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Here's How to Stay One Big Step Ahead of Your Changing Talent Pool

You've heard of a sales pipeline. How about a recruiting pipeline? It will reduce your labor market risk.

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Struggling to hang on to your top talent? You’re not alone. According to research by global staffing firm Robert Half, more and more workers are job-hopping to get ahead. Fully 64 percent of respondents agreed that moving to a new role every couple of years was helpful, and that the biggest benefit occurred in the form of a pay raise. Just four years ago, only 42 percent of those surveyed saw a career advantage in job-hopping.

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So, why the hefty increase in this belief? For one thing, we're smack in the middle of a healthy job-hunter’s market. Quit rates have risen to a 17-year high, according to Labor Department data, and job openings have hit a record (to date in the 21st century). As a result, employees have more confidence in demanding the jobs (and pay) they want instead of settling for what their current roles provide.

Are these things concerning to you and your company. If so, stop wasting time and money struggling to fill vacancies, and learn how to manage a talent pool that's in constant flux. You never know when a key employee will decide to look for new opportunities, so it pays to be prepared to fill a position quickly with a quality candidate.

In the same way that you would nurture prospects through a sales pipeline, then, think of creating a "talent pipeline." By following the following steps, your pipeline will supply you with a steady stream of desirable new hires for years to come.

1. Ace your employer branding.

Highlight the elements of your company culture you think will attract the kind of employees you want in your pipeline. Chris Carosella, CEO of international business honor society Beta Gamma Sigma, cautioned on against casting too broad a net using generic branding: “Your employer brand won’t appeal to everyone, and that’s a good thing!" Coarosella wrote. "You’ll attract people who have the same values, and you won’t waste time onboarding candidates who are ultimately not great fits.”

Employees who fit your company culture are likely to stick around the longest and provide the best ROI.

Related: Get The Best To Come To You: Overcoming The Fight For Top Talent With Employer Branding

2. Be prepared for good people to jump ship.

Your best employees can go anywhere, so you should expect them to. "Forecasting" includes anticipating future leadership gaps. When you have ample time to see vacancies coming due to resignations or promotions, you’re better able to strategize how you can fill them from within.

When Steve Jobs was planning to step down as Apple’s CEO, he didn’t just groom Tim Cook to be his successor: Jobs founded Apple University to teach a broad range of employees how to think like a CEO.

3. Keep your leads warm.

It’s tempting to think you can save money by recruiting only when you have a vacancy to fill. But, even if you can’t always be closing a talent “sale” (until there’s an opening, that is), you should keep building your network and connecting with promising candidates at various touchpoints.

This should be a year-round effort, and you should treat prospective employees the same way you treat potential clients. To organize your contacts and outreach efforts, look for an HR software solution akin to a sales team’s customer relationship management tool.

Related: Talent Is Hard to Come by, But Only Because You’re Looking in the Same Old Places

4. Open an extra spot.

Revenue-generating roles are always open, so go ahead and hire that extra salesperson when you find the right candidate. Savvy sellers can expand your territory or help you tap into new markets. The cost of an additional salary should be offset by the new revenue, and it’s certainly better to be up a sales rep than down one.

Treat hard-to-fill positions like cybersecurity roles the same way -- if you come across a talented candidate, hire him or her in anticipation of a future need.

5. Ask for referrals.

If you’ve hired strong company fits, those employees should be happy to recommend other great workers to you -- just as any satisfied customer would. Always make it a point to leverage the networks of current employees. Start as early as the onboarding process, and let new employees know that you view employee referrals as an important source of qualified candidates. Incentive programs that reward employees for successful referrals will help cement your stance.

6. Steal their attention.

Make sure the top prospects in your industry know that you can offer them the chance to solve compelling and challenging problems that won’t easily bore them. Discover which candidates are most intellectually curious, in addition to being technically qualified, with a “nerd sniping” strategy. Include a compelling sample problem as part of your job description so that smart cookies can’t help but apply.

Related: Building Tomorrow’s Workforce: Why You Should Think About Talent The Way You Think About Sales

The job market may be tough for employers, but it’s even tougher if you wait until an employee is walking out the door to start looking for his or her replacement. Instead, focus on creating a talent pipeline that is constantly pulling capable employees toward your company. When you’re wooing so many competent candidates, your hiring woes will become a thing of the past.

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