Recruitment and Talent Acquisition – What is the Difference?


Think of it this way, all recruiting is talent acquisition, but not all talent acquisition is focused on recruiting. Talent acquisition describes the long-term process of planning the overall composition of the workforce and the best practices for delivering the goals set forth. Recruitment is the short-term process of filling a role with the right talent. Talent acquisition in a strategic sense, builds on the talent sourced during the recruitment process and leverages it to fill similar positions over time.

Too often, businesspeople misuse industry terms. The most common transgression against business language is the interchange of terms that sound like they mean the same thing but have significantly different meanings and definitions. Today’s post will look at a pair of terms that is chronically abused through improper interchange: Talent Acquisition and Recruiting.

Yes, when you set out to recruit people, you’re actively involved – at least in the literal sense – with acquiring talent. However, these two terms are not entirely synonymous. Let’s look at the similarities that drive the imprecise use of these terms and the differences that define one from the other.

Besides recruitment processes, Talent Acquisition also includes workforce planning, workforce segmentation, and other tasks focused on the broad, strategic goals of overall workforce management. It also involves some of the activities a hiring organization engages in for the purposes of expanding their appeal as a place good talent wants to work. This involves building a strong “employment brand” and developing solid candidate relationship management processes to ensure solid retention and positive reputation in the business community. Lastly, talent acquisition also involves a metrics and analytics component which helps hone workforce management processes over time to ensure continuous improvement.

Which is the right activity for your workforce management or HR department to focus on: talent acquisition or recruitment? The answer for most is that an organization must focus on both. From the broader perspective, it makes sense to engage executive leadership, HR and contingent workforce management leadership and legal in articulating overall workforce goals. Together, this cross-functional leadership team can arrive at the most effective processes for talent acquisition. Once that groundwork has been laid, then the HR or contingent workforce management teams can apply these processes toward more effective recruitment. After all, effective recruitment is the cornerstone of a strong TA practice.

It is worth noting that for non-specialized, simple-skill job roles, recruitment processes need not lean too heavily on specific talent acquisition processes or guidelines. However, in the competitive skill sets such as IT, medicine, finance, law, engineering and others, a well-conceived TA strategy becomes of critical import.

The key takeaway here is that recruitment is important to filling immediate gaps in your workforce. But, developing a talent acquisition strategy and practice for the long-term will make recruitment efforts more effective and your overall workforce more productive and resilient over time.

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