What is Talent Pipeline? Definition, Management with Examples


That the work-worker-workplace trio is in a state of constant flux is no surprise today. In an environment that demands a brutal battle for the best talent, strategic agility, continuous improvement, and technological prowess, organizations need a reliable workforce that can help the business win against all odds. Let’s take a peek into how having an effective talent pipeline enables the vision and growth of the organization.

Table of Contents:

1. What is a Talent Pipeline?

A talent pipeline is defined as a ready pool of potential candidates who are qualified and prepared to step up and fill relevant key roles within the organization as soon as they fall vacant.

This on-hold talent pool can include internal employees who show promise and can be promoted from within the organization as well as candidates from external sources like referrals, online job portals, career web-pages.

A pipeline of both active and passive candidates helps in perceptive and proactive workforce planning. With a ready pool of right talent, the cost and time to hire can be reduced considerably. Organizations today, in spite of operating in a largely candidate-led market, do not have the luxury to wait for candidates to take the lead and apply. They need to have prospective candidates prepared – the machinery all wound up and ready to be set into motion – before the need arises for them to fill in a role.

For example, an employee who has been in the system for about three years and handles a considerably big team suddenly decides to quit. The HR today cannot afford to be at sea when these talent exigencies come up. If they already have a talent pipeline in place, you know who are the prospective candidates you can reach out to, how to convince them to accept the job, how long it will take to fill the position and all these pieces of knowledge, together, help you offer business estimates that are relevant to the stakeholders.

As workforces dynamics get increasingly complex, having an effective AI-based talent pipelineOpens a new window is becoming an integral part of any proactive recruitment strategy today. This approach ensures on-demand access to the best-fit talent the moment there is a new opening or a gap in manpower, based on an intelligent assessment of what vacancies may open up and when.

Learn More: What is Talent Management?

2. Talent Pipeline Management: How to build and maintain a talent pipeline?

Having a talent pipeline in place allows you to nurture and build relationships with prospective candidates well in advance of a specific role opening up. Being a generation that is connections-driven, data-hungry and technologically passionate, there are multiple sources of willing and qualified candidates.

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Figure 1: Sources for building a Talent Pipeline

Source: Allegis Group

With wider and deeper sources, comes the need to be more discerning and engaging; as well as to stay ahead of the competition by building a standout case for your brand. So, how do you build an effective talent pipeline? Here’s a four-step guide to help you get started:

A. Plan it forward

Just like with construction, with talent too, you need to start with a blueprint. After all, people are the building blocks of your organization. Intelligent planning allows you to tie in business objectives with people strategy. This involves analyzing the manpower structure at present and predicting the possible gaps in the future. To start out, you need to have an employer brand that you want to sell and a target candidate persona that you wish to sell to. Creating a realistic candidate persona requires attention to demographics, background, goals (both personal and professional) and expected challenges.

Clarity on your employer brand identity is the key to understanding the kind of talent you want to attract. It also helps you align your talent pipeline plan with your business strategy at large. When you know where the business is headed, you know how to prepare for it from the talent perspective. Taking a step away and looking at hypothetical situations often help to plan for the “what if” circumstances. What should your course of action be if a certain team member leaves? What if a new process is added and a new role needs to be created to manage it? Having these questions in mind beforehand helps you avoid surprises. This is where tracking data and interpreting information rightly comes in handy. Studying departmental turnover rates, open-to-filled job numbers, offer-to-acceptance ratios, time and cost to hire all provide crucial insight and help you plan better. You can then tweak your outreach endeavors, processes and offers accordingly. Having stakeholder buy-in for your talent pipeline plan is important when it comes to avoiding bottlenecks later in the process.

As a talent manager, you need to know which are the roles that need tight, quick-action talent pipelines. Hard-to-fill roles, for example, make the company bleed out revenue for as long as they stay vacant. The same applies to roles in functions like sales that have a strong bearing on turnover rates.

B. Scour to score

While you may have access to a wide range of active candidates, you need to be able to reach out to and screen passive candidates who might need a nudge and more time to buy into the candidate journey. Running Boolean searches to tie in multiple-criteria ranking for candidates; targeting Google search strings, and continually refining searches serve well as the initial screening processes.

