Definition

talent pipeline

This definition is part of our Essential Guide: A guide to talent management tools and trends

A talent pipeline is a pool of candidates who are ready to fill a position. These can be employees who are prospects for advancement or external candidates partially or fully prequalified to take an opening.

A talent pipeline is closely related to the term talent pool. They are sometimes used interchangeably, blurring their distinctions. However, there is a clear difference: A talent pool refers to a broader group of potential job candidates. They are people identified as prospects and included in an organizational database, but they have not been vetted enough be part of a talent pipeline.

Benefits of a talent pipeline

The advantage of a talent pipeline management is clear. It assures an organization of candidates to fill an internal or external position. The hard part is filling the pipeline. It requires effective recruiting management systems, as well as strategic planning.

Advertising for candidates, collecting job applications and resumes and conducting interviews may be enough for many firms to keep the talent pipeline filled, but this isn't necessarily true for in-demand and highly skilled occupations. Firms that need highly skilled workers may develop a multiyear strategy to fill their talent pipeline.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's
plan for improving college pipelines.

For instance, many organizations use college job fairs to conduct an initial vetting of potential candidates. But waiting until a student is near graduation may be too late. Some firms are developing relationships with students very early in their college careers. This can be done through some informal talent networks, internship offers and opportunities to work in a corporate-sponsored research lab that operates in a university's science or research park.

Firms may also see contingent workers -- people hired on a temporary or freelance basis -- as part of their talent pipeline.

How to build a talent pipeline

Creating a talent pipeline takes human capital management and workforce planning. Employers have to consider what their workforce needs may be in 12 or 24 months and beyond. This also means understanding turnover rates, training needs and succession plans. It further requires people analytics capabilities. The goal is to understand the skills that a talent pool and talent pipeline will need.

All of these efforts are related to back-end technologies. Recruiting management systems and applicant tracking systems play a role in finding, identifying, tracking and staying connected with prospects and candidates.

A talent pipeline strategy has to consider turnover rates because it costs a lot to bring on a new worker. Losing valuable employees puts pressure on the talent pipeline. Engagement strategies aimed at reducing turnover directly impact the talent pipeline.

This was last updated in April 2018

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