What would you do if you suddenly lost 40% of your workforce to competitors? With the number of unfilled jobs climbing daily and predictions of massive job exits, employers need to pull out all the stops, pushing every lever possible to build robust talent pipelines to fuel growth. That might mean regaining the muscle memory of direct sourcing.

In rebuilding that capability, be aware that approaches to finding and engaging talent have changed. Today, you can leverage technology to automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, scale for broader reach, and accelerate results.

Has Reliance on Talent Acquisition Partnerships Diminished Employer Capacity for Direct Sourcing?

Over the past decade, talent supply has grown tighter and skills gaps have widened. Many large employers addressed this challenge in partnerships with talent acquisition experts.

These sourcing partners leveraged disciplined processes and innovative technologies to efficiently source both contingent labor and traditional employed talent.

Outsourcing recruitment to VMS, MSP and RPO solutions partners allowed large employers to downsize internal teams and shift their focus from talent acquisition to other important areas of workforce management, such as employee engagement, development and retention. It may also have dulled their proficiency in direct sourcing. 

The onset of the pandemic further weakened the internal recruiter bench for many employers who put a halt to hiring plans as many in the workforce hunkered down, some working remotely or at diminished capacity, with others furloughed indefinitely.

Where Has All the Talent Gone? 

As a hiring fever overtakes the labor market, employers are no longer battling for talent; they are begging for it. The market is contending with more than 10 million unfilled jobs, about 2 million more than before the pandemic, according to the BLS.

Before the pandemic, the overall talent supply was already restricted due to Baby Boomer retirements and the resultant brain drain, as well as an increasing skills gap due to the rapid pace of technology change.

As we round out year two of the pandemic, employers are struggling to fill open positions for a new slate of reasons, starting with a lingering reluctance by many workers to return to the workforce, still fearful about the chance of infection beyond their own doors.

Additionally, widespread demand for remote options is putting pressure on employers, workplaces and jobs for which flexible work isn’t feasible. Finally, workers are changing careers at a higher rate than ever as they reassess what they want to spend their days doing.

All of this job leaving shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.  We’ve witnessed the highest resignation rates on record, shifting from 1.9% at the beginning of the pandemic to 2.9% more recently. In its 2021 Work Trend Index, Microsoft predicted an attrition rate of more than 40% in 2021.

The surprise is more likely linked to the fact that people who might have considered career mobility in early 2020 shelved their plans in uncertain times. Now that the future seems somewhat more secure, they are actively on the move.

The Best Source of Talent is the Current Workforce

People are looking to change jobs, so how do you leverage that mobility? You do it by tapping into networks and people you already know: referrals, referrals, and referrals, boomerang employees, retirees, and re-engaged alumni.

One of the most effective ways to build loyalty to your employer brand is to tap into talent pools populated by people that already know you.

Regaining the Muscle Memory of Direct Sourcing

The Great Resignation is fueling the revival of a once routine recruiting practice ⎯ direct sourcing. By reactivating your database and generating leads and referrals, you reduce reliance on job boards and recruitment agencies, while supporting diversity through the reduction of internal bias.

Technology can help make it happen at an accelerated pace. Beyond the appeal of AI and machine learning to automate some of the most time-consuming, repetitive sourcing tasks, such as matching jobs to candidates, it offers scale, engagement with your brand and improved candidate experiences.

That leads to better results: referrals are 9 times more likely to be placed on assignment. An extra bonus? As you increase candidate reach, employer brand awareness and your reputation as an employer of choice, you can expand your talent pools. Strong referral programs can drive a 46% average increase in new candidates.

Technology Accelerates Direct Sourcing Results 

With so many people looking to change jobs, there is no better time than the present to reach out to advocates for your brand. What are you doing to harness these networks?

While direct sourcing never fell fully out of favor, in recent years, many recruiting teams overlooked these sourcing methods, relying instead on outsourcing firms and conventional resources such as job boards.

Now, when teams really need to get back into it, they’re rusty and may not have the right processes and technology in place to do it effectively.

As you rebuild your capability to leverage direct sourcing and referrals, keep in mind that approaches have evolved in recent years. Rather than simply dusting off and refreshing dormant policies and practices, empower your team with innovative technology to do the heavy lifting in an increasingly challenging search for talent.

Saleem Khaja

Saleem Khaja, COO & Co-Founder, of WorkLlama, is a technology evangelist interested in recruiting tech, candidate engagement, AI and keeping people at the center of staffing.