how to attract and retain the most in-demand skilled talent.

November 22, 2022 Francesca Campalani

how to attract and retain the most in-demand skilled talent.

| 7 min read |

To say that hiring has become more complicated is an understatement. With near-record-low unemployment, a pandemic that unleashed a remote work revolution and candidates empowered like never before, hiring right-fit talent is no easy task. What makes recruiting even more challenging today is that, regardless of industry, many companies are competing to hire the same people.

According to Randstad Sourceright’s 2022 Global In-Demand Skills Report, new market intelligence on the top ten most needed skills today, specialized tech skills continue to be in high demand. Artificial intelligence/machine learning, cloud computing, big data, business intelligence, user interface/user experience, mobile app development and cybersecurity take the top seven slots. Demand for finance, sales and customer service skills is also surging, as those fields round out the top ten.

What can you do to overcome critical talent shortages and increased market competition? Of course, number one would be treating your people well — from pay to the most intangible cultural elements that make people feel they belong, are safe and are valued. It is an ongoing relationship that needs to be kept alive. It is a deal and it needs to be respected because sometimes it's really down to the authentic connection between your brand promise and your behavior.

Unfortunately, companies often get employer brand and talent marketing wrong by using a one-size-fits-all approach, regardless of role or job type. Instead, you should aim to understand the needs and goals of the talent segment you’re trying to hire, get a strong understanding of what your company has to offer them and tailor your messages accordingly. We call that talent branding (read here for the article dedicated to talent brands).

offer what tech talent actually wants

With the ongoing digital transformation, tech talent is in high demand across all industries; all enterprises rely on positions like web developers, big data specialists, cybersecurity experts and more. But when recruiting this segment, businesses often focus too much on perks to stand out: that start-up life that has become part of our pop culture, our collective imaginary, our movies.

Ping pong tables and happy hours are lovely — who would not want ping pong — but they won’t do much to meet the professional needs of tech talent, who find satisfaction also in continually using and growing their skills, playing with the latest technologies and exploring intellectual challenges. Opportunities like these give tech professionals the chance to upskill, remain relevant and valuable in the market and do work that is meaningful to them.

If you are not an uber cool start-up or a big desirable tech brand, instead of buying an ice cream parlor to keep in the office, play with fine technologies. Let your tech people express themselves and enable them to achieve their goals. There is nothing worse than hiring a tech talent and forcing them to hear: no, it cannot be done.

Aside from brand notoriety, this is what start-ups and big tech brands can often offer great tech professionals. But, if your company is not one that can do the same, you can still compete. Here’s where it becomes increasingly important to understand what your culture and environment authentically have to offer these professionals.

Is innovation part of your culture? A variety of projects? Can you provide more flexible working opportunities than your competitors? Is work-life balance a priority? Can people relocate wherever they want?

Many of the big tech firms require employees to work on-site again, or at least in hybrid roles. Offering fully remote work can help win over talent who want to continue to have the choice. Maybe they don’t live — or want to live — near the major tech hubs.

Maybe they have disabilities, are caregivers or simply value the flexibility remote work offers above all else. Let people choose. It will be the evidence that you value people and you value freedom — two beliefs talent appreciate dearly.

Focusing your talent marketing messages on the interesting projects they’ll work on or highlighting the company’s internal mobility program can also give your company an advantage. When you paint a picture of long-term career growth and opportunities ahead, you’ll attract people who are hoping to advance in the future.

What is critical is that it has to be real. Don’t advertise work-life balance if you expect your people to work late hours or be on-call all weekend. Employer branding is not the art of lies; it is the art of kept promises.

don’t look for people that don’t exist

For most tech talent, if they’re not excited about the work they’d be doing or don’t feel they’re making an impact, they’ll pass on the opportunity. That’s why including these factors in your job ads is critical. Also, all too often, job posts include an excessively long list of requirements and responsibilities, which might turn great candidates (and often diverse candidates) off — taking recruitment from “niche” to “impossible” and incredibly hurting workforce diversity.

