While the Human Resources department has historically grown out of the need to manage employment administration – from W2s, I9s, and OSHA forms to employment applications, payroll processes and employee documentation – there is a growing need for HR to strategically align its activities with the business objectives of an organization. This is especially true as demand for top talent increases across all industries, driving competition and putting pressure on performance. As such, the role of HR in a candidate driven job market is becoming much more strategic.

Why HR Needs a Big Picture Perspective

Because HR management deals so much with the minutia of employment administration and associated responsibilities, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture on a day-to-day basis. But a comprehensive understanding of an organization’s business objectives will enable HR to better prioritize and plan for talent acquisition, retention initiatives, employee engagement, performance levels and more.

To this end, HR must rely on a balance of more strategic hiring within the HR department itself as well as the adoption of the latest tools – think big data technology – to gather actionable insight into the company’s employment data. Using key metrics, HR can optimize their processes in everything from employee engagement surveys to leadership development to exit interviews – all in alignment with business goals.

Furthermore, employment issues can be addressed before they escalate, while hiring profiles and onboarding processes can be enhanced to achieve higher performance and lower turnover.

What HR Should Know About the Job Market

The national unemployment level has plummeted to 4.7%, as of May 2016, which represents a return to pre-recession levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, the average time to fill open employment positions has risen significantly – almost a full week longer than a decade ago, with a current job vacancy duration of 29.3 working days, according to DHI Hiring Indicators.

We can infer from this data that hiring is becoming increasingly challenging, particularly with a smaller pool of actively available talent. The current makeup of the talent pool – of primarily passive candidates – means that applicants increasingly have the upper hand, resulting in a candidate driven job market.

But why is hiring harder now than it was 10 years ago, even with a similar unemployment rate? Some market research experts say that the high unemployment rates immediately following the recession led employers to tighten up their hiring requirements due to an influx of candidates. But as the market has improved, those restrictions have not evolved and relaxed accordingly.

Other speculations include the theories that salary packages aren’t competitive enough, that recruiting strategies for passive candidates haven’t evolved with the times, and that the interview process has simply become too long at many companies. It’s because of this that we look to HR in a candidate driven job market, and ask what can the entire department and its leaders do to help mitigate this problem.

How HR Should Optimize the Recruiting Process

No matter the specific reason behind a company’s hiring difficulties, it’s clear that recruiting processes need to be optimized to align with the candidate driven job market. Using insight from HR big data in accordance with the understanding of the current market, HR can streamline and optimize their processes to harness greater efficiency and effectiveness.

So what might this look like?

  • Working closely with hiring managers to re-evaluate hiring profiles and requirements in order to make the candidate search more efficient
  • Pipelining talent in alignment with projected hiring initiatives
  • Boosting the employer brand to attract better (and more) candidates
  • Conducting accurate market research into compensation benchmarks
  • Streamlining the interview process in order to secure talent before the competition
  • Establishing employee referral programs for greater access to passive candidates
  • Work with hiring managers to formalize the strategy and process for internal promotion
  • Administering effective and consistent surveys to uncover opportunities to boost employee engagement

The Role of HR in a Candidate Driven Job Market

It’s clear that the role of HR in a candidate driven job market is because increasingly complex. No matter how large the department or how broad the span of responsibilities, a more strategic business-partner role needs to be embraced. An organization’s employees are one of the most important assets of the business, which means strategic human resource management is vital.