By: Matt Walker on March 29th, 2023

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Talent Acquisition Specialists: GovCon Companies Need Your Voice

Talent Acquisition | GovCon

Government contractors depend heavily on their talent acquisition team. TA plays a vital part in the entire lifecycle of a government contract, from the initial Request For Proposal to maintaining active contracts.  

Despite this, I know a lot of TA experts who feel shut out of the big conversations. These experts could play a vital strategic role; instead, they often find that they’re the last ones to know about staffing requests.  

If you’re in this situation, you should try to make your voice heard at a senior level. As someone who’s spent many years working with government contractors, I’ve seen how TA leaders can get more involved in strategy—and why it’s a problem if they don’t. 

Why should GovCon leaders engage with talent acquisition?  

Some GovCon companies think of Talent Acquisition as a back-office function. When the company signs a new contract—or when an existing contract needs some new faces—the relevant project manager might call up TA and ask for some names.  

Other companies treat Talent Acquisition as strategic partners. TA consultants are in there from the start, even sitting in on the bid/no-bid meeting.  

The difference between these approaches is striking. GovCons that engage with talent acquisition enjoy benefits such as:  

  • Better bid outcomes: Bids often hinge on one crucial question, “Can we staff this contract if we get it?” As a TA expert, you can offer your expert opinion on talent availability, which helps the business development team make informed bid decisions. Also, RFP (Requests For Proposals) evaluation factors can include Management Approach, Technical Approach, Personnel, and Pricing.  Having the right person leading a project can strengthen the RFP response and tip the balance in your favor.
  • Improved staffing: Talent Acquisition doesn’t have to be a race against time. If your team knows what’s coming down the pipeline, you can start lining up candidates and organizing your strategy. Then, when the project is initiated, you’ll start with the best possible team. This is especially important when you need hard-to-find skills or cleared candidates.  
  • Stronger relationships with key personnel: Key personnel are a finite resource. There are only so many qualified project managers in town, and fewer still with GovCon experience or adequate clearance. It’s easier to nurture relationships with these essential employees if you have a good idea of what opportunities lie ahead. 
  • Quick response to growth opportunities: Organic growth is sometimes overlooked as a revenue driver. When a project manager identifies an opportunity to expand an existing contract, they’ll need support from TA to find the right fit. If TA is involved in conversations about growth, you’ll be better equipped to recruit for these opportunities as soon as they arise.  

These are some ways that you, as a TA expert, could help your company on a strategic level. And most TA specialists know that they could contribute real value at this level—the question is, how do you make your voice heard?  

How talent acquisitions can make their voices heard 

If your company doesn’t see the strategic value of Talent Acquisition, you can talk about some of the benefits listed above and explain how you can deliver even more value.  

You can also take some other steps, including:  

Be clear about what you need 

TA is constantly trying to identify top talent that might be suitable for future proposals. This would be a lot easier if leadership could answer questions like: 

  • How many bids will the company chase this year? 
  • What is the expected size of such bids? 
  • Which departments and agencies are likely bid targets?  
  • What kind of work is involved, and what are the candidate requirements? 

Leaders might say, “I’d love to tell you, but we don’t have that information.” This seems to make sense—after all, how can they tell you about bids that haven’t even been drafted yet?  

But they can help you by sharing some estimates. You might find it useful to have even this rough level of detail: 

  • Approximately 5-15 bids 
  • Mostly 20-50M, but want to chase at least three game changers in the 80M range 
  • Mostly agencies with which we’re currently engaged, although we’re considering two new targets 

Asking these questions can help get the ball rolling on strategic conversations. It shows that your team is thinking about long-term plans and meeting revenue goals, which makes it easier to get you involved in planning.  

Build productive relationships 

Talent Acquisition is a vital support partner, especially for project managers on active contracts. These one-to-one relationships are vital for helping you develop a more strategic role in the organization. In particular, focus on building relationships with people in:  

  • Business development: The business development team can benefit enormously from collaborating with TA. Sometimes, the development team will turn down an opportunity because the staffing requirements seem unrealistic. But if they talk to your team, you might be able to suggest a solution that allows for a viable bid.  
  • Operations: Active project managers should be on the lookout for opportunities to grow existing contracts. To do this, they’ll need to find the right people, often at short notice. If you have a one-to-one relationship, you can discuss this with PMs and let them know if you have suitable candidates in your talent pipeline.  
  • Senior leadership: Senior leaders often have to juggle staffing requests themselves, especially if PMs are arguing over who has the greatest need for a new employee. When you know these decision-makers personally, you can help them prioritize resource allocation in a way that complements the organization’s long-term strategic needs.  

Start thinking strategically 

The best way to become a strategic partner is to act like one. Often, this is simply a matter of reframing your own responsibilities as part of a bigger effort to achieve growth. Some ways that TA can influence growth include:  

  • Understanding growth targets: It helps to know as much as possible about your company’s high-level targets: estimated growth, main areas of opportunity, and strategically important contracts. This allows you to think about talent acquisition duties as part of a bigger picture, and you can then guide your team accordingly.  
  • Working on employer branding: Employer branding has a huge impact on your ability to recruit, so it makes sense to have some input into a branding strategy. If your company doesn’t have an active employer branding strategy, try to start a conversation based on the feedback you’re hearing from candidates and employees.  
  • Providing data: Talent acquisition teams have access to a lot of valuable data, including data on Incumbent Capture data, employee engagement, compensation benchmarking,  time-to-fill, and cost-per-hire. Data is essential for strategic decision-making, so you can help by gathering and providing timely information.  

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