How are recruitment and talent acquisition different?

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With a job market ravaged by the effects of COVID-19, taking a reactive approach to talent management is a danger.

But now more than ever, business and HR leaders need to be strategic and understand what sets up their talent management for success. And understanding the difference between recruiting and talent management and what goes into each one is essential.

The terms recruitment and talent acquisition are sometimes used synonymously, but strategic business and HR leaders should understand their differences and when and how to apply each.

Recruitment vs. talent acquisition

In essence, talent acquisition focuses on a strategic approach to developing a talent pipeline, which sometimes means developing and training current employees so they can take on different roles. Recruitment, a subset of talent acquisition, focuses on filling an open position with the best possible candidate that is currently available. Here’s a deeper dive into their differences.

Talent acquisition:

  • uses long-term strategies to find and develop candidate pipelines to manage future staffing needs;
  • is strategic and proactive;
  • is continuous;
  • is an umbrella concept that includes recruitment;
  • uses long-term strategies, such as employer branding and internal mobility, and technologies to support strategies, such as candidate relationship management, data analytics, workforce segmentation, learning management systems; and
  • can be used for any industry or role, but is particularly needed for hard-to-fill roles industries with talent shortages, such as medicine, manufacturing and IT.

Recruitment:

  • uses attraction and selection sourcing methods to fill specific vacancies in the near-term;
  • is reactive;
  • is linear, with a specific endpoint;
  • is a subset of talent acquisition;
  • may rely solely on strategies to reach specific candidates, including job ads and technology to support sourcing such as applicant tracking systems; and
  • can be used for any industry or role.

Both recruitment and talent acquisition are subsets of HR and are important to successful talent management.

Talent acquisition vs. recruitment

Is talent acquisition more valuable than recruitment?

Both recruitment and talent acquisition are important. Recruitment is an important function in fulfilling job roles and an important subset of talent acquisition. However, because talent acquisition is more strategic, in the long term, its role is critical in facing the challenges of the ever-changing job market, as well as in tackling more strategic priorities such as expanding into new lines of business, reducing costly turnover, bridging skills gaps and preparing the organization’s workforce so it can meet future challenges.

When do you need to recruit?

Organizations need to recruit when a position opens or is expected to open, whether because a new role was created or because an employee vacated the role.

Tips for successful recruiting:

  • Craft the right job description.
  • Source the appropriate candidate pool, both internally and externally, in ways that attract diverse candidates.
  • Use the right technology such as an effective applicant tracking system.
  • Refine recruitment marketing strategies.
  • Provide a great candidate experience, including tailoring processes to candidates, such as using text-enabled interview scheduling.
  • Use organizational goals to guide candidate selection and hiring and measure success.

When do you need talent acquisition?

Organizations need talent acquisition if they are in industries that have complex, new or hard-to-fill roles for which talent is in scarce supply. However, leaders from all kinds of organizations should consider taking a strategic and proactive approach to developing a talent pipeline. Talent acquisition is meant to prevent the difficulty in finding talent that is a reality for many organizations.

For example, even amid the high unemployment rates as a result of the pandemic, 40% of HR leaders are experiencing negative effects from their struggle to find the right talent, according to the “2021 Talent Trends Report” from Randstad Sourceright.

How to switch strategies to focus on talent acquisition

Because talent acquisition is a proactive, long-term approach, organizations will need to make it a business priority that evolves and adapts to meet changing talent challenges and developments. Here are seven best practices.

  1. Get top leadership buy-in. Until leaders understand the cost of reactive recruiting practices, they may not realize why investing in talent acquisition is critical. Explaining the benefits of talent acquisition is a critical component of this. For example, achieving true diversity, equity and inclusion is unlikely without a proactive strategy.
  2. Create alignment throughout the organization. Everyone in the organization can serve a role in supporting talent acquisition strategies, but they can only do so if goals are communicated clearly and include how each person can help.
  3. Empower talent acquisition leaders. Talent acquisition strategies should align with the mission, vision and values of an organization. They should be viewed as key drivers of an organization’s success. Talent acquisition touches every part of an organization’s value chain. As such, stakeholders from a variety of departments should have seats at the table.
  4. Invest enough resources to create success. Providing the time, materials and people needed to execute successfully on talent acquisition strategies is mandatory for success.
  5. Understand how internal mobility can support long-term goals. Cultivating talent from within the organization can provide a cost-effective means of fulfilling talent acquisition goals.
  6. Use the right technology to support goals. In recent years, the HR technology market has exploded with new offerings, so it is easy to get distracted by the hype. Instead, business and HR leaders should rely on business goals and an understanding of the technologies currently in use to make decisions. Technology that talent acquisition leaders should explore includes:
  • HR and people analytics;
  • recruiting and talent development tools embedded with AI;
  • workforce segmentation tools;
  • candidate relationship management systems; and
  • learning management systems and other internal mobility tools to support upskilling and reskilling.
  • Don’t forget agility. Even though talent acquisition is underpinned by a long-term strategic focus, there should be a solid understanding of how to respond to changing market conditions and disruptions, such as when COVID-19 hit and the focus on remote work became widespread.
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