How to lead Talent Acquisition at a startup in today's shifting market

In today's fast-changing job market, the rules for finding and hiring the right people are constantly evolving. Talent acquisition leaders need to adjust their methods to keep up. Amanda Gregg is a pro in this field, and she knows how to handle these changes.
min read
November 30, 2023
"This market is very, very different, where it's more about understanding your needs and being very strategic about not just what you need today, but what you need six months from now." –Amanda Gregg, Director of Talent Acquisition, Second Front Systems

This really highlights what's going on: it's not just about hiring for today's jobs, but also planning for the future. As we dive into Amanda's advice and tactics, we'll learn how to lead the way in finding and hiring people in a market that never stands still. She shows us that you must be quick, smart, and always plan ahead.

To hear all of her great insights, check out Amanda’s episode of The Headcount People podcast.

Adapting and growing in Talent Acquisition for Startups

Amanda Gregg's career in Talent Acquisition is a testament to the power of adaptability. After years of success at companies like Nike, Airbnb, Palantir, and Asana, she recently embraced the challenge of an early startup environment, where the rules of recruitment can be vastly different. 

At an early-stage startup, Amanda quickly learned the importance of adjusting her strategies to fit the unique needs of a smaller, more dynamic organization. She recognized that a startup's needs today might be drastically different from what they will need in six months. 

"As the first TA hire, I can see the difference between now and when you get into Series B, in terms of what kind of structures and systems are in place," Amanda explains, highlighting the necessity of building from the ground up in talent acquisition for startups.

In her new role, Amanda discovered the value of flexibility. With over 15 years of experience in fast-paced tech startups, she was no stranger to change, but starting at a Series A company meant rethinking her approach to recruitment. 

She had to craft new systems that were effective immediately and scalable for future growth. Amanda's shift in perspective from large to small-scale operations required significantly recalibrating her talent strategy, focusing on long-term planning and strategic alignment with the company’s goals.

This evolution in her career underscores a critical lesson for Talent Acquisition leaders: the importance of being flexible and willing to learn. What works in one setting might not in another, and staying open to new tactics is essential. 

It’s about more than filling positions; it’s about shaping the company's future by understanding and planning for its changing needs.

Crafting the future: The art of strategic planning in Talent Acquisition

This requires a deep dive into understanding the company's long-term goals, market trends, and the evolving skills needed to keep the organization competitive. 

"It's fun getting to push back and have people pause and think more strategically about what they need going forward, but balance that with the need to still go fast," says Amanda.

She pinpoints the essence of strategic planning: the balance between immediate needs and future growth. The strategic planning process is collaborative, involving key stakeholders from across the organization.

Talent Acquisition leaders like Amanda work closely with:

  • Department heads, who are creating headcount plans and informing her of the criticality of each hire.
  • The CFO and Finance team, who need to understand the entire hiring plan, target start dates, and overall budget forecast.
  • Operations leaders, who care for the efficiency of teams and optimal org design.
  • HR business partners, who want to understand the org structure to support onboarding, DEIB, and employee experience.
  • The CEO, who is setting the strategic direction of the business and needs to understand what the headcount plan entails.

This collaboration ensures that every hiring decision supports the company's goals, from expanding market reach to innovating product lines. It's a dynamic and ongoing conversation, with talent leaders bringing their expertise on the talent market and recruitment strategies.

In this collaborative environment, the role of a Talent Acquisition leader evolves into that of a strategic partner. They are not merely executors of hiring requests but are active participants in crafting the organization's future. 

Talent leaders like Amanda must assess the impact of each hire on the company's trajectory, advise on workforce planning, and stay agile enough to shift strategies in response to market changes. By doing so, they ensure the organization doesn't just react to the present but proactively builds a workforce capable of driving future success.

Leveraging data for smarter hiring decisions

Data plays a critical role in this process, which is why Amanda champions a data-driven approach. She emphasizes the necessity of precise data for effective recruitment strategies.

"It's about setting aside the time to go back and clean up all the data so that we can learn from it and make sure it is going to help us scale going forward.” –Amanda Gregg

Amanda underscores the need for a dual focus on internal metrics and external market trends. Internal data like turnover rates, success rate of hires, and time-to-hire help identify areas for improvement in the hiring process.

But it's not just about internal alignment; Amanda also looks outward, staying updated on industry trends, talent availability, and competitive compensation packages. By doing so, she ensures that the company is competitive in attracting top talent and forward-thinking in its hiring practices.

The crux of Amanda's data-driven approach is maintaining the integrity and cleanliness of the data. 

Accurate and up-to-date data is vital for making reliable recruitment decisions. Amanda’s focus on data quality ensures that the recruitment team can respond quickly and effectively to the organization's needs. 

Important KPIs for Talent Acquisition and Finance

It’s important that, as data is tracked and collected by Talent Acquisition, Finance is involved and informed at every step of the way. 

Joint hiring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) between Talent Acquisition and Finance are metrics that align the goals of both departments, ensuring efficient use of resources and effective headcount strategies. These KPIs focus not only on the Talent Acquisition process but also on the financial implications and overall organizational impact of hiring. 

Some joint KPIs include:

  1. Cost-per-Hire: This KPI tracks the total expenses involved in the hiring process, including advertising, recruiter fees, and administrative costs. Finance monitors recruitment spending, while Talent Acquisition uses this data to optimize and streamline hiring methods.
  2. Return on Investment (ROI) of New Hires: Measuring the ROI on new hires involves assessing the value added by new employees against the cost of hiring them. This KPI is significant for Finance in terms of budget allocation and for Talent Acquisition in evaluating the effectiveness of their recruitment strategies.
  3. Time-to-Productivity: This metric measures the time it takes for a new hire to become fully productive in their role. It's a joint concern for both departments as it impacts operational efficiency (a focus for Talent Acquisition) and payroll optimization (a focus for Finance).
  4. Offer Acceptance Rate: This KPI indicates how many job offers are accepted by candidates. A high rate suggests effective employer branding and competitive offers (key for Talent Acquisition), while also reflecting efficient use of resources allocated for recruitment (important for Finance).
  5. Attrition Rate of New Hires: This measures the turnover rate among newly hired employees within a certain timeframe. High attrition can signify issues in the hiring process or misalignment with organizational culture, affecting both recruitment costs and budget planning.
  6. Headcount Budget Variance: This measures the difference between the planned budget for hiring and the actual expenditure. It's a critical KPI for Finance for budget management and Talent Acquisition to ensure adherence to financial constraints while meeting hiring needs.
  7. Time-to-Hire: This measures the time taken from when a job requisition is opened to when a candidate accepts the job offer. For Talent Acquisition, a shorter time-to-hire indicates efficiency in sourcing and recruiting candidates. This metric is important for Finance to forecast burn accurately.

By focusing on these joint KPIs, Talent Acquisition and Finance can work together more effectively, ensuring that the company’s hiring practices are financially sound and strategically aligned with the organization’s objectives.

Unlocking Talent Acquisition mastery with ‘The Headcount People’ Podcast

Navigating the complex terrain of Talent Acquisition in today's market is a multifaceted challenge that requires a keen understanding of strategy, data, and collaboration. 

As we've explored through Amanda Gregg's insights, success in this field hinges on the ability to adapt, plan strategically, and leverage data effectively. Her journey underscores the importance of flexibility and the need for constant learning and adjustment in tactics.

But the journey to mastering Talent Acquisition doesn't end here. 

Dive deeper into Amanda's comprehensive insights and discover more about leading Talent Acquisition in today's shifting market in her podcast episode on The Headcount People.

To learn more about TeamOhana and strategic headcount management, contact us.

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