chapter one

Internal Stakeholder Alignment

As the recruiting and workforce landscape goes through rapid changes in the next decade, talent acquisition leaders will lead many exciting, new initiatives. Internal stakeholder alignment is critical to project success, but involving the right people at the right time, in the right order, and clarifying mutually-beneficial outcomes is a project in itself.

To help you, we prepared an internal stakeholder management toolkit:

  • Believe in and communicate the business value of TA initiatives.
  • Know with whom you’re working and what they care about.
  • Define desired actions and outcomes from each stakeholder and how the project benefits them.

Communicating the Value of TA

The best people build the best products and businesses. The TA function attracts, selects, and hires these people. This vital relationship is sometimes overlooked. Clearly aligning talent initiatives with strategic business objectives makes it easier for business partners to understand the relevance of TA projects across the entire organization. Articulating and evangelizing TA’s value is one of the most important things you can do to attain the support and resources necessary for success.

Identifying the Key Players

The most commonly encountered stakeholder management challenge is in identifying who the real stakeholders are and their positions—missing a stakeholder or selecting the wrong stakeholder poses a potential performance risk.

– Heather Colella
VP Analyst
– Andy Rowsell-Jones
Distinguished VP Analyst

Knowing your audience is half the battle. Projects can stall or be cancelled altogether if an important stakeholder, sometimes an unobvious one, is not made part of the process. We recommend you map out all the relevant stakeholders and analyze what they’re motivated by and measured against.

Stakeholder Analysis

The first tool in your stakeholder analysis kit is a list of questions to ask yourself and your team. Let’s use a new TA suite purchase initiative as an example. After you think through these questions, you should have a comprehensive idea of with whom you should talk and how to get them on board.

  Questions for Performing a Stakeholder Analysis Answers
1 What is the process for decision making in an ATS purchase?  
2 Who is involved and what is their role?  
3 Why are they a stakeholder in the ATS purchase?  
4 What’s their influence over ATS decisions and actions?  
5 What is their level of knowledge about ATS?  
6 What do they need to know about ATS and what do they say they want to know?  
7 What resources or actions do we need from them?  
8 How does buying a new ATS help them do their job better?  
9 Are they supportive, neutral, or against ATS transformation?  
10 What will it take to turn them into supporters?  

Different Motivations


CEOs care about hiring the best talent. However, most have not devised new ways to properly evaluate and reward their TA function. In order for TA teams to receive the resources and cross-functional support necessary for success, CEOs need to view TA as an important influencer on company culture and business productivity. Instead of efficiency metrics such as volume, time, and cost, CEOs should shift their focus towards the investment necessary to make a top-notch hire, the percentage of roles filled on time to meet business targets, and other measurements that illustrate TA’s impact on the business.


Once CEOs stop evaluating CHROs on cost, CHROs will have less pressure to cut spending. This will offer TA more flexibility in terms of investing resources in modern technology and skill sets. TA leaders need CHROs to champion the TA function by acting as executive sponsors who want to drive TA initiatives forward.


CTOs often want to unify technology systems in order to minimize maintenance cost and support. If you’re planning to buy a best-of-breed TA system that is not part of the HCM suite, CTOs may resist the change. However, if you can demonstrate to IT that the new system is easy to manage, secure, compliant, compatible with current systems, and futureproof, they are far more likely to be receptive towards purchasing a new system.


CFO / Finance / Procurement
CFOs are cost-driven, but they also keep their eyes on revenue. Once CFOs start to consider the revenue and ROI generated from hiring better talent at a faster pace with a new TA, they are more likely to support the investment.


The line between corporate brand and employer brand is starting to blur. Millennials and Gen Z now account for 38% of today’s workforce. What are their top criteria when choosing a company to work for? Corporate mission and values, which, perhaps surprisingly, rank above wages and benefits. CMOs are motivated to weigh in on employer branding and ensure consistency with overall branding. If your new system can improve candidate experience and branding, CMOs are likely to be on board. They may also contribute their expertise in marketing features such as campaign management within your new system, but their influence can only go so far.


An often neglected, but absolutely necessary group to involve are the intended users. In the case of purchasing a new ATS, try to secure buy-in ahead of time from the following people: recruiters, hiring managers, interviewers, store owners, or regional managers. Before you start investigating new solutions, it’s important for users to vocalize their pain points with the existing solution and what they desire in a new solution.

This group will be good to involve throughout the project. From our experience with developing custom communication and training plans, we find that early and frequent discussions with users can increase overall adoption by up to 200%. You will need a team of champions to help carry your vision across the organization, and end users will provide the first line of support in helping others after launch. We call this “adoption through osmosis”—having people who are proficient with and passionate about the new system work alongside and influence those who need to learn the skills and processes.

Aligned stakeholders

Pro Tips

  • Identify system champions throughout the organization, from the executive level to the end user.
  • Create strategic communication and training plans that excite people about the transformation.

Stakeholder Matrix

The second tool in your stakeholder analysis toolkit helps you prioritize with whom you should talk. You can use the graph to segment stakeholders in terms of their stance (whether they support you or not) and their influence (specifically, on the issue/initiative at hand). Once you place stakeholders into the correct group, you can create a game plan to collaborate with each segment.

shareholder matrix diagram

The strategy here is to regularly engage your influential supporters, soften or even align with your influential opponents, and increase the influence of your weak supporters. Weak opponents need the least attention because they’re the least motivated to be a roadblocker. Influential opponents, if unaddressed, can derail your entire project. However, influential opponents can potentially become weak opponents—they might remain unsupportive or decide to be less involved in the project. They may also become influential supporters if you pinpoint what aspects of your project or initiative resonate with them. As to your weak supporters, increasing their influence is a win-win for both you and them.

