Talent Pooling and the Public Sector
Talent pooling is not a new concept; it is – and has been for many years – practised in some form across both the private and the public sector, in various forms. It is, put simply and at its most basic form, the collection of data on prospective employees in one place; a handwritten shortlist of candidates is a form of talent pool. Naturally, it is in the shape of highly scaled, digital and automated systems which talent pooling can deliver the most value and becomes a hugely powerful model for cost-efficient recruitment.
Many private companies have established direct routes to talent through either their own (proprietary) or shared talent pools; these range from spreadsheets of strong candidates maintained by managers to shared databases and CRMs to paying third-party platforms for access to shared talent. PSOs are significantly behind; ‘talent banks’ certainly exist – and particularly in the NHS – but the vast majority of PSOs retain reliance on agencies.
There are seven elements to any talent pooling operation: Data Capture; Data Storage; Role Posting; Talent Matching; Candidate Notification; Candidate Response and Worker Engagement.
We shall address these here in sequence.
This is the process by which candidates enter the talent pool; in most cases for a digital
system, the ‘sign up’. It is essential that this is easy to complete and can be accessed from a variety
of devices. Our research (polling users of TalentPool.com) has also shown that the vast majority
of candidates would prefer to complete a signup on a responsive (mobile-ready) website rather than download a native application. For PSOs, signup forms can be embedded within their own websites and also distributed to prospective workers through various digital marketing channels. It is essential at this stage to ask the right questions; without these, the correct data will not be collected and effective Talent Matching will not be possible.
In order for effective Talent Matching (the first stage of which is data querying) to be possible, it is important that data on prospective workers in a talent pool is stored in such a way that it is readily and rapidly searched; the respective merits of relational and non-relational databases are beyond the scope of this report but should be taken very seriously during implementation. It is also important to note that for data security objectives to be met – and GDPR complied with – data storage must take various regulations and guidelines into account.
It is obviously essential that the open positions which an employer / PSO wishes to fill can be ‘posted’ to the talent pool such that matching candidates can be notified about the opportunities. There is a wide range of options here; this can be automated from a PSO’s Human Resources System (HRS) or – as in the case of shared talent pools – can be uploaded through an online dashboard.
This is the process by which the talent pool system works out who should be notified about each role posted; in nearly all cases it is not practical or appropriate to inform everyone in a talent pool of every role which they may or may not wish to apply for. There is a great range of options available to PSOs in this area, and the appropriate approach or setup will depend on a variety of factors. The most important of these are 1) scale and 2) variety. Scale: A talent pool with 1,000 ‘members’ will require a very different level of sophistication in talent matching from one with 10,000 or 100,000 members. At smaller scales, simple queries will typically return an acceptable number of responses. At larger scales, a simple boolean search will not typically suffice to narrow down a search and it may be necessary to deploy Machine Learning to assist with more nuanced decision making. Variety: Some talent pools will have relatively and well-defined remits; a social work-only system, for instance. And in many cases, defining what a PSO is seeking will be relatively straightforward; a particular qualification or a specific experience. In other cases, a talent pool will be catering for a wide variety of roles, with often vague job requirements (not definable with Yes / No questions). Again, in the former category, boolean matching will suffice; in the latter, it may be necessary to deploy Artificial Intelligence.
This is the process by which a worker, having been identified by an employer / Hiring Manager as a good fit, is notified of a matching opportunity and thereby given the opportunity to apply. In the case of PSOs, simplicity and ease of use will be paramount; and so adapting to the channels most used by candidates will be central to success. Depending on the role, it is likely that one of either email or SMS will be the most suitable communication channel. In either case, implementations with email / SMS automation platforms will be necessary. Notifications should be short and engaging. and include a link to direct the candidate back to a full job description and opportunity to reply / apply.
Candidates who are notified of a matching opportunity must be given the opportunity to identify themselves as interested to the PSO; this can take the form of anything from the option to simply reply to an SMS with pre-defined text (‘YES’ for instance) to a complete online application form, requiring the answering of a series of questions.
Finally, it is important that positive responders / applicants are engaged by PSOs for assessment and selection. This will involve anything from the display of the individual’s contact detail to the Hiring Manager, to in-app messaging. Typically this will all be addressed through standard Vendor Management System (VMS) and/or Applicant Tracking System (ATS) functionality.