skills shortage are set to worsen, so how will you resolve the problem?

March 30, 2016

when talent scarcity starts to hurt your business, a strategic revision is needed

Talent leaders, take heed: for years you’ve fought for a seat at the table, and now that you’re there, it’s time to deliver. At a time when many CEOs are anxious about finding talent to help execute their business plans, now is the time for you to save the day.

There’s no question that talent scarcity is causing many business leaders to experience sleepless nights. There are so many signs that a severe talent shortage is negatively affecting business that economists and executives around the globe are sounding alarms. From a severe shortage of IT specialists in the UK to a looming healthcare crisis in North America due to unprecedented nursing retirements, companies everywhere are concerned with filling their talent pipelines. Looking at the demographics in many markets, I simply don’t see an easy fix for these structural problems.

Just consider some recent headlines that underscore the problem.

  • In its 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, PwC found that 73% of CEOs say the availability of key skills is one of their top three concerns, second only to worries about over regulation. This is especially troubling because 50% say they plan to increase headcount in the next 12 months.
  • Last year, the Conference Board of Canada reported that British Columbia is losing as much as CAD $4.7 billion in economic activity and CAD $616 million in provincial tax revenues a year because local workers lack the skills needed by businesses.
  • In 2014, the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) reported that the UK economy is losing out on £18 billion due to 520,000 job vacancies that small businesses are unable to fill due to a lack of skills.
  • In the US, STEM skills continue to be in high demand. The unemployment rate for computer and mathematical occupations was reported at 2.6% at the end of 2015, considered nearly full employment for the sector.

These are just some indicators of the tightening skills shortage around the world. But it’s a problem you know firsthand. According to our 2016 Talent Trends Survey, 72% of talent leaders said scarcity has negatively affected their business. Even more noteworthy is that 82% of their business leaders have declared talent acquisition a priority for their organizations.

 

consider the big picture

These shortages aren’t restricted to just one sector or skill set such as STEM. In industries such as manufacturing, healthcare, life sciences and others, a scarcity of talent is slowing some companies’ growth and forcing others to invest more in recruitment and staffing. Business plans are put on hold until talent can be found.

So how can you help your organization power its talent engine while looking like a hero? Your talent strategy must evolve with the times. Conventional tactics aren’t working, so why are they still in your playbook? Take a hard look at what’s happening in your industry and take a creative approach to addressing the challenge. Here are some big-picture considerations:

    1.Overcome skill mismatch: Today’s digital economy is creating plenty of opportunities for those with the right skills but a nightmare for those left behind. Rapidly evolving technology means you either have to acquire talent or upskill your existing workforce. But in reality, you have to do both — actively recruit specialists while growing your own with training and development programs, apprenticeships and university outreach.
     
    2.Expand the pool: If you’ve always looked to the same talent pool to fulfill your needs, be prepared for a bidding war. To avoid this, scope out new candidate pools — outside your industry, in new geographies and even different demographics. Today’s talent scarcity is forcing hiring managers to redefine the perfect talent (66% said so in our survey), which also means they are looking beyond traditional hunting grounds.
     
    3. Build your brand: The employer brand has never been more important to attracting great talent. It has to be genuine, transparent and well-communicated to catch-on with workers. The good news is that many of your peers know this and are earmarking investments to support brand development. The bad news is not all of them are well executed. Look externally if you don’t have the right competencies on the inside to do justice to your brand. 
     
    4. Use the right tools: All of your talent strategies can be enhanced with the right technology. Whether it’s a mobile app to improve the candidate experience, automated assessment of applicants, recruitment marketing platforms to streamline processes or analytics to provide guidance, choosing the right tools will give you an edge in engaging the best talent.
     

By rethinking how you engage, attract and develop talent, the scarcity concerns keeping your executives up at night might not be so daunting. By clearly communicating to business leaders how your enhanced strategy differentiates your employer brand, develops new sources of talent and helps your workforce adapt to the changing times, you can help them rest easier.

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