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When the world zigs, zag

There’s a famous Levis ad that implores stylish people not to follow the herd in blue jeans but to dare to be different in black - ‘When the world zigs, zag’. It’s a piece of advice I think we should all heed. The zagging, that is, not the black jeans.

Just as we thought it was safe to get back into the swing of normal life, the threat of recession looms, and business’ nerves are being tested once again. There’s a real risk that organisations’ gut reactions will be to slim down or entirely remove their talent acquisition (TA) teams in the name of cost savings. What’s striking about this as a strategy is just how quickly we appear to have forgotten the lessons we learned during the pandemic.

The recent ‘Great Resignation’ meant demand for TA professionals skyrocketed. Organisations that retained and even invested in their talent acquisition capability during the pandemic equipped themselves far better to navigate this unprecedented war for talent than those who first had to recruit recruiters. And as this talent battle has raged on, TA teams have found they’ve been working flat out to meet hiring targets with little time or resources to invest in driving efficiencies.

So, although most executives and talent acquisition leaders will emphasise the bottom line in the coming weeks and months, now is not the time to grab short-term gains. Instead, this is a perfect opportunity to focus on transforming your TA function to deliver real, long-term cost-saving while reducing fixed costs and driving up return on investment. So, what exactly do we mean by TA transformation?

The four pillars of Talent Acquisition transformation

Overall cost reduction – For many, agency use crept (or leapt!) up during 2021, driven by the need to compete for talent. Why not consider investing in building out your direct sourcing capability? For some, that will mean creating a dedicated sourcing team or internal executive search function. For others, it might be investing in tools and technology while upskilling existing TA teams will be the priority.

Drive up ROI – Reduction in agency usage to pre-pandemic levels or lower, even for smaller organisations, can deliver a massively increased return on your talent acquisition budget.

Fixed cost reduction – Where TA teams are already operating below budgeted headcount, consider a more flexible, demand-driven talent acquisition delivery model. This might be ‘embedded’ or a hybrid of embedded TA and sourcing capabilities that you can easily dial up or down depending on demand. An embedded, flexible talent solution will likely deliver somewhere between 2-5 times the ROI of spending on external agency resources.

Take control of TA – The last 12 months have felt as close to operating in the wild west as we are likely to get as talent acquisition professionals. By developing a flexible TA and sourcing capability, you are taking back control, transforming it for the better, and demonstrating real cost savings for your business.

When the economy starts to grow again (as it always does), you’ll be far better placed than the competition to win the inevitable tussle for the best talent.

If you’d like to have a chat about how you can start on your TA transformation journey, get in touch with the team, who’ll be more than happy to guide you.

Until next time,


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