How to Build a Talent Pipeline in 5 Steps | Toggl Hire
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How to Build a Talent Pipeline in 5 Steps

James Elliott James Elliott Last Updated:

If you’re one of the 72.8% of recruiters struggling to attract quality candidates, it’s time to adopt a new way of thinking. In the corporate war for top talent, those who succeed are those with the best weapons in their arsenal and a fortified talent pipeline.

But what is it?

We start by answering this question and why you need one, before digging into the key differences from other talent frameworks. Then, once you’re ready to get cracking, we’ll show you how to build your own talent pipeline in just five simple steps. 

It’s gonna be a good one – so, grab a coffee, and let’s get started! 

TL;DR – Key Takeaways

  • Talent pipelines are databases of candidates that are already vetted and qualified to fill a position. They can be external and internal candidates, as well as active or passive talent.
  • Crafting the perfect talent pipeline as a part of your talent acquisition strategy will reduce the time to hire, save on hiring costs, boost employee engagement, and improve marketing engagement.
  • When building a talent pipeline, you’ll need to maintain engagement and foster long-term hiring, implement fast hires, and assess the company’s strategy and needs.
  • Create engaging talent communities to keep candidates interested – showcase your employer brand and company perks – until you’ve got a vacancy to offer them!
  • Use Toggl Hire’s robust Skills Assessment Library to help refine your hiring process while building a talent database of vetted candidates. Keeping your talent pipeline filled with qualified potential job candidates enables you to accelerate your recruiting process by skipping the initial screening steps for new vacancies.
example of talent pool in Toggl Hire
Example of a Talent Pool in Toggl Hire.

What is a Talent Pipeline?

A talent pipeline is an active database of qualified, vetted, and tested candidates ready to fill vacancies when they arise. While your mind may jump straight to external candidates from job boards and referrals, a talent pipeline can also include internal candidates ready to step up. 

We’ll look at the differences between other talent strategies later on, but the key characteristic of a talent pipeline is this: pre-qualification. Talent pipelines should only feature candidates you already know are at the standard you need.

candidate database on Toggl Hire
Keeping your talent pipeline up-to-date makes candidate sourcing for new roles a breeze.

The icing on the cake is that these candidates can be hired straight away. There should be no need to take them through all the steps of your usual recruitment process, but you might need to re-interview to ensure a good team and company culture fit.

Of course, this approach requires active talent pipeline management, which involves a bit more than just keeping the contact details of unsuccessful but high-potential candidates. It’s all about building relationships!

What types of roles need a talent pipeline?

Not every role will require a robust talent pipeline strategy.

For example, very generic or junior positions might not need them at all. Roles that require specialized skills — such as software developers or healthcare providers — will greatly benefit from an effective talent pipeline to keep the talent rolling.

5 Benefits of a Talent Pipeline and why you need one

There are many reasons that organizations across the world are adding talent pipelines to their recruitment strategy.

Attract better candidates for hard to fill roles with the perfect talent pipeline.
Attract better candidates for hard-to-fill roles with the perfect talent pipeline.

Here are just four of the core benefits creating a talent pipeline can deliver: 

1. Reduce Time to Hire

Time to hire is one of the most important metrics recruitment professionals track. With data showing open vacancies cost businesses over $98 a day, anything recruiters can do to reduce hiring time will be valuable.

Having a number of pre-vetted candidates ready to step into vacancies helps recruiters dramatically cut their time to hire. This is especially useful for organizations with a high churn rate to avoid operational disruption and unnecessary strain on their sourcing strategy.

We’d recommend doing some digging into your time-to-hire and associated time-to-fill metrics to quantify your pipeline benefits fully.

2. Improved Market Engagement

As a business, you always want to be positioning yourself as an engaging and exciting employer. Active pipeline management means you’re constantly networking, engaging candidates, and nurturing some of the best talents in the market.

This isn’t just great for your recruitment objectives but helps to boost your overall employer brand and exposure in the talent market.

While some may see this long-term effort as wasted, talent pipelines are underpinned by a talent acquisition mindset, providing a competitive advantage like no other. You can learn more about taking a modern, long-term, and strategic view of recruitment through talent acquisition here.

3. Boost Employee Engagement

As we mentioned earlier, when discussing building talent pipelines, you should also include high-performing internal candidates. Especially for key managerial or leadership positions, an internal promotion may be the best recruitment solution.

After all, upward mobility can often be seen as a signal of healthy company culture and further boost your employer brand.

