3 Things we Learned from HR Leaders at the Talent Acquisition Institute ‘22 Event


The month of May is traditionally associated with new beginnings. In many parts of the world students graduate in May, moving onto their next level of education or into the workforce. How fitting, then, that last month, we attended the Talent Acquisition Institute event in Nashville, Tennessee from May 15th to 17th. Across the street from the conference at Vanderbilt University, just a few days earlier LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman delivered the university’s 2022 commencement speech.

The Talent Acquisition Institute event represented the opportunity for a new beginning for the over 70 talent acquisition leaders who had come together for the opportunity to share experiences with each other through this unfathomable era that has been dubbed the great resignation. Most importantly, it brought us all together to learn from some of the top talent acquisition minds in the industry about what we can–and must–do to adapt with these changing times and build a robust workforce of the future.

We learned so much from the leaders and my colleagues, not only about the shared challenges we are all facing when it comes to filling talent needs, but about the employment landscape as a whole. These are different times in talent acquisition, this is a different workforce, and it demands of us a different approach.

Here are three great takeaways from the Talent Acquisition Institute Event:

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Goals Remain Elusive

Creating a more diverse workforce in 2022 is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. People not only want to know that companies are setting DEI goals and making promises to intentionally cultivate a more diverse workforce, they want to know specifically how they are achieving them. The sad reality is, many are not. This is not for lack of want, it’s for lack of imagination. While talent acquisition leaders are being charged with new diversity hiring goals, few really know where to start and are floundering to actually achieve them.

Leaders at the Talent Acquisition Institute event reiterated what we’ve been noticing here at General Assembly. Talent Acquisition leaders are working from an outdated playbook that has them posting on hiring boards, social selling, and promoting on their own sites in a rinse and repeat cycle that is as unimaginative as it is unproductive. Pair that with the problem of “kitchen sink” job descriptions that list too many skills, and the fact that businesses are weeding out candidates because they don’t check a “college degree” box even though they may have the actual set of skills that would best equip them to perform that role, and, well, it’s no surprise we’re not finding the right people for the right jobs.

A new opportunity: 

To truly create a more diverse workforce, businesses must commit to making a change in the way they seek, attract, and retain talent. For starters, take the time to craft job descriptions that actually describe the job. Simple, but effective. Break free from the habit of relying on old-school measures of success (ie college degrees) and shift your mindset to be skills-based (can this person do the job). This means considering talent with non-traditional backgrounds and eliminating or de-emphasizing the requirement that applicants have a college degree.

Most businesses are not currently reskilling to fill much needed junior tech roles

While all of the leaders we spoke with were dealing with a tech talent shortage and were actively looking for new and innovative ways to fill their most important digital roles in software engineering, data, and UX design, few had embarked on reskilling efforts, internally or externally.

Charles Darwin once said, “​​It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

The employment environment is changing. Talent acquisition leaders must adapt. If they don’t try something new, they are going to continue struggling to bridge the ever-widening talent gap. It is not hyperbolic to recognize that hiring managers missing their goals today may result in businesses failing tomorrow. Consider that Korn Ferry warns in 2030 the talent shortage could result in about $8.5 trillion in unrealized annual revenues. Similarly, IBM predicts that due to automation, 120 million workers in the world’s 12 largest economies may need to be retrained.

A new opportunity:

Companies need to create real opportunities for reskilling and talent mobility to avoid mass displacement. However, it’s important to know that not all reskilling efforts are created equally. Leaders need to ensure they choose a vendor who acts as their partner every step of the way. Seek to choose a partner who has a strong background with the results to show it, as well as a vendor who has expertise in the entire talent supply chain– sourcing, screening, training and onboarding.

The Great Resignation is Real– and it isn’t slowing down

While the news cycle tells a different story of the Great Resignation nearly every week– what we heard in the room at the Lowes Vanderbilt Hotel from my talent acquisition colleagues is that in the United States, we are still very much in the thick of it.

Even though we’d all like to believe that the Great Resignation is drawing to a close, many talent leaders expressed that this is simply the next normal, admitting they would just need to adapt to it. To that end, they are focused on doing the best they can to develop a solid bench of talent to have at the ready.

A new opportunity:

While developing a stable of talent during a talent shortage can feel like a near-impossible task, focusing on skills-based hiring and removing limitations such as required college degrees provides a roadmap to developing a more robust pipeline of talent.

When it comes to retention, leaders voiced a commitment to  improving their culture and creating opportunities from within their existing workforce. Reskilling and upskilling provide opportunities for bored or disenchanted employees to gain new skills and build career mobility. Leaders recognized the imperative to invest in existing talent in order to retain them. Which is valuable not only considering the talent shortage, but the return on investment by retaining that employee’s institutional knowledge.

Although the event in Tennessee was brief, it was inspiring to gather with talent acquisition leaders and recognize that we are in this together, and that together we can create a new path forward. We had an amazing time meeting leaders at this year’s Talent Acquisition Institute and are already planning ahead to next year!

If you are a talent acquisition leader feeling frustrated and defeated, you are not alone. We hope these insights help you create a new approach to talent acquisition and retention, and if you want to learn more, get in touch.

Disclaimer: General Assembly referred to their Bootcamps and Short Courses as “Immersive” and “Part-time” courses respectfully and you may see that reference in posts prior to 2023.