Is the talent shortage real or are we making it up?

by Saba Software | Posted | Career Management

Is the talent shortage real or are we making it up?

“Despite the continuing caution exercised by many companies amid ongoing economic uncertainty, a substantial portion of employers in the U.S. and worldwide identify a lack of available skilled talent as a continuing drag on business performance.”

So begins ManpowerGroup’s 2012 Talent Shortage Survey. And others are reporting similar findings.

I find these reports interesting given the high unemployment rates we’re seeing in Canada, the U.S. and much of Europe, particularly among the young. In fact, I just watched a fascinating documentary on the unemployment and underemployment of young workers in Canada.

It all has me wondering if this talent shortage is real or manufactured, and what we should be doing about it.

Yes, the current unemployment rates and talent shortages are undoubtedly complex problems that have many contributing factors. However, there are several things organizations can do to help alleviate them. Here’s a look at a few of them.

Be less picky–not all work has to be that specialized

Have you looked at job postings lately? Have you noticed how specialized and specific they’ve become? It almost seems like the current job incumbent is the only person who could possibly do the job. I sometimes wonder at my own marketability given what I’m reading.

What happened to hiring someone who had the basic skills and experience needed to grow into a job? Do we really need such highly specialized individuals for jobs in marketing, communications, finance, sales, etc.?

Maybe we need to rethink our job descriptions and job requisitions, and our expectations for specific skills and experience. I’d argue that demonstrating key competencies and being a good cultural fit can be more critical to high performance down the road than having the exact set of skills and experience at the outset.

It could be we’re turning away or overlooking good candidates because they don’t meet all the requirements of our exacting job postings.

Open a dialogue with educational institutions

If our educational institutions aren’t producing the kinds of workers we need, then maybe we need to talk to them about that. In Switzerland, where youth unemployment rates hover around 2.5%, employer federations are responsible for designing and evaluating the over 230 apprenticeship programs available nationally.

This mandate allows them to ensure the students who graduate from these programs have the skills and experience that each industry needs, and are therefore employable.

If you’re struggling to recruit skilled, qualified workers, start a dialog with your local educational institutions.

Allow good candidates to “apprentice”

Two of the universal qualities of top workers are passion and an ability to learn. So if you can’t find someone who exactly meets your ideal requirements for a job, lower your standards a bit.

Find someone whose skills and experience are close or related to what you’re looking for, but who demonstrates passion for their work and an ability to learn. Then let them learn on the job.

Think of it as an informal apprenticeship. While you will no doubt invest time and resources in training the new employee, you’ll likely get a good return on your investment.

Research by The Canadian Apprenticeship Forum has found that for every dollar an employer invests in an apprentice, they see an average return of $1.47. While this research looked at formal apprenticeships, surely you’d see similar results from this kind of informal apprenticeship.

Hire new grads

This is something Halogen has made a commitment to doing. As organizations, we have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of the communities in which we live. One of the ways to do that is to create employment, especially for the young.

How can we ever access an experienced talent pool if we never help them get that experience? Yes you’ll need to invest time in further developing their basic skills, but that investment will pay off. If not for your company directly then for your industry or the community where you do business.

And ultimately, that’s good for your business.

Invest in employee development

Another key way to alleviate the talent shortage is to invest in employee development. Your employees are resources you already have. Address your talent needs by constantly developing your current employees.

They already know your company, your customers, your industry, your products and services. Help them to broaden and/or deepen their knowledge skills and experience in a way that serves them and the organization.

Support internal movement

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Hand in hand with supporting employee development, supporting internal movement can help you address talent shortages.

Someone who works in training, and knows your products/services and customers inside out, might be a great fit for a marketing or customer support role.

I’ve known lots of product developers who made the successful leap to product management. I’ve even known an accountant who became a stellar project manager.

Yes every internal job change requires a period of “apprenticeship” or development. But you’ll likely see an increase in employee performance, engagement and retention as you support your employees’ career development and progression.

Support and encourage upward, lateral and even downward career moves to keep your best employees as they move through their career lifecycle.

Shift your mindset — employers as educators

Yes, the business climate is changing at what seems to be an ever increasing pace. Yes, the skills and experience required to compete and succeed are evolving. But how can we complain of a talent shortage when so there are so many out of work?

We seem to have a learning and development gap, rather than a talent shortage. Let’s stop wringing our hands and shift our mindset and do what we can to tackle it. Our businesses, industries and economies will be all the better for it.

For more on developing and training your workforce, read our employee development Center of excellence.

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