If employees know an active recruitment process exists to identify, develop, and promote great internal talent, they will be far more engaged with your business. 

4. Reduce hiring costs

Sourcing talent is an expensive endeavor – from placing job ads to paying for all your ongoing hiring efforts and even salaries for new hires that don’t work out.

Creating a talent pipeline makes it easier to filter out, narrow down, and deliver qualified candidates. And the more high-quality candidates you have in your personal talent pool, the less your company needs to spend on lengthy and expensive hiring processes.

5. Improve Candidate Experience

The fastest way to improve your employer brand is to elevate your candidate experience.

But what does that mean?

To create a recruiting process candidates love, you must avoid:

  • Misleading job descriptions
  • Lack of salary transparency
  • Lack of communication between stages
  • Unreasonable candidate testing (assessments that are too long)
  • Unprepared interview panel
  • Long, archaic interview process
  • Bad technology choices for screening and interviewing

Building a talent pipeline enables you to address many of these common hiring process pitfalls. The candidate journey gets shorter, faster, and more personable as you cut out unnecessary interview steps and keep candidates engaged – be it through networking events or quick Linkedin check-ins.

candidate experience with skills tests
Introducing skills assessments as a way to screen and vet candidates can significantly boost the candidate experience.

Essentially, pipelining talent is gathering the right candidates today because you know you’ll need them tomorrow. And more candidates appreciate the personal touch than you might think!

Talent Pipeline vs. Talent Pool vs. Talent Community – What’s the Difference?

If you’ve been around the recruitment industry for a while, you know there are several different talent recruitment frameworks. Talent pipelines are up there with the best, with talent pools and talent communities the other most popular strategies. 

For clarity, here are the key differences between the three and how they can work together. 

Definition of Talent Pipeline

We’ve covered this already, of course, but to clarify: A talent pipeline is an active database of qualified, vetted, and tested candidates ready to fill vacancies when they arise. They require recruitment professionals to constantly nurture candidates and move them closer to filling a vacancy. 

Definition of Talent Pool

talent pool is a database of potential candidates who have shown interest in joining the organization. This isn’t just a simple database. A well-managed talent pool should include information about a candidate’s experience, skills, attributes, and career goals. Talent pools aren’t actively managed like talent pipelines and are used reactively rather than proactively when trying to fill vacancies.

Definition of Talent Community 

A talent community is a niche-specific community for talent to network, learn and interact with each other. As an organization, you may create and invite candidates to your community to ensure their engagement and interest in your brand. You could build a talent community internally or externally using tools such as Facebook groups, Slack channels, or a company intranet. 

How do talent pipelines, pools, and communities come together?

In most circumstances, great external candidates will start in the talent pool. When organizations need to start thinking about building a pipeline for a particular role, they’ll pull talent from the pool into their actively managed talent pipeline.

Organizations then develop an interesting talent community strategy to engage top pipeline talent while vacancies become available. 

5 Simple Steps to Building a Talent Pipeline Strategy

By now, we hope you’re sold on the benefits of adopting a talent pipeline strategy.

If you are, the good news is that it isn’t that hard to implement your own. Here’s how you can start nurturing great talent in just five steps. 

A 5-step process to build a talent pipeline
A 5-step process to build a talent pipeline

#1 – Align to Your Company Strategy

Like all good business strategies, a strong talent pipeline management framework starts with planning and alignment. 

As a recruitment team, start by taking the time to understand what’s important to the broader business objectives. Specifically, you’ll want to know: 

  • What are the key people & growth plans for the next 12-18 months?
  • From that, which job roles are the most important? Developing candidate personas and conducting job task analyses could help clarify what types of hires the hiring team wants.
  • And adversely, which roles currently cause headaches with a high churn rate?

Knowing these three things allows you to focus on building a talent pipeline around the roles, skills, and experiences your business needs. 

#2 – Begin Long-Term Sourcing 

Now that you’ve nailed your target audience, it’s time to start long-term sourcing for passive candidates. Because you don’t want to hire immediately, you’re better off looking to engage passive candidates who may be interested in a new role later down the line. 

And better still, because you have time, you can also engage with more cost-effective sourcing and engagement strategies. For now, you can steer clear of costly job board listings and LinkedIn ads and instead focus on your website’s career page, internal job board, and company social media streams.

It’s also time to start building and maintaining a highly regarded employer brand within your industry. When creating a job advert or social post, focus on the company’s perks, such as the number of vacation days or paid-for skills training. A tantalizing employer brand is crucial in showcasing why passive candidates should work for you.

