To COE or Not to COE – That is the Question

To COE or Not to COE – That is the Question

Ahhh… the “Center of Excellence” (or “Center of Expertise” as a former employer insisted on calling it) – what is it and do you need one?

A Center of Excellence (COE) is a group of people with specialized skills or knowledge who provide that knowledge to the entire organization with the goal of increasing efficiency and effectiveness across the organization.  They typically design, roll-out and manage critical recruiting programs and strategies.  In talent acquisition, COEs typically consolidate specialized TA knowledge that it is impossible for a recruiter or recruiting leader to acquire due to their focus on the daily process of filling open positions.

Functions that typically exist inside a TA COE are:

  • Recruitment Marketing
  • Employment Branding
  • Recruiter Training
  • Systems selection and management (possibly in partnership with HRIS or IT)
  • Critical program management (internships, employee referrals, military recruiting, etc.)
  • Data Analytics and Metrics

Every COE is different and may contain all or just some of the functions above. Others may own programs like onboarding, temporary staffing, or even college recruiting.

Talent acquisition COEs take on the activities that make the most sense to be centralized to increase efficiency and ensure consistency.  For example, if each individual recruiter was responsible for determining the recruitment marketing budget and plan for only the positions they recruit for, a company would likely be spending more than necessary on job postings and recruitment ads as the purchases wouldn’t be consolidated.  In addition, the time the individual recruiter spent doing this would take away time from filling actual positions.

A COE provides many advantages to a TA team.  COE team members can quickly become experts in their area of focus.  Here are some examples:

  • You could have a single person concentrate on identifying and screening possible new technology solutions for your team.  Every member of your team who receives non-stop vendor calls wanting to show you the Next Great Thing in recruiting tech, can direct those vendors to one person.  That person can determine what solutions can help solve your most pressing problems, research the options in the market, view demos of the vendor solutions and recommend the best ones to your TA leadership.  This approach saves every recruiter time and ensures that your company is aware of solutions that could benefit your process.
  • Instead of having multiple recruiting leaders creating and running reports to then create metrics and analytics decks for your leadership to review, you can have one analytics expert in your COE.  This expert can truly be a data expert.  They don’t necessarily have to have a significant recruiting background (although understanding the nuances of the recruiting process is necessary for an effective recruiting analytics person).  This analyst can create robust reporting (in whatever tools you have) and build those time-consuming metrics decks on a regular basis (the best ones even know how to automate the development of the decks).  This individual’s focus frees your recruiting leaders to interpret and analyze the data and understand what is going on in the business vs. fighting with report tools and Powerpoint.
  • An employment branding specialist can ensure that your brand message is clear and consistent across all of your marketing efforts – from your career site to your employee referral collateral to your career fair booth to you social media properties.  If this type of responsibility is dispersed across multiple recruiters, you are guaranteed to have inconsistent and/or outdated messaging.

Do you need a COE in your TA function?

While most TA teams could benefit from centralizing most of the stated functions, it doesn’t always make sense to launch a formal COE in all organizations.  COEs can have the most impact in the following situations:

  • When recruiting teams are decentralized, but you all share systems, tools, branding, and marketing.
  • When you have a large recruiting function (centralized or decentralized) – typically more than 20 recruiters.

Even if you don’t think a formal COE is right for you, it might make sense to centralize some of the functions stated above into a single person (or a few people) who report directly to your TA leader.  Individuals in these types of roles can take distracting work off of your recruiters’ plates and allow them to focus on their top priority – getting positions filled.

If you aren’t sure if you need a COE or how to start creating one, please drop us a note at  We can conduct an assessment and recommend a COE structure and implementation plan that will work in your culture and budget.

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