By Marissa Geist
Chief Operating Officer

As companies look ahead, they’re looking for ways to be more operationally resilient and sustainable, while also better managing operational costs. This effort typically requires close collaboration among multiple functions, digital and process innovation to transform the way work gets done. It also requires the best people – and partners -- to design and deliver a winning strategy.

Throughout last year, hiring slowed dramatically in many industries and organizations downsized their talent acquisition functions. As the economy recovers and hiring needs increase, organizations should not build back TA to the status quo and risk building a restrictive approach with less flexibility and scalability.

The best leaders in human resources, TA, and procurement are partnering to take a fresh look at their TA function and the options available to acquire talent while reducing fixed costs. An important first step is to assess the effectiveness of your current TA model. Your operating model incorporates the people, processes and technology your organization uses to find, engage, attract, interview, select and hire candidates.

We’ve provided this information, along with the supplementary graphic, to assist you and your team evaluate your talent acquisition operating model options.

Understand your business’ recruiting needs

Work with your HR and TA leaders to determine your organization’s recruiting needs based on business priorities and direction. Analyze trends in demand variability across functions, roles and geographies to identify where there is opportunity to improve the flexibility of your TA model.

If your TA function doesn't have enough flexibility or capacity to respond to business conditions or demands, you risk putting a fixed talent model into a variable talent environment. You also run the risk of missing out on top talent because of bad process.

Four dimensions for designing TA & recruitment transformation

Once you know where the intersection of expectation and possibility lies, you can start designing. There are a few levers to pull to create a recruiting model that aligns with your needs and objectives:

Build elements are those that you feel you will need internal dedicated headcount for the foreseeable future, like your talent acquisition strategy or TA leadership. These are fixed costs that are usually slower to build and harder to take down if demand for talent decreases.

Buy components are typically technology platforms, like an ATS or CRM, that offer capabilities and services to improve the efficiency and performance of your current structure.

For partnering, think of the capabilities that would either be too expensive, too slow or too inflexible to build internally, like executive search, contingent labor or total talent acquisition. A Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) partner, for example, provides end-to-end recruiting, technology and expertise to replace or supplement the efforts of your internal TA function.

Benefits from an RPO solution can include reduced costs, superior candidate experience, stronger employer brand, new recruitment technology, improved hiring process, better alignment between your talent acquisition and business strategies, and more opportunity to flex services up or down according to business needs.

Practically speaking, automation in TA is best applied to specific use cases. Automation is not a short-term play, requiring months to map, build and perfect. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be a way to link data without integrations.

Plus, in the long term, you can automate administrative tasks to eliminate errors and free up funds to invest in other capabilities. At Cielo, we use bots in our onboarding process to work alongside our onboarding agents to speed up new hire starts and add more scale outside of full-time headcount.

Turn Plans into Action

To source providers and solutions for the new TA model, first play out how the model could go. What if the model fails? What is the risk to the business, and can we absorb the potential impact?

Also consider the upside. How is the current model performing? Where is it succeeding? Where is it falling short? Where are the hidden or duplicate costs? What would we want to improve, and what does that improvement look like in terms of satisfaction, potential savings and business impact?

Measure Talent Acquisition Transformation Success

Equally important to the shift to the new model are the measures and success criteria. Change comes with challenges. Plan how you will gather stakeholder input, show success and keep your efforts aligned to the business. Your efforts could be seen as different, but not necessarily better.

The business case is often the most under-thought part of the design and transformation and is potentially the biggest key to success.

This is not a one-and-done framework. Setting a regular cadence to review and adapt keeps your program healthy and ensures stakeholders know that the TA model will keep the business on a leading path. Set this cadence and expectation as part of the initial program framework. Once the program is live, it is harder to pull out of day to day to make it happen.

When partnering with Cielo for RPO, continuous improvement and innovation are standard processes in our client partnerships.

Keeping the Right Mindset

Throughout the process of rethinking a TA model and sourcing providers necessary to support the new approach, consider your previous experience with transformations. The following questions can help you gauge the magnitude and necessity of a change:

  • What elements of your current TA model are built versus bought, partnered or automated?
  • How can recent economic challenges prompt you to think differently about that strategy?
  • Do you think the business’ demands and expectations of TA will continue to shift moving forward?
  • How can you align TA priorities with the business?
  • How much funding is available for TA changes?
  • Could a model change deliver cost savings without losing effectiveness?

Managing the change to a different TA model

Also be sure that there is ample mindshare and focus from key stakeholders throughout the business to support the transition to a new model and ultimately make it successful. You could have money to invest, but your organization may be in the midst of an operational transformation that eats up the change management resources and energy. Your timeline and scope of needs should consider your current situation.

Understand how much change your organization or talent acquisition team can manage at one time. If your organization is resistant to change or already in the middle of other change initiatives, you will likely need more time, planning and sponsorship to push through an enhancement to your current TA model.

The status quo is not an option

The pandemic forced organizations to make rapid short-term adjustments to remain productive. Seize this moment to consider long-term changes and avoid the status quo when building back functions or processes.

Rethinking your recruiting approach now will make that function more efficient, effective and resilient, which will strengthen your most important competitive advantage – your talent.

For a design consultation or business case development, Cielo can help.


Talent is the key to every organization’s success. This whitepaper outlines the critical role procurement plays in building an effective talent strategy and explores how procurement can lead a successful RFP process for selecting a Recruitment Process...

View Whitepaper