A Look Ahead at Talent Acquisition 2016 / 2017: Navigating a Complex Function & an Explosive Technology Landscape






Not worried about finding employees? Maybe you should be—68 percent of 3,314 HR leaders surveyed are struggling to recruit full-time employees across all industries in the United States.[1] In addition, 72 percent of global CEOs are concerned about the availability of employees with key skills, especially since 48 percent are planning to increase headcount in the coming year.[2]

HR leaders and CEOs are right to be concerned about attracting and retaining talent—a global economy driven by services more than products cannot function without employees who possess critical skills. At the same time, employees are also far more likely to look for new jobs when unemployment rates go down.[3] To make matters worse, it has never been easier for people to find new jobs. (How many recruiters have you heard from this month?)

Simultaneously, talent acquisition (TA) has become an incredibly complex and fragmented process at many organizations, and TA leaders often find it challenging to recognize and stay ahead of market trends. This is due in part to the accelerating pace of technology, which has created a continuous barrage of innovative new solutions; for example, a prominent recruitment analyst recently told me he has tracked over 21,000 HR and recruiting software products worldwide. Further complicating matters are the many stakeholders TA functions must manage at the same time, including candidates, hiring managers, recruiters, supporting functions, and multiple solution providers.

Leading edge TA functions require multiple tools and solutions—no one solution can provide all the required capabilities. Solution providers have risen to meet the demand, creating a huge market. In the United States alone, we estimate that the total market size for TA in 2015 was a staggering $245 billion—a figure that includes internal staff salaries, advertising, technology, tools, and services.[4]

Many companies are now beginning to understand that a broad, end-to-end TA focus is needed, from building a strategic employment brand all the way to onboarding new hires. This includes developing strong relationships with hiring managers, ensuring a compelling and personalized candidate experience, and leveraging cognitive technologies.

To help organizations optimize their TA functions in the context of these rapid changes and very real challenges, we plan to cover the following three major TA research areas over the course of the next year:

  1. Building new sourcing models around optimized sourcing channels and untapped talent pools
  2. Candidate experience as part of a differentiating employee experience
  3. Cognitive technologies in recruiting

Topic 1: Building New Sourcing Models around Optimized Sourcing Channels & Untapped Talent Pools

Our High-Impact TA research indicates that candidate pool development is the second most influential driver of TA performance; in fact, a mature TA function is 2.6 times more likely to have a robust talent pipeline than an immature TA function. (Curious about the most influential driver of TA performance? It’s the relationship between recruiters and hiring managers—the focus of our TA research in 2015.)

Organizations create candidate pools (consisting of active and passive candidates) by pulling from multiple sourcing channels. The top three sourcing channels are company websites, job boards / search engine aggregators, and internal candidates.[5] However, our research found that mature organizations focus more on in-house recruiting sources (such as company websites, employee referrals, and internal candidates). Less mature companies are more likely to use “post-and-pray” techniques (such as third-party agencies, external job boards, and career fairs).[6]

Complicating sourcing for many companies are difficulties finding candidates with the skills needed—59 percent of HR professionals surveyed report some level of basic skills / knowledge deficits among job applicants over the previous 12 months.[7] Several additional factors will contribute to talent shortages, including retirement of baby boomers, increased demand for skilled trade labor, loss of embedded knowledge due to higher levels of attrition, and finally new technologies and automation driving the need for employees with highly skilled talent profiles.

The good news for TA leaders and recruiters who are troubled about where to find employees is that there are some relatively untapped sources of talent, including:

    • Part-time workers (including retirees, contract workers, and open source talent). Many companies are now applying lean concepts (such as “just in time” and “right part right time”) to managing the workforce. This is partly because the open talent economy (in which organizations are using employees both on and off the balance sheet)[8] is flourishing. Freelance and contingent workers are an increasingly large part of the workforce (possibly as high as 40 percent in the United States).[9] Having a mix of both balance-sheet and contingent employees has several benefits, including better capacity management, and reduced time and resource investments in training.
    • Veterans. Veterans often face obstacles when seeking civilian employment upon discharge from the military. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 495,000 unemployed veterans in 2015, with 43 percent below the age of 45.[10]
    • The long-term unemployed. The long-term unemployed (LTU) also present a great opportunity to source good talent. Focusing on the LTU also means an increased focus on D&I, as 50 percent belong to a racial minority group and 44 percent are female.
    • Disabled workers, including the autistic. This workforce segment represents the highest untapped potential pool of workers in the United States; the unemployment rate for the disabled alone is around 85 percent.[11] Extensive research on workers with disabilities indicates that productivity levels among the disabled are equal to (or in some cases higher than) existing workers.
    • Adults returning to work after time away. Talent in this segment is finding it harder to break into the workforce after taking time off to raise children or achieve a better work-life balance—despite having previously held an executive or managerial position. But more and more companies are taking the time to create special programs and source employees from this group.[12]