Whether you use face-to-face interaction (online or offline) or social media platforms, portfolio sites, ATS (Application Tracking SystemsOpens a new window for an existing database) or sourcing tools, the core idea remains to get as much information as possible on each candidate. Scouring for the talent that you need (or will need) involves widening your approach while keeping your focus rooted in business needs. It thus involves seeing far but seeing clearly. Having invested in an effective ATS opens up a treasure chest of possibilities. We live in a world driven by data and the more data you have access to, the more filters you can scour with.

C. Engage or lose

In the game of talent, you either engage or you lose. The candidate journey you offer and the employee experience you promise both strongly affect your efforts to build a talent pipeline. A research by Forrester pegs the number of brand touch-points needed at 8 for effective candidate engagement and influencing their decisions. How you market your brand story is thus important. From seeing a social media post, reading employee testimonials and following the company’s activities online to registering for the candidate network, clicking on reach-out mails and applying, the candidate has enough opportunities to become disengaged and drop off. How you, as an organization, can take the candidate through the steps of awareness, deliberation and decision – without losing engagement affects the quality of the talent pipeline you end up building.

The idea is also being able to communicate to on-hold candidates, that “not now” is not synonymous with rejection. They need to be able to believe in you, your brand and the process enough to want to stay on for future prospects. A transparent and honest process that allows candidates to take the lead and decide how they want to be kept in touch with works wonders.

D. Assess often

Your talent pipeline cannot be static. Complacence is the death of growth in today’s hyper-disruptive environment. Assessing and reassessing your pipeline and ensuring that it stays dynamic helps you keep pace with the changing needs of the organization and the evolving talent trends. Moreover, it might also be helpful to encourage your talent pipeline to keep developing their skillsets. While this is easier to manage for the internal talent pipeline, the external pool might not want to invest in upgrading their skills without the right motivation and assurance.

It is also helpful to tweak the process of building the talent pipeline by studying what works best and conducting a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis of talent management systems and needs.

Learn More: What Is Talent Acquisition? Definition, Process, Strategies, and Best Practices

3. Key Advantages of Building a Talent Pipeline

There are multiple reasons to build a talent pipeline. From saving the organization time and money, ensuring mission-critical projects fae minimal disruption,  elevating the quality of hires and reducing adaptation anxiety, having a selective ready-made pool of talent comes with many pros. The image below enumerates further “the why” behind an effective talent pipeline.

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Figure 2: 5 Key Reasons to Build a Talent Pipeline

Source: IntraWorlds

Learn More: What is Talent Sourcing? Definition, Process, Strategy with Examples

4. Best practices for talent pipeline management

How do you ensure that you have the right talent pipeline? The following best practices can act as effective checks on your journey:

A. Pulse on the Present, Eyes on the Future: A deep dive into the organization’s current and future talent needs is a prerequisite when it comes to building a relevant talent pipeline. Connecting the department checkpoints involves having executive buy-in and that will happen only when you have built a case for your plan keeping both the immediate and the far-off talent requirements in sight.

You need to have eyes and ears on labor market trends, predicted changes in industry compliance regulations as well as on brewing changes in the fields of automation and technology.

B. Deficiency needs V/s Growth needs: While it might make sense to focus more on talent deficiency needs – on “problem” positions that grossly affect turnover, it is important also to work on positions that would help the organization grow in terms of metrics beyond revenue and turnover. Conducting in-depth demographic analysis would help in narrowing down on longer-term employment needs and skills. How you balance and prioritize between these two needs would depend on the culture and brand you want your organization to uphold and the quality of data and decisions you want to be known for.

C. Leading Employee Advocacy: What is your end goal with the talent pipeline? It should be to build long-lasting, fruitful and symbiotic relationships. With the current generation at work being ready to switch jobs more quickly, career progression is cited by 52% of millennials, as the most desirable promise at the workplace according to recent research by PWC. Building advocacy leads you to a pipeline of loyal, engaged and motivated candidates and it is worth the investment in candidate/employee-centric strategies

Learn More: Candidate Screening and Selection Process: The Complete Guide for 2020


A talent pipeline is thus an effective people-centric strategy to future-proof your organization. The focus should not just be on creating a talent pipeline but rather in creating one that is flexible, agile and dynamic and suited to your mission-critical and day-to-day business needs for today, tomorrow and the day after!

Do you have a talent pipeline in place? Tell us all about it on FacebookOpens a new window , LinkedInOpens a new window , or TwitterOpens a new window . We’d love to know about what you’re doing right!