And don’t just focus on trying to find externally qualified talent. After all, you have an entire organization that you’ve already hired because they are the best talent. Internal talent pipelining will allow you to first open the hiring process to your current staff. The benefit is a faster time to hire, a reduction in onboarding time, and you already know the candidate’s skills.

These methods allow you to still engage with candidates and show you’re thinking of hiring but keep costs to a minimum. Having more budget to use for more tactical hires will be essential down the road. 

#3 – Vet & Test Your Talent Pipeline

Remember that a talent pipeline differs from a talent pool because the candidates in your pipeline are already vetted, tested, and ready to go. 

One of the best ways to ensure candidates can do what you need is to ask them to complete a skills assessment. It’s much more effective than a resume to get a flavor of what a candidate can do, as it is also far more engaging for the candidates themselves. 

Skills tests are super easy to set up, with our 15,000-question strong test library ready and waiting for you to use straight away.

Skills assessments is the most streamlined way to qualify talent without dragging out the recruitment process.

#4 – Maintain Engagement 

Next, you need to maintain engagement until you have a vacancy. 

We’ve already talked about using a talent community to provide valuable engagement, but that may not be enough. We’d recommend getting all of your top talent involved in company events, learning and development, and even away days if the budget allows. 

If practical, it may also be worth seeking out temporary, part-time, or contract opportunities to keep talent engaged and active in the short term.  

#5 – Execute Fast Hires

Of course, you don’t want to fail at the final hurdle, so make sure you have everything in place to execute rapid hires when vacancies arise. 

This includes engaging with hiring managers, setting up any final interviews, and quickly delivering an offer. This should be smooth sailing as, given you’ve been engaging with the potential hire for a while, you should have a good grasp of their expectations.

Work with HR and hiring managers to optimize the onboarding process and quickly get your candidate into their roles. If you’re onboarding remotely, do some research into creative onboarding ideas to keep things exciting too! 

6 Best Practices for talent pipeline management

Once you’ve planted the seed for your talent pipeline and it has started to grow, you’ll need to water it and give it enough sunlight. What we’re trying to get at with the plant metaphor… is that you need to keep nurturing your talent pipeline.

nurture talent
Keep in touch with talented professionals to make it easier to fill future roles.

Here are the 6 best ways to do just that:

  1. Gain feedback from candidates and new hires — This data will help you to fill in any blind spots in the pipeline while further refining it. You can add to this point by incorporating analytics software.
  2. Keep in touch with candidates you have rejected — Just because they weren’t hired now, doesn’t mean they’re not a potential future hire.
  3. Don’t rest on your laurels — Periodically review your organization’s staffing requirements to ensure you have the necessary talent in place.
  4. Nurture your talent pool — A “hello” or a swag box will go a long way to staying on the radar for top talent. And it’s always a good idea to keep fostering passive candidates.
  5. Research other companies in your industry — Stay as up-to-date as possible with the perks your competitors offer, who the hiring managers are speaking to, and which positions they are hiring for.
  6. Understand the diverse talent pool — Attending diversity job fairs, partnering with organizations that serve diverse communities, and advertising your company’s dedication to diversity and inclusion.

Refine your talent pipeline with Toggl Hire assessments

If you’re struggling to source and hire qualified candidates quickly, you may need to start investing in your long game and consider creating a talent pipeline. Talent pipelines are a great way to nurture top talent over time, keeping them engaged and excited about your business until you have a vacancy to fill. 

If you’re looking for a new way to reduce your time to hire, here are the key takeaways for talent pipelines: 

  • Unlike passive talent pools, talent pipeline management is the active engagement of qualified, vetted, and tested candidates.
  • To do this, you need to take a long-term approach to sourcing, using techniques such as competency tests to vet candidates upfront. Our ready-made assessment templates that have been expertly crafted for a wide range of fields can help you quickly and accurately identify the most qualified candidates for your open positions.
  • From here, create engaging communities to keep candidates interested until you’ve got a vacancy to offer them!

Talent pipelining is key to saving time and resources that would otherwise be spent on bringing in the wrong candidates. Plus, it simplifies your hiring process, creating a stellar experience for candidates – a win-win for everyone!

assessment library
Start building your qualified streams of candidates with our competency assessments!
James Elliott

James Elliott is a Strategy Manager and Writer from London, UK. When not working on the day job, James writes on a variety of business and project management topics with a focus on content that enables readers to take action and improve their ways of working. You can check out James’ work on his website or by connecting on LinkedIn.

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