This fall, we’ll investigate how organizations can optimize their sourcing channels and access untapped talent pools, culminating in an IMPACT keynote, multiple research reports, case studies, and complimentary webinars.

Topic 2: Candidate Experience as Part of a Differentiating Employee Experience

Candidate experience has increasingly been in the spotlight during the last few years. Combined with a new focus on employee engagement, the concepts of the digital workplace and employee experience are now gaining popularity. Millennials, the largest generation at work today[13], are digital natives; all organizations must be prepared to adapt their employment brands in order to create an environment that continuously attracts and engages digital talent.

The overall employee experience starts at a candidate’s first point of contact with the recruiter and continues through the interviewing and hiring stages, onboarding, and employee engagement and retention. Unfortunately, according to our research, an average of 14 percent of U.S. employees leave an organization within their first 12 months.[14]

In today’s talent-constrained workplace, any candidate with whom an organization has contact might become a critical hire at some time in the future—or be able to refer a critical hire. Candidates also represent potential future customers for consumer companies, meaning these organizations risk losing business if they treat candidates poorly. Organizations should therefore think of the candidate experience as a never-ending relationship established with each individual. A compelling candidate experience is an integral step in building and maintaining a pool of high-quality candidates.

In conjunction with our sourcing and candidate experience studies, we’ll explore their underpinning technology: candidate relationship management (CRM) solutions. Both a strategy and a technology solution, CRM helps organizations administer their interactions with job applicants and potential candidates. And it involves a software platform that not only organizes, automates, and synchronizes candidate-related business processes (principally sourcing and recruiting activities) but also promotes the employer brand and the development of candidate pools or communities. CRM can also enhance the candidate experience, manage candidate communities, and maintain positive relationships with those candidates not selected.

This winter, we will research the leading practices associated with a compelling candidate experience, including a research report and case studies highlighting AT&T and Ericsson’s candidate experience journeys and Dell’s transformed employment brand. Next spring, we’ll also publish a research report to help TA leaders navigate the available CRM solutions. We will also share our findings from these reports though two complimentary webinars.

Topic 3: Cognitive Technologies in Recruiting

Given the complexity and size of the TA market combined with accelerating technological development, it’s not a surprise that there are a lot of innovative ideas and solutions unfolding, with buzzwords such as AI (artificial intelligence), M2M (machine-to-machine learning), RPA (robotic process automation), natural language processing, predictive algorithms, and self-adaptation abounding. Some of the cutting-edge ideas in TA include:

  • How a small number of video-interviewing questions may get better results than 200 online prehire assessment questions
  • How machine learning may be better able to qualify some candidates than interviewers
  • How machine learning can rank which jobs are the most complex and most critical, allowing recruiters to understand how challenging it will be to fill that requisition
  • How algorithms can be combined with historical data to predict difficulty and time to fill
  • How to determine which sources may be producing the highest quality of candidate at the lowest possible cost
  • How the strongest candidates may be found based on structured and unstructured data from multiple sources, including personality insights gleaned from resumes and other digital footprints
  • How job simulation software allows candidates to play games to demonstrate skills and provide more realistic job previews.

But do we really want computers doing all of the work of sourcing or hiring? It’s been reported that 72 percent of resumes in the United States are never seen by human eyes.[15] If that’s the case, we need to determine the conscious and unconscious biases that are being programmed into algorithms. Throughout this year, we’ll look at the new cognitive technologies that are part of sourcing and candidate experience and then release an exploratory research bulletin, a complimentary webinar, and a case study next spring.


