Can you explain the difference between talent acquisition and recruitment? Perhaps it all seems clear-cut to you, but many people still lump them together as though they're interchangeable.

Not only is this confusing, it also shows why there's little consensus on what it would take to transform TA from being a reactive and transactional function to becoming the strategic partner to business it should be. Simply renaming your HR department's recruitment function “talent acquisition” without any change in strategy, tactics and results, is just semantics. Truly differentiating between the two is the first step to building a coherent and proactive strategy that equips companies for a brighter future.

Bersin by Deloitte defines TA as “a strategic approach to identifying, attracting, and onboarding talent to efficiently and effectively meet dynamic business needs.” Recruitment is defined by the group as “the tactical component of attracting and identifying job candidates.” The difference comes down to connecting talent pipelines to business needs versus just addressing a momentary need.

What is talent acquisition?

What is talent acquisition? Talent acquisition is a strategic approach to identifying, attracting, and onboarding talent to efficiently and effectively meet dynamic business needs.

This model takes a long-term view, identifies future business needs, and builds talent pools for that future. It's a component of talent management and includes other strategic elements. Each has its own subset of elements and activities as shown in the diagram above.

When done right and aligned to business strategy, this model leads to improved performance, growth and competitive advantage. It looks at the big picture.

Very few organizations have a true talent acquisition engine in place. This is true of multinationals where practices vary from country to country, and at smaller regional organizations that aren't yet aligned to global best practices. The key difficulties are twofold: a lack of understanding of all the elements of talent acquisition and the inability to implement it. This is further compounded by resistance to change.

What is recruitment?

Recruitment process chart, relation to strategic sourcing, assessment & selection, hiring and onboarding

Recruitment is a subset of talent acquisition that involves finding and hiring. It's often the knee-jerk response to a resignation or newly created role with a rigid set of skills and competencies to meet. Some organizations have in-house capability and rely on job boards and active incoming applicants, but many rely on contingency search firms to meet their needs. This results in organizations failing to reach passive candidates, leading to inconsistent quality of hire and an ever-rising time-to-fill.

The sooner organizations move from a reactive recruitment-centric approach to a proactive talent acquisition strategy, the better. By doing so, they will position themselves to be agile and competitive players in the marketplace.

Transforming your talent acquisition team

Transforming talent acquisition is essential if organizations are to meet their business objectives. They need the top talent, in the right role, at the right time to innovate, grow, launch new products, or simply compete and survive.

The first step is recognizing that employer brands need to go beyond recruiting and implement a talent acquisition engine. That's only possible if organizations understand what talent acquisition is and how it differs from recruitment in the hiring process. The next step is understanding the elements of talent acquisition and having the advisory capability to build the engine in-house to attract qualified candidates. These are potential candidates who are an ideal fit with your company culture.

So, when we discuss Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO), it's actually more accurate to describe it as Talent Acquisition Process Outsourcing. In this case, all facets of meeting your organization’s talent needs are covered. Hey, we didn’t name the industry, we just lead it.


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By asking the important questions about talent acquisition right now, CHROs and talent leaders can get to work figuring out the right way forward. And they can show other business leaders in the organization that TA will help build a successful long-te...

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