In Talent Acquisition Trends, 2016: Candidates Take Command (June 2016), Aberdeen found that 73% of companies indicate that talent acquisition is critical to executing their business strategies. To any department manager, it’s obvious that acquiring the right talent is critical to achieving business goals because effective, engaged people drive good business. What the above statistic also says is that business is still as human as it ever was in spite of the encroachment of technological automation.

So what does this mean for talent acquisition? It means that HR has to be ready to move on high-potential candidates faster when a job becomes vacant to keep the ball rolling for management objectives.

In order to optimize HR tasks, the mentality has shifted away from having HR on the front lines, reactively sourcing candidates in the event of a job vacancy, to favor HR fulfilling a back-office role of managing an ongoing talent pipeline. Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class companies are now 55% more likely than All Others (69% vs. 44%) to proactively build and expand the candidate pipeline regardless of current hiring needs. The pipeline treats job vacancies and potential candidates as moving targets on parallel spectrums that can talk to each other via analytics to hone in on successful candidate–position matches at any point in time. The new methodology speaks for itself in terms of the statistical justification:

Statistical Snapshot:

Data Description Percent Total
U.S. Dept. of Labor Participation Rate

The share of Americans 16 years old or older who are either employed or actively seeking employment

62.6% 158.88M
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Employed Population % of Participating

Employed Population / Total Participating OR 1 – (Unemployed Population / Total Participating)

95.1% 151.097M
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Unemployed Population % of Participating

Unemployed Population / Total Participating OR 1 – (Employed Population / Total Participating)

4.9% 7.783M
Aberdeen – Percent of the Fully Employed Workforce as Passive

Fully Employed Persons Not Actively Seeking New Roles

71.3% 113.323M
Aberdeen – Percent of Participating Employees Sourced as Active

Employed but Actively Looking + Unemployed and Actively Looking / Total Participating

28.7% 45.557M
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Not in Labor Force (Percent of Total)

Eligible for the Workforce but Not Working or Seeking Employment

37.3% 94.517M


The statistical snapshot above shows the U.S. labor participation rate as reported by the U.S. government, and breaks it down by the employed population, the unemployed population, and those not in the labor force. The final two statistics show the breakdown of active and passive candidates as a percent of the participating workforce based on Aberdeen’s findings that 75% of employed workers consider themselves as passive candidates. The statistical snapshot shows that using the talent pipeline lets HR cast a wider net for applicable talent. Reactive hiring primarily targets inbound candidate submissions that are mainly comprised of active candidates, which account for 28.7% of the participating workforce. Inviting the passive workforce into the pipeline through outbound branding, sourcing, and solicitation opens up the other 71.3% of the workforce for sourcing, analysis, and vetting to arrive at the ideal candidate with backup plans in case the primary candidate is unavailable. Statistically, there is a higher potential to attract multiple candidates to a given role even if the probability of a match or acceptance among individuals remains unchanged.

The pipeline model is opening up new labor markets in the passive workforce. However, the market is still not reflecting the benefits of attracting high-potential candidates in terms of increased productivity growth, higher rates of innovation, and the creation of new product markets that drive salary growth and increased consumer spending.

Statistical Snapshot:

Data Description 2000-2007 2007-2015
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Productivity Change Non-Farm Business 2.6% 1.2%
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Productivity Change Manufacturing 4.7% 1.7%
U.S. Bureau of Economic Affairs – Average Salary Growth 4.5% 3.3%
U.S. Bureau of Economic Affairs – Consumer Spending Growth 0.75% 0.37%


The statistical snapshot reinforces the fact that the average recorded productivity, salary growth, and consumer spending have declined over the indicated ranges reported by the U.S. government. Considering these figures in the context of expanded hiring potential and a greater focus on attracting high-potential candidates begs the question: what is going on with the ability to attract real, high-  potential candidates? While the shift to the pipeline model widened the net for applicable candidates, it also required HR to implement assessments built on responsive profiling that sourced high-potential followers and reduced the risk that employees would break from known, guaranteed market tracks.

Responsive profiling is a reactive measure, where organizations build a profile of the ideal outcome. When it comes to hiring, Aberdeen found that Best-in-Class companies are 2.1 times more likely than All Others (72% vs. 34%) to create success profiles of top-performing current employees and high-potential candidates. Aberdeen research also found that Best-in-Class companies are 80% more likely than All Others (56% vs. 26%) to use a repository of talent profiles to recognize ideal talent across the company. While recognizing performance is good for internal employee engagement, extending it to recruitment marketing and hiring analytics means that companies are recruiting more of the same persona. This is sometimes at the cost of vetting for signs of real innovation potential that could lead the organization into new and productive markets. Companies are playing it safe and not taking risks on long-term hires that ultimately challenge management with new ideas or initiatives. Instead, form-fit hires are leading to high performance within the confines of incrementally changing, existing products in the same old markets. This turns high-potential employees into followers, not leaders of innovation.

With respect to the state of the market, strategic hiring has a direct impact on risk aversion among corporate leaders. Hiring for innovation means that organizations are going to have to take risks on candidates for whom the hiring manager may not be 100% assured. While assessments can vet for known, quantifiable elements such as required skills, degree levels, or work experience, analytics cannot fully replace person-to-person character assessments. It is possible to place candidates in case environments that simulate real workplace challenges, but the human element is somewhat lost. Like it or not, HR still has a role to play in the face-to-face vetting of candidates as they come out of the pipeline. In short, before innovation can be sourced, HR itself has to take a lesson in what it means to think outside the box.  

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