The Talent Advisor

An Evolving Role

Given the rise of artificial intelligence, automated tools, and the growth of RPO, much of what recruiters do will soon be automated or outsourced.

I see the automation and outsourcing of talent acquisition as a tremendously positive trend. It puts talent acquisition into a new and far better place,

Except for a few, recruiters view their work as a way station in a career. It is one stop on the way to becoming an HR executive or to moving on to other HR roles. There are often limited opportunities for advancement, which further limits the number of people who choose to dedicate themselves to doing it well.  The few who are passionate about recruitment either start an agency or work for an RPO.

I see an emerging role that some are already embracing, This is the role of talent advisors. Yet, I struggle to see what they are doing differently. Most of their work is still reactive and administrative and has not led to a seat at the table where they could offer advice, drive strategy or provide insight into the talent market.

The title sounds great but is defined vaguely and in many different ways. It brings to mind the words of Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word,’ . . ., ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’
’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

In my mind, a talent advisor should have a broad range of critical and badly needed skills to offer the organization. They should have little to do with the administrative side of recruitment and focus on a set of far more useful activities. First of all, they should be able to craft a comprehensive talent strategy.

Skill 1: Creating a Talent Strategy
Without a talent strategy recruiting is just putting people into seats. With a strategy, there is a long term goal and defined reasons for choosing people with certain skills and for using permanent and contingent workers wisely.

A talent leader needs to work with the organization’s leadership to determine the skills needed not just today but over a long period. They need to understand the corporate strategy and vision for the future and be aware of emerging trends and labor market supply and demand.

This requires the willingness to explore outside the corporate boundaries, network widely, experiment, and continuously push the organization to recruit and develop diverse talent. A talent strategy is a living, dynamic process and not a piece of paper or a report. It is the way the organization adapts to the uncertain future we are facing.

Skill 2: Influencing, Coaching, and Change Management Skills
It requires superb influencing and selling skills, as well as the ability to educate and coach and deal with change. Most organizations are change-resistant and have developed all sorts of practices, policies, and cultural elements that limit change.

A skilled talent advisor will be able to use the techniques of change management to coach and nudge people to change and to write policies and practices that encourage adopting new ways of doing things. Organizations need more “moonshot” challenges that require people with diverse skills and experiences to accomplish. Leaders need to influence and sell new skills that will change how the organization innovates.

Skill 3: Defining Critical Roles and Emerging Skills
These leaders need to design, with the advice of management, the critical roles that would meet these challenges and bring fresh ideas into the organization. By being aware of emerging trends and by a willingness to experiment, they can create roles that never existed but that offer new directions.

Agility and flexibility are watchwords for the future. To be both agile and flexible, organizations will most likely need to employ a smaller number of and fewer permanent employees. They will have to tap into the global, diverse contingent workforce. This will require working out new ways to pay people, ways of dealing with local laws and labor practices and influencing change externally as well as internally.

Skill 4: Vendor networking and Relationship Building
And none of this can be accomplished without a robust and effective use of technology. Technology will be the backbone of any recruitment function and will, along with external recruiters supplied by an RPO, deliver the caliber of people that the organization requires. These tools will most likely be supplied by external partners such as RPOs or be tools within the organization that are managed by the partner. The talent advisor needs to work closely with these suppliers to improve processes, identify and remove constraints, and modify tools to achieve the fastest and most efficient results. Developing good working relationships and fostering trust with their partners will be the sign of a good talent advisor.

The talent advisor may be the most critical non-operational role in the organization. It will need people who are passionate about the future, understand new technologies, and who are not afraid of disruptive change.


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