5 Essential Steps to Building an Effective Talent Pipeline

By Chris Murdock

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The stability of your current and future talent is a major indicator of your business’s success. Businesses need to define, attract and develop the right mix of critical talent to support and their growth. Unfortunately, many businesses wait for employees to quit before searching for replacements. This reactive process sets them behind on finding the best talent for their newly vacant positions.

To ensure a flow of the right talent for these roles, businesses need proactive talent pipelines. This means maintaining a continuous stream of growth with candidate relationships. Why is this important? Because it means you’ll have an ideal candidate ready to fill the gaps in your business when you have someone unexpectedly quit or if you suddenly achieve levels of growth you weren’t previously prepared to handle.

Flipping the point here, a lack of proactive recruitment and sourcing can compromise your existing team and limit company growth. No matter which industry you’re in, it’s critical to have a talent pipeline or candidate relationship framework in place to support your hiring needs. Here are some essential steps to build and optimize your talent pipeline:


To build an effective and proactive talent pipeline, it’s essential that recruiters understand their company’s strategic direction both in terms of current needs and plans for growth. Before building a sourcing and recruiting plan, it’s important to understand which roles are critical to reaching your business goals. Take time to map out where your hiring needs are and where you expect them to go to gain visibility for any future growth and expansion plans or planned projects. Analyzing both the future needs of your business and the key roles that will aid in reaching these goals will help you prioritize where to focus your hiring efforts.

Another important consideration to make is employee departure. What would happen if your key team members ever decide to leave? What if they leave mid-project or mid-quarter? These topics will reveal any gaps in your current talent pipeline and will help you map out your succession planning strategies.

Identifying immediate areas of improvement like sources of hire, turnover rate by department, open jobs vs. filled positions, time to hire and the offer-to-acceptance ratio and leveraging these metrics helps measure the success of your current talent pipeline plans. For example, say you find some great candidates, but your offer-to-acceptance ratio is low. You may need to rework your package offering or employer brand to increase those numbers.

Attract Talent

This step focuses on creating an employer brand to help potential candidates choose you as a target employer. With regards to employer brand, one important thing to note is the drive and motivation of the talent coming in. Ever hear the phrase “too much of a good thing can be bad?” It relates to employer brand because sometimes having a great employer brand can attract talent that is interested in your culture, but not the work you do. With a great employer brand comes the need to make sure the talent you’re attracting actually fits the scope of your work and your firm’s needs.

Your employer brand describes what kind of employment experience you offer, but also how it relates to the work you do. Just like your internal corporate values, your brand won’t be for everyone. Instead, it should inherently attract those who relate to it and encourage others to look elsewhere. You can also apply for employer awards (such as the Best Places to Work) to help build your brand.

Another aspect of attraction is reaching out to future employees in order to expand your potential talent pool. Some companies have gone to extremes to do this. Many businesses rely on a push strategy for recruitment by listing roles on job boards or actively contacting talent on LinkedIn. Attracting the right people through a pull strategy reduces the time your teams need to spend actively finding talent to fill your pipeline.

Assess Candidates

There are many simple, customizable assessment instruments that can supplement management’s judgments with quantitative

data regarding a leader’s performance and values. Multi-rater approaches are the most valid and help to overcome resistance by the person being rated. Quantitative data helps you validate nominations to your high potential pool. For example, a “micro-manager” may be very successful when working with subordinates; however, in a peer group of other managers, the peers may rebel against the micro-managers style.

Do not compromise your standards when you are identifying future leaders for your company or hiring frontline employees for that matter. Conduct periodic reviews of your talent to ensure that your plans are on track and the right people are still being developed and rewarded appropriately. Use this review process to help design individualized development plans for your high potentials.

Train and Develop

Building your talent model pipeline isn’t just about finding the right people — it’s about the ongoing development of your teams to put them in the best position for success. After you’ve identified assessment criteria, you can build a dedicated program that will address any skill gaps and provide ongoing training opportunities for development. This could include internal and external coaching, cross-functional experiences and internal assignment opportunities both nationally and globally.

Your business can have multiple programs, such as regional or global leadership development programs, or dedicated executive training programs. Regardless, ensure you develop a brand and identity for your program, and communicate it widely so all team members are aware of the initiative. This program also serves as a great selling tool to attract future talent to your business.

Monitor Efforts

Finally, you must evaluate the effectiveness of your talent pipeline model and identify future areas of development. Set KPIs for different areas and monitor outcomes to measure success. It’s important to note some KPI’s are based on metrics while others are based on soft skills. Show the effectiveness of your employer brand can be measured by the interest you receive for available positions, while development programs can be measured by employee turnover rates. Review your outcomes on a regular basis. We recommend at least every six months, but adjust the timing to fit the needs of the business.

Additionally, be sure to identify who the top talent is and reward them accordingly. Tell your top performers who they are, thank them for their contribution, give them exposure to your top management and ensure that they are challenged. Non-cash forms of recognition can serve as a powerful retention tool.

About Chris Murdock:

Chris Murdock is the Co-Founder and Senior Partner of IQTalent Partners. Chris has over 12 years of executive recruiting experience and leads search execution and client relationships along with supporting searches across the firm. Prior to Founding IQTalent Partners, Chris was a sourcer with Yahoo!’s internal Executive Recruiting team in the corporate offices in Sunnyvale, California. Previous to Yahoo!, Chris was an Associate in the Menlo Park, California office of with Heidrick & Struggles, where he recruited for software, hardware, professional services, and semiconductor clients. 

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