Learning, Partner with Talent Acquisition. Your Company Will Thank You

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Training and talent acquisition seems like a logical pairing. One hand neatly washes the other when it comes to preparing top talent to perform on the job. Unfortunately, all companies don’t practice this integration well, and when it breaks down? Well, let’s just say silos are the least of your worries.

Dave DeFilippo, chief people and learning officer for Suffolk Construction, believes that it’s critically important for learning leaders to partner with the talent acquisition function to build organizational capability. In fact, he said while the employee lifecycle starts with sourcing, acquiring and on boarding the best talent, there’s a key hand off to the learning function, which then develops people for their technical or functional roles.

“The risk is that you’re in a few silos,” DeFilippo said. Silos prohibit these two interconnected functions from working together effectively. “The name of the game is, hire the best, acculturate them to the organization, and get them up to speed. The underlying assumption, especially for technical talent, is that they bring some skills to the table; but you want to put employees in a system where they can get up to speed as quickly as possible.”

Develop the Perfect Relationship

DeFillippo said to avoid silos and prevent stopgaps in cross-departmental relations, the talent acquisition and learning teams must work in concert. “If it’s integrated you’re doing it strategically. Whereas if you’re silo’d, it’s transactional,” he explained. “Technology moves so quickly, savvy organizations have those functions fully developed so they can continually upskill talent.”

If learning and talent acquisition partner effectively, they’ve likely agreed in advance to operate within a specific HR operating model or human capital practice. This model or practice clarifies the importance of human capital in the organization, defines the different components of the employee lifecycle and provides structure for business-centric workforce planning.

Everything, whether it’s learning or talent acquisition related, begins and ends with the business, DeFilippo said. But the best sourcing and on boarding plans integrate cultural assimilation with more tactical items so that people quickly understand how to get things done – before the learning function takes the wheel to ensure talent can perform as expected.

Essentially, leaders should be able to fill in any missing gaps that might prohibit employee performance on-the-job. “Think about what roles align with core competencies that differentiate the business,” DeFilippo explained. “Take an estimator, for instance. In our business, an estimator is really important because if you estimate the project wrong, you lose money. If you know it takes two to three years to build that capability, plan for the future. Workforce planning segments roles that are current and future focused. Then there should be a clear hand off to the learning function.”

Ensure the Hand-Off

That smooth hand off from talent acquisition to learning will only happen if there is an effective partnership between the two functions. For instance, leaders in both camps should know when the organization acquires new talent, when does the learning organization own that person in combination with their direct talent manager? Do employees know what learning resources are available to them in on boarding?

When it comes to compliance training, for example, that quick, early hand off ensures there’s no ambiguity. “You decide what learning content is important to deliver at a certain point in the employee lifecycle,” DeFilippo said. “For technical talent, a role-based curriculum can neatly define what positions require what learning.”

The partnership between talent acquisition and learning is also immediately advantageous because technical talent like developers and engineers have to be skilled so often, if you start with the wrong person, the entire process will be flawed. “You have to learn and relearn because technology is going to change on a regular basis,” DeFilippo explained.

“Selecting for aptitude to learn becomes highly relevant. Through the talent acquisition process you can use behavioral interview questions or assessments to check people’s learning aptitude: ‘Tell me about a time you had to learn a new system or technology process to do your job.’ Have them play back for you when they had to make it real.”

Finally, DeFilippo said the partnership between learning and talent acquisition requires that each leader facilitate the other’s work. Acquiring talent in a competitive market – such as advanced technical skill in areas far from Silicon Valley – is so challenging, one hand – or one function – really does need to wash the other.

“For example, when we go on campus to recruit, individuals want to know as part of signing up with a company in a good labor market, how are they going to be developed? Our talent acquisition people need to understand the development process, the curriculum, and the opportunities,” DeFilippo said. “We partner with the talent acquisition people because they need to be educated so they can sell the job.”

In that way, talent acquisition leaders become learning advocates for the external market, and learning works as a branding tool. In the end, the goal is to get the best talent. But how leaders cultivate the relationship between talent acquisition and learning, how they build that partnership, could make all the difference.