The talent market is an increasingly unpredictable place. The pandemic’s impact on the workforce, the shift to remote and hybrid teams, the great resignation, and the extreme competition for top talent have all created a landscape of uncertainty. 

Under these conditions, many organizations have tapped efficiency as a north-star principle, but all too often it is assumed the term is simply a way to describe a period of layoffs. But this is a miss – an efficiency mindset means so much more than reducing headcount.

We sat down with people leaders from Lattice, Searchlight, and Zapier to understand how they’re incorporating efficiency principles into their talent operations by doing things like rethinking their concept of a quality hire, renewing their focus on talent development, and streamlining their talent tech stacks.

Efficiency in the hiring engine

Executives naturally prioritize growth, but there's an increasing awareness that focusing entirely on the speed of team scale might not be the best approach. Many companies are now emphasizing the quality of their hires, and giving thought to how each new employee positively contributes to the organization in terms of performance, but also culture and retention.

“Measure quality of hire. Period. The resulting data can improve not just how you attract and assess candidates, but also how you onboard and develop existing team members.” – Brandon Sammut, CPO of Zapier

Prioritizing the quality of hire creates a flywheel effect. At baseline, a strong team is going to attract skilled talent, so the ability to perform is a given. But if these prospective hires have good functional chemistry with your organization, then they not only increase productivity but also boost morale, improve camaraderie, and contribute to a more appealing work environment. This, in turn, makes your team more attractive to other top performers. 

Additionally, focusing on holistic candidate quality encourages a more efficient and thoughtful talent engine. This means a company is better able to maximize value per hire, even in difficult talent environments, while reducing the likelihood of falling into cycles of overhiring and layoffs, thereby creating more workforce stability. 

If you think you’ve heard this concept before, you probably have. Prioritizing fit alongside performance is not new, but “fit” is a nebulous quality and therefore difficult to measure. That’s why people leaders and organizations like Searchlight are looking to attach data to the talent operations process and develop a robust ROI model for how and who you hire.

For more resources, see Searchlight's guides to effective hiring and measuring quality of hire.

Talent development in the existing workforce

Executives are also looking for ways to better utilize their existing workforce. One approach is a skills-focused strategy that involves retraining employees to take on new roles or projects within the company. 

By identifying what skills the business needs and matching them with employees' abilities, organizations can leverage top performers who are currently underutilized, on projects outside of their regular work verticals. This helps companies adapt to shifting organizational directives, without sacrificing strong individual employees.

“If your company is in a period of time where you are not growing headcount as much, it is even more critical to invest in developing your internal employees.” – Kerry Wang, CEO of Searchlight

Developing existing employees is crucial during periods of low growth. This has given rise to initiatives like Zapier’s secondment program, which uses a skills-matching approach to temporarily reassign recruiters and sourcers to high-impact work across the company in order to retain them during periods of temporary surplus hiring capacity.  

These types of programs help create stability in unstable times. Moreover, focusing on talent development has been shown to improve worker productivity, job satisfaction and loyalty.  

Reskilling employees reduces costs associated with recruiting, onboarding, and training new hires. The reskilling process has also become more efficient, thanks to technological tools that integrate with existing systems, meaning organizations no longer have to add additional layers to their tech stacks. 

Streamlining platforms and tooling

Speaking of the tech stack, talent teams, and executives are thinking more and more about how they can  prune unnecessary tools and processes to create greater systemic efficiency. 

Some teams are taking a manual approach; observing hiring practices, assessing time spent, and identifying mission-critical processes, before determining which steps and tools can be eliminated from the overall talent workflow.

“20 years ago, everything in hiring was manual. Then the pendulum shifted and we had a surplus of tools.  Now it's time for consolidation.” – Cara Brennan Allamano, CPO of Lattice

The rapid advancement of AI and automation software represents the next leap in streamlining talent operations. Tools like Modernloop consolidate and reduce the grunt work of the hiring process - candidate scheduling, basic comms, and interviewer training - thus freeing up people teams to tackle higher-order problems, and operate more strategically within their organizations.

Final thoughts

You can build efficiency principles into processes and technology, but you need transparent communication to encourage adoption at the organizational level. Executives will have to answer questions about the “why” behind a shift towards efficiency, oftentimes as a part of a larger discussion on the overall health of the company.

These conversations are seldom easy, and they may require a sober accounting of your current talent and human capital situation. But they must nonetheless be embraced, because clear and open dialogue is essential for creating alignment around company objectives. When you emerge on the other side, your employees will be more informed, and more bought-in to your company process.

“If you communicate clearly and you are honest, your people will rise up.” - Kerry Wang, Founder & CEO of Searchlight

Thanks to Kerry Wang, CEO/Founder of Searchlight, Brandon Sammut, CPO of Zapier, Paula Judge, VP of Talent at Accel, and Cara Brennan Allamano, CPO of Lattice for lending their expertise for this post.