using these simulations, helping you to fill your internal talent pipeline. Simulations can assist with both technical skills and notoriously hard-to-train soft skills.

To see how CapsimInbox simulations can help your organization build a talent pipeline that keeps top talent knocking on your door, demo a five-minute inbox simulation yourself!

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