Sizing the TA organization

Posted by Stefan Lint and George Hoffmaster on September 5, 2019.

On par with “source of hire,” which has become even more complicated with the introduction of “source of influence vs. source of application,” the burning question of talent acquisition operations today concerns the TA team itself. Sizing the TA organization appropriately is critical to its success. Too many, too few, or the wrong mix of roles can keep TA from meeting the talent demands of the business, not only causing stress within the team, but also raising questions about alternatives (outsourcing, anyone)? Given the importance of getting it right, just what types of roles—and how many of each—should you have on your recruiting team?

What’s at stake: The impact of poor TA team sizing
No TA organization wants to find itself in the unenviable position of being understaffed. Open requisitions age, hiring managers become furious, and the finger-pointing begins. Business leaders begin talk of outsourcing or hiring their own dedicated TA resources. Not to mention the attrition risk of the overworked TA staff.

No better, though, is being overstaffed. Bloated personnel budgets limit potential spend on strategic initiatives, such as new sourcing channels or technology platforms, to continually improve the TA function. Too many on staff can also lead to attrition as TA personnel begin to question whether they might be impacted by a reduction in force and decide to leave. Although you may need to cut back, you want to be in control of who stays and who goes—you don’t want the best ones to walk out the door.

Finally, the right blend of roles is also critical. Each role in a TA operation requires unique skills that make the overall function successful, and TA leaders typically take this into consideration when hiring. Having the wrong mix of TA personnel often leads to overpaying for higher-skilled people to conduct tasks below their pay grade, and elevated expectations for lesser-skilled people to execute tasks that they are incapable of performing well.

What you can and can’t control: Hiring volatility and sizing levers
The volume of requisitions the TA function must manage at any given time can fluctuate wildly. From seasonal hiring increases in industries such as hospitality, retail, and banking to end-of-year budget crunches causing the dreaded “hiring freeze” in any industry, the ups and downs of talent acquisition is common knowledge. This volatility can be accommodated through various means, such as the use of temporary workers or outsourcing. But to successfully size the TA function, it’s important to start with a baseline—some standards that will allow an initial TA team sizing for a business-as-usual model.

Understanding the variables to consider is a good start to establishing the foundational sizing of a TA team, and knowing which levers to pull to adjust the numbers will enable TA leaders to reach a fit-for- purpose sizing level for their unique organization. Specific considerations to address include:

  • The number of positions that need to be filled
  • Expected annual recruiter productivity
  • Acceptable spans of control
  • Support ratios for sourcers and coordinators
  • CoE personnel
  • Division of responsibilities across each TA role
  • Organizational headcount limitations

What’s a game changer? Technology!
Complicating matters has been the introduction of technologies that can automate much or all the work of traditional talent acquisition roles.

Let’s start with the recruiter. You know that ubiquitous “phone screen” with the template you’ve refined every two years? It’s being upstaged by recorded video interviews and AI-enabled assessments. These tools have dramatically reduced the need for the often-flawed phone screen. High-performing TA functions are 4x more likely to embed advanced TA technologies such as cognitive tools and AI to meet organizational needs than are low-performing organizations.1

Now let’s look at the sourcer—that role you added to the team to scour databases and surface those short-supply candidates for hard-to-fill roles. Today, this can be done with one click using AI candidate matching technologies. These platforms can search both public and private databases and, in seconds, return matching, passive candidates who have a high likelihood of success in any given role.

Finally, there’s the coordinator role—those people who spend much of their time scheduling (and rescheduling!) interviews. Multiple stand-alone technologies as well as several applicant tracking systems provide self-scheduling platforms that integrate with organizational calendaring systems. As organizations invest in these leading practice technologies, TA leaders will need to assess the efficiency gains produced and adjust the size of their teams accordingly.

Where does that leave us?
Sizing a TA team effectively can become complicated when all the variables are taken into consideration. To get it right, it’s critical to have expertise in understanding what these variables are and how to manipulate them. At Deloitte, we recently helped a Life Sciences company recognize that its TA organization was understaffed and was missing critical roles.

When sizing is done well, the TA team can minimize the negative impacts of a poorly designed team and successfully meet the talent demands of the business.

Stefan Lint is a senior manager in the Workforce Transformation practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he specializes in talent acquisition.

George Hoffmaster is a manager in the Workforce Transformation practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, where he specializes in talent acquisition.

1High Impact Talent Acquisition, Bersin by Deloitte, 2018.

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