We have seen job advertisements asking for a junior cloud engineer with 20 years experience. Life would be splendid if such unicorns existed and roamed in fields of strawberry and cream, ready to be hired. But they don’t, so be realistic. Be nimble. Look for potential and real talent, not the superhero you have in mind.

Rather than focusing on what the perfect candidate should be able to do, job descriptions should also describe what the imperfectly human candidate could do and would want in their next role. This will help your company to genuinely stand out from the crowd and allow talent to connect with what’s possible. Revising your job requirements can also give you an advantage by showing talent that you are willing to invest in their potential.

let customer service pros know they’re valued

Demand for customer service roles is also surging, with more than 15 million job postings requiring customer service skills over the past year in the U.S. alone. Given the delicate role they play by often being the first and only contact with customers, the value of such jobs is clear. Similar to the tech fields, however, companies are having a hard time hiring for, and then retaining, these professionals. Most of the time because their value is not recognized when it comes to pay.

Unfortunately, given there are other jobs which require less effort and energy (customer service can be a draining job) it’s likely that your potential talent will accept whichever job pays them the most, regardless of the brand or role. Paying fair and living wages, valuing them, offering growth and possibilities are, therefore, critical (and ethical).

Some companies are gaining a competitive customer service recruiting advantage by offering jobs to people who currently work those jobs that are a great ‘school’ for customer service skills and expertise. After all, many of the skills people gain in entry-level service and retail roles are transferable. As the In-Demand Skills Report shows, the top three growing soft skills requested for customer service roles are communication, organization, and teamwork — all valuable skills gained, for example, in food service industry positions.

Your employer brand and talent marketing strategies can make an impact here as well. Job ads that clearly show career paths and long-term development with the company can offer these individuals stability. As with tech professionals, showing opportunities for growth and highlighting other employees who have had success, can make the opportunity more attractive.

For instance, many of the skills associated with customer service roles are also adjacent to sales roles. Showing customer service agents how they could potentially transition into a lucrative sales career could motivate them to apply and then to stay for the long term.

3 more ways to overcome talent shortages

Regardless of the particular skills you’re hiring for, here are three more ways to widen your talent pools and attract great people.

  1. Don’t limit your search to full-time positions.
    Whether busy parents, retirees or those looking for the flexibility of project work, hiring part-time or contingent workers can help fill critical skills gaps. But to retain them, make sure they are given the same opportunities for rewards and promotions as their full-time colleagues.
     
  2. Hire for potential.
    Be realistic and understand that no one might be the perfect fit today, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be in the future. Hiring people who show strong potential, and providing the training and development they need to acquire in-demand skills, is another way to help overcome talent scarcity. And to increase diversity, making talent acquisition one of the most strategic business levers of change.
     
  3. Put all of your people first.
    It’s important not to lose sight of your other segments — those whose skills aren’t in high demand right now. All employees need to be nurtured and continually developed, or they may leave if they feel neglected. And with potential hiring freezes ahead, you don’t want to lose people who make business run smoothly every day.

    Also, who knows, one day they could have the upper hand and be in demand. What will you do then? Understanding all of your people needs and the skills they currently have can help you map opportunities for training and development to grow and adapt as business demands change.

show that you care about people, not just their high-demand skills

In a tight talent market, and always, companies need every advantage they can get to attract, hire and retain talent with in-demand skills — or at least have a solid strategy for developing current employees to transform their capabilities and explore new ways of working.

The key is to adapt your talent marketing to focus on the rich natural diversity of your workforce, and adapting your employee value proposition and hiring methodology to the various talent segments. Different professional communities — including everyone, not just highly skilled professionals — need different experiences and have their own unique range of goals and dreams. Help them all. Care for them all. Be transparent and honest with them all. The ideas included here can help secure the talent you need today, but also build a brand and reputation that will help you attract the right people in the long-term, no matter what the future holds. And the future, whether you influence it or not, is coming anyhow.

Learn more about today’s top high-demand skills. Download the “2022 Global in-demand skills report.

About the Author

Francesca Campalani

As the global head of Talent Marketing for Randstad Enterprise Group, Francesca Campalani is a business-obsessed and creative thought leader with more than 20 years of experience in consumer marketing, talent marketing, employer branding, diversity and culture.

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