For as long as the Talent Management (or Personnel or Human Resources) (TM) function has been a corporate department, Talent Acquisition (TA) has been housed and managed within it.  And for as long as I have led or been a part of the TA, I have wondered why. 

Bear with me for a moment while I explain my years of consternation.

A large part of the TM function is a compliance and risk management function.  Its focus is ensuring the processes within are executed and administered in alignment with the corporate culture and needs, legal requirements, and regulatory oversight.  In doing this, however, the level of risk tolerance and demand for significant innovation in TM for most organizations are low.  By the way, that is completely understandable, needed, and a good thing in almost all the areas of TM.  However, risking taking and innovation in TA are critical to get ahead or even just keep pace in the war for talent.  And unfortunately, the culture, mindset, pace, and expectations within TM can hold back TA’s ability to innovate, evolve, and keep pace.

With that being said, it is overdue to rethink TA’s alignment within organizations and move it to the operational side of the business.  Beyond the innovation and risk tolerance factor I mentioned above, there are three other key reasons that I see as critical for this change to happen.

  1. The strategic purpose, visibility and perception of TA will be greatly enhanced by shifting it to the operational side of the business. Having the right talent at the right time is the critical success factor of any TA team.  However, with TA embedded in the TM department, it most of the time obscures the business’ view of TA and a transactional perception of TA instead of the critical strategic function that it is.  Moving TA into the business area will allow for the development and alignment of TA strategies and practices that seamlessly align to business strategies and can be directly positioned with clear measures and accountability.
  2. A more proactive and planful approach to TA can be enabled. In today’s market and going forward, TA must quickly become a function that is proactively identifying and ushering talent to the organization not only for the openings of today but also for future needs.  Counter to this need, however, is TM’s function and focus which have historically been more reactionary to the needs of the moment which is completely understandable being more of the risk management function it is.  TA sitting within the business would allow for more proactive and forward viewing strategies that aren’t just focused on the talent needs of the moment but also those that are needed as the organizations grows and evolves.
  3. The delivery and performance of TA will be greatly enhanced. A large struggle over the many years I have spent in TA is the question over the accountability question for TA.  Is it HR’s or the business’?  Contrary to traditional beliefs, TA is a partner to the business providing expertise, skill, and guidance to drive, facilitate and lead the TA processes leading to hiring critical talent.  So, accountability for TA’s must sit within business areas.  Unfortunately, though, because of TA being placed within TM, the accountability has been shifted to TM instead of the business.  Placing TA in the business area and aligning strategies to business goals and performance, the hiring managers and overall business leaders will accountable for TA thereby incented to, invested, and engaged more.

I am fairly confident this perspective most likely won’t endear me to my HR brethren, and I understand why.  However, the challenge of having “the right talent at the right time” became a war a long, long time ago and to keep pace a different perspective on TA is needed.