In the years prior to the pandemic, it was an easy case to make that the talent acquisition function had evolved from being a reactive, job-posting service provider to a proactive, future-looking, strategic-insight-providing function, equipped with emerging technologies and data points to undertake everything from long-term nurture, to forecasting, to employer branding. But with the great wave of the pandemic came hiring pauses and pivots, newly-virtual processes, reassessments of employer value propositions, massive uncertainties about the future of work, and more. Teams are now back in growth mode; candidates are less constrained by geography; and the past 18 months have caused many of them to rethink what they want in a role. Add to this that scaling introduces more variables: more people, more tools with the potential for disconnected systems and processes, more data that runs the risk of being siloed, a mishmash of strategies that lead to inconsistent hiring experiences. Last year, 67% of global corporations significantly increased their focus on recruitment operations to establish and grow their post-pandemic strategies.
This makes sense. Talent Ops, also known as RecOps, first emerged as a result of powerful new technologies that brought data to the recruiting function. Rather than scaling by hiring more sourcers and recruiters (which means doing more of the same work, just with more people), orgs that brought on Talent Ops functions expanded the capacity of what was already there by using those new technologies, and their accompanying data, to design process improvements, streamline and scale strategies, and optimize outcomes—all in the name of helping their respective recruiting teams become more efficient and effective.
Of course, “Talent Ops” exists regardless of whether a team has a dedicated role in place. It’s what happens when the most dedicated ICs make the day-to-day of hiring better by identifying bottlenecks and making incremental process improvements through data-driven decisions. But ICs can’t run at full capacity if they’re focusing on the operational side. And your team ultimately needs a single function with a birds-eye view: one anyone in the org can go to to understand their role in the candidate journey, what technologies or processes will allow them to perform better, and what data should drive their hiring decisions. (We’ve recently written a whitepaper called “The Recruiting Team’s Guide to Talent Operations” for those of you who are interested in moving into a RecOps role.)
Talent Ops is an emerging and evolving function that’s still being defined, and “how to do it” varies by org. But its purpose is constant: to give talent acquisition teams every competitive advantage possible in the battle for talent by creating best-in class processes and programs, eliminating inefficiencies, ensuring a unified approach and a consistent (and consistently great) experience for everyone involved in the hiring process. If it’s a role you’re interested in learning more about, here’s a shortlist of the things you’re likely to see in a Recruiting Operations job description:
Ops’ Responsibilities: A Talent Ops “Job Description”
Because RecOps entails so many elements, it’s sometimes easier to break it down by responsibility than it is by role. There are probably a few different ways to slice it; but here are some buckets into which Ops’ responsibilities fall:
Tools and Systems Management
This includes the tools themselves (sourcing tools, ATS, CRM, recruitment marketing software, career site, etc), integrations, implementation, change management, and maintaining vendor relationships. It also includes the “help desk” side of things: how do you ensure that sourcers and recruiters know best practices for using the tools available to them, so you can maximize ROI? “Managing the tech stack” means not only pushing usage and championing the tools that are currently in place (assuming they’re the optimal ones); but also having an ear to the ground to identify new tools and tech that can automate tasks and otherwise optimize your existing operations. What novel solutions are on the market that speak to your current pain points? How do you design and architect a tech-stack ecosystem, and a single source of truth, so that your team has the most effective solutions with which to approach the recruiting and hiring process?
Enablement and training through the entire recruiter lifecycle
This includes creating and implementing onboarding and training sessions for hiring teams on everything from unconscious bias, to best interview practices, to preserving employer brand in conversations with candidates, to how to give feedback and where to track it. It includes documenting and regularly updating best practices and process improvements in a shared knowledge base, so recruiters have all the resources they need for the questions that might arise. It includes education and training on new tools: building out a tandem documentation with vendors and then offering training sessions with tips, tricks, and best practices for that tool. The point is to be a resource, and to make resources available, for both new TA hires and anyone on the broader team who touches recruiting: how can they communicate and interact with you most efficiently?
There are a hundred micro-processes in any given recruiting function: the process of opening a job, the process of nurturing passive candidates, the process of sending in an onsite request, the process of scheduling an interview, the process of approving an offer, the process of rejecting a candidate, the process through which employees make referrals. Each of them has a “most efficient” procedure; and it’s up to Talent Ops to routinely map current processes, uncover bottlenecks, investigate the reasons behind those inefficiencies, and refine or redesign them for quality and efficiency. Sometimes this means creating process around things that there aren’t even processes for yet. (Then, of course, it’s up to Ops to standardize that new process in documentation. This way your candidates and hiring managers will all have the same experiences and expectations, regardless of role, department, or geo.)
A skilled RecOps person takes a number of critical variables—market trends and conditions, business plans and growth targets, company culture—to architect a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy. What is the business striving to achieve—this quarter, this year, over the next three years? How can talent acquisition best support those goals? And how will the strategies that solve for that question be executed and measured at scale, while delivering exceptional candidate experiences?
What “programs” involves will vary depending on the size of the org; but it could include everything from university/campus recruiting, to talent branding, to early career internship programs, to employee referral programs, to diversity programs, to career fairs, to events broadly speaking, to international growth. Talent ops develops and implements new programs; manages and tracks the activities, milestones, and deliverables in them; and improves upon them through data-driven decisions.
Talent Ops interfaces with stakeholders across the business; and the capacity to context-switch and speak the language of each stakeholder is critical. You’ll be working with Finance on comp, recruiting capacity models, and headcount planning; and working with Legal when it comes to partnering with recruiting agencies or setting up and configuring GDPR. You’ll be in ongoing conversations with IT around technical roadmapping, the tech ecosystem, integrations, and security. You’ll be meeting with HR and People Analytics around quantifying quality-of-hire and updates on people policies. Data Science might run your dashboards and help you get the intelligence you need to tell the most powerful story about recruiting to the leadership team. Senior Hiring Managers should have weighted input on your process and be giving feedback when new tools are rolled out or changes are adopted. And when it comes to C-levels, you’ll be translating the challenges of recruiting into the language of what they care about.
Data and analytics
Of course, there’s no doing any of the above without data, which is the foundation of all-things-Ops. RecOps is aware of all the data that flows both in and out of the recruiting org. They build out tech ecosystems that collect that data and serve as sources of truth. They know which roles need access to what data, and in what format: minute-to-minute dashboards, periodic report shares, summarized insights versus raw data, and so on. They know how to use data to set up KPIs and OKRs; they build out dashboards to track performance against those KPIs; and they use that data to communicate the most relevant insights to leadership. Your Head of Talent needs different data than your VP of Finance does; RecOps knows what to communicate to each stakeholder. “Data” also includes things like market data, the ROI of your recruiting tech or your staffing partners, and future-facing insights: forecasting to help the team plan more effectively. It also means working with team members to ensure they’re inputting data effectively (since without data integrity, Talent Ops can’t report and forecast effectively), and coaching recruiting managers and talent leaders on how to speak to the data themselves.
Luckily, you don’t have to be a data analyst to take on a Talent Ops role. There’s recruitment software out there that’s capturing critical talent analytics for you—everything from outreach stats to funnel conversion rates to forecasting and time-to-hire data—so you can step into any new RecOps role with the insights at your fingertips to make your team as efficient and candidate-experience-friendly as possible. In the meantime, if you’re looking to learn more about the Talent Ops function—why it’s so critical to a modern TA function, what its KPIs look like, and first steps for breaking into the role—download The Recruiting Team’s Guide to Talent Operations to find out more.