Selling TA’s Value to Your Stakeholders

Building an Effective Project Plan

The third tool is a project plan with clear timelines, stakeholders, and action items. In a large multi-month or even multi-year project, breaking the project into phases helps you focus on a smaller subset of stakeholders. A detailed project plan helps you define desired actions and outcomes from all parties involved. It’s also important to consider the relationship between stakeholders, you may need to address some before others. Laying out the timeline helps you schedule your plan of attack.

This is an example of a SmartRecruiters implementation and customer success project plan.

Selling TA diagram

Hiring Success in Action Managing Change Through Total TA Transformation

retail iconRetail
employees icon24,500+ Employees
countries icon16 Countries

The story of how the TA team at an American lifestyle retailer succeeded in replacing their talent acquisition technology is a perfect example of how the amount of effort you put into internal stakeholder alignment will pay off.

– Jared Best
Hiring Success Director – Retail

As a leading retail brand with 24,500+ employees and 1,000+ locations in 16 countries across three brands, the company needed to attract high-quality candidates and meet their aggressive hiring needs of specialized corporate retail hiring, university recruiting, and supply chain hiring.

The three recruiting teams were on three separate recruiting systems that didn’t sync, and were dissatisfied with their existing solutions for similar reasons. The tools didn’t provide a candidate experience on par with their world class brand experience. They also didn’t track any useful data to help the team gain insights into their hiring performance. The corporate TA team led the effort to make hiring better.

February 2017- June 2017

Optimization of Existing Solution
The TA team first spent three months working with their existing vendor and internal IT to resolve the problems and optimize the existing solution. They learned it would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and they would still need to start from scratch, which would take months.

The Head of TA decided to look for a new solution at the same budget. As they evaluated vendors in the market, they realized other recruiting tools had much stronger capabilities—even if they upgraded their current system, it would still be lacking core functionalities that the team needed.

June 2017 – August 2017

Current State Future State Exercise
The TA team decided to replace their current ATS, thus starting an uphill battle to drive change.

The existing ATS was part of an HCM suite, so an IT leader insisted on maintaining a suite system, voting against the decision to switch. The TA team conducted a Capabilities Gap Analysis and showed the IT team the discrepancy between what the company needed from an ATS to succeed at hiring and what the existing solution was able to offer.

They also outlined 5 key project objectives:

5 Key Project Objectives
  1. Single source of record for all TA activities globally.
  2. Nimble and easy to maintain.
  3. World class candidate, recruiter, and hiring manager experience that matched their brand experience.
  4. Complete integration across their existing tech stack.
  5. Focused on innovation that would keep their hiring practices ahead of the competition.

This softened IT’s opposition and eventually led to the IT team vetting external vendors.

August 2017 – December 2017

The TA team then pulled in the HRIS team, who were originally impartial. The Head of HRIS was unimpressed with their existing ATS because, even if it was part of the suite, data from the ATS was rarely updated or synced with the core HRIS. Given existing maintenance cost and capabilities concerns, the Head of HRIS became supportive of the decision to switch to a solution that was better integrated.

December 2017 – January 2018

Vendor On-Sites & Shortlists
Once IT and TA shortlisted a few vendors, the TA team built a robust business case to win over the CHRO, who owned the budget. The team compared the capabilities and costs of the existing system against the selected system side by side. On the one hand, they already had a solution that was costly and time-consuming to upgrade. It lacked innovation and strategic support, was hard to maintain changes as their business needs shifted, and did not provide a candidate experience that reflected who they were as an organization.

On the other hand, they had a new system that offered everything they needed and the team felt like they were getting a partner that was invested in their success. The new system was a one-stop shop with full analytics capabilities, a more engaging candidate experience, and more manageable infrastructure. The new system could even help them centralize all recruiting activities across different hiring models, from university hiring and corporate hiring to supply chain/store hiring. All this could be accomplished with the same budget and within the same timeline. The choice was clear.

January – February 2018

Shortlisted Vendor Reviews
Even though the CHRO was already on board, the finance team was hesitant because, based on their calculations, switching to a new ATS would negatively impact ROI. In response, the TA team custom built a high-level business case for the finance team to highlight the value of a single source of records to reduce compliance risks. This influenced them to reconsider the project’s ROI—it also helped that, as the company’s existing contract approached expiration, the vendor raised the annual price significantly. Migrating off the existing system became a no-brainer—finance was on board.

March 2018

Vendor Selection
The TA team also made an effort to involve the intended system users in the selection process. University hiring, corporate hiring, and supply chain/store hiring were on three separate systems that didn’t communicate with each other. The TA team worked with each hiring team to ensure each of their hiring needs were addressed by the new system. The TA team understood that they couldn’t emphasize the benefits of the change when the new system launched, so they identified and educated champions in each team to do it for them.

It was a long and challenging journey of getting every stakeholder on board while moving the project forward, but it was well worth it. The decision to purchase a new solution went forward, and the company has been a happy SmartRecruiters customer since March 2018.