I’m excited about the TA research roadmap for the next year. If you’re a TA leader working on any of these topics, please email me at rerickson@deloitte.com, as we’re always looking for feedback and new ideas. In addition, if you’d like to participate in the Bersin Research Exchange (sharing your leading practices and receiving research-based rewards like reports, diagnostics, and white papers), you can register here: http://tiny.cc/BRETA



[1] The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages, Society for Human Resource Management, June 2016, www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/SHRM%20New%20Talent%20Landscape%20Recruiting%20Difficulty%20Skills.pdf.

[2] Redefining Business Success in a Changing World: CEO Survey, PricewaterhouseCoopers, January 2016, www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-survey/2016/landing-page/pwc-19th-annual-global-ceo-survey.pdf.

[3] Calculating the True Cost of Voluntary Turnover: The Surprising ROI of Retention, Bersin by Deloitte / Robin Erickson, PhD, 2016.

[4] Determined with cost-per-hire data from Talent Acquisition Factbook 2015: Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics, Bersin by Deloitte / Jennifer Krider, Karen O’Leonard, and Robin Erickson, PhD, 2015, as well as U.S. worker data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[5] Talent Acquisition Factbook 2015: Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics, Bersin by Deloitte / Jennifer Krider, Karen O’Leonard, and Robin Erickson, PhD, 2015.

[6] Ibid.

[7] The New Talent Landscape: Recruiting Difficulty and Skills Shortages, Society for Human Resource Management, June 2016, www.shrm.org/hr-today/trends-and-forecasting/research-and-surveys/Documents/SHRM%20New%20Talent%20Landscape%20Recruiting%20Difficulty%20Skills.pdf.

[8] The open talent economy: People and work in a borderless workplace, Deloitte Development LLC / Andy Liakopoulos, Lisa Barry, and Jeff Schwartz, July 2013, http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/global/Documents/HumanCapital/dttl-hc-english-opentalenteconomy.pdf.

[9] “Shocker: 40% of Workers Now Have ‘Contingent’ Jobs, Says U.S. Government,” Forbes / Elaine Pofeldt, May 25, 2015, www.forbes.com/sites/elainepofeldt/2015/05/25/shocker-40-of-workers-now-have-contingent-jobs-says-u-s-government/#4b1270052532.

[10] “Economic News Release: Employment Situation of Veterans Summary,” United States Department of Labor / Bureau of Labor Statistics, March 22, 2016, www.bls.gov/news.release/vet.nr0.htm.

[11] “Business Strategies that Work: A Framework for Disability Inclusion,” United States Department of Labor / Office of Disability Employment Policy, October 2012, www.dol.gov/odep/pdf/businessstrategiesthatwork.pdf.

[12] Women Re-entering Workforce a Largely Untapped Labor Pool, Workforce, 2005, www.workforce.com/2005/07/20/women-re-entering-workforce-a-largely-untapped-labor-pool/.

[13] “Millennials surpass Gen Xers as the largest generation in U.S. labor force,” Pew Research Center / Richard Fry, May 11, 2015, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/11/millennials-surpass-gen-xers-as-the-largest-generation-in-u-s-labor-force/.

[14] Talent Acquisition Factbook 2015: Benchmarks and Trends in Spending, Staffing, and Key Recruiting Metrics, Bersin by Deloitte / Jennifer Krider, Karen O’Leonard, and Robin Erickson, PhD, 2015.

[15] “How algorithms rule our working lives,” The Guardian / Cathy O’Neil, September 1, 2016, www.theguardian.com/science/2016/sep/01/how-algorithms-rule-our-working-lives.

Robin Erickson

Vice President, Talent Acquisition Research Leader / Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP

Robin leads talent acquisition, engagement, and retention research for Bersin, Deloitte Consulting LLP. Recognized as a thought leader in her areas of expertise, Robin offers more than 20 years of experience, including prior experience in talent strategies consulting and research for Deloitte’s Human Capital practice. Robin led Deloitte’s global Talent 2020 longitudinal survey series and her work has appeared in several issues of Deloitte Review and in Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends reports. She holds a doctoral degree in organizational communication and change, as well as a master’s in communication, from Northwestern University. Robin also has a master’s degree in theology from Northern Seminary and a bachelor of arts from the University of Chicago.

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