Why We All Need to Stop Calling it “Talent Acquisition”

The word "acquiring" gives the wrong idea and framework in terms of how we perceive talent. We would be much better served to think of it as talent attraction.

Talented individuals have to be attracted and convinced that what you’re offering will enhance their career and their own personal mission more than where they are today.

Talent acquisition is essentially viewed in an afterthought-commoditization type manner. You can’t acquire someone unless they wanted to be acquired to come work for you—instead, think of your role as talent attraction. And once you’ve attracted them, they’ll now be open to exploring more about what you offer and where you can take their career.

There is intense competition for the very best talent. This isn’t a shocking revelation by any means, but it does help set the stage to focus on the ideology as to why companies feel they need to put it in the structure of acquisition. 

Shifting your mindset from “acquisition” to “attraction”  

What is going to be required to get these top performers?

Firstly, having a function called talent acquisition means right off the bat you’ve put the wrong context to it. It would be more suitable to call it talent seduction, although it likely won’t pass nowadays in a corporate environment—but that’s essentially what you have to do. You have to go out and sell your vision, be very compelling with sharing your mission with prospective employees and seduce them.

Talent attraction is the way it’s going—because it’s a shift in your mindset.

This shift extends far beyond daily lunches, beer Fridays, foosball tables or exclusive benefits plan. Although in today’s game it seems you need to have all these things just to get a seat at the table with the upper 10%, but it’s not the determining factor with why top performers choose your gig over the competition.

They’re asking themselves the following:

  • Who are their customers?
  • What impact will this role have on my career?
  • Will it take my career to the next level?
  • Where is this company going?
  • What do they want me to do?
  • How am I going to develop?
  • Who will be my mentors?

Now it’s tough to delve deep into these intangibles on a company website, but this is the roadmap that the top talent are looking at.

How is this position going to satisfy their personal career goals and aspirations to get them closer to what they’re driving to? It’s all within the framework of self-actualization and how the vision of a company can fulfill their dreams.

So with all that being said, talent acquisition isn’t the right way to frame it—and soon will be a relic when we start to rethink human capital as an asset instead of a tradable commodity.

Why HR Needs to Act More Like Marketing

Why aren’t we seeing a competition for talent the way companies compete for customers?

When you look at it from this perspective, it gets you thinking about why there isn’t a perfect marriage between the Marketing and HR teams to tell a creative story and share the company mission to attract talent. Marketing folks are constantly looking to do something new, exciting and innovative—so why isn’t this energy harnessed? They understand the competitive battleground is in the digital space, and they have all the right tools to attract major players.

Get these people in a room together and think about campaigns on how to make your company perceived as desirable and one that will really resonate.

“In many industries, finding the best employees might be as important as finding the best customers. Why wouldn’t we take a more balanced, recruiting-centric approach to our web presence?” – Harvard Business Review

Are you selling your vision?

Think in terms of an elite professional athlete. In their free agency period, top players visit different cities as they get wined and dined, meeting with the executive team. Now financially speaking, at the end of the day there’s very little difference with what other clubs offer—but it’s the buy in to their mission and where they want to take the organization and how it aligns with winning is what ultimately gets their signature.

You have to look at it very differently when you go after that level of a high-quality individual because of the choices they have, and ultimately the positive impact they can make for your team. Go above and beyond to get that level of talent and be compelling with sharing and selling your vision.

It’s time we put talent acquisition in the rear-view—and collectively shift our mindsets towards talent attraction.