The Talent Shortage – Fact Or Fiction?

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I’ve read articles written by experts that claim to debunk the skills shortage myth. But those same people have never been faced with the very real challenge of identifying and attracting an impact performer for a growth company today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, an impact performer is a candidate that has both the hard and soft skills to satisfy the requirements of a role and fit seamlessly within the unique work culture of said organization. Did I mention he has to be incredibly motivated? And the arrangement must work both ways – the position must also evolve his professional career and provide fulfillment long-term. With the high expectations I set for my recruiting team, it’s no easy feat.

Credit: ionasj.com
Credit: ionasj.com

I’m tasked with this lofty goal every day and within the past ten years my cost per hour has gone through the roof – that’s no myth. Updating my listings to the latest job board application, making an effort to not fall behind on trending topics on twitter, arranging Skype dates with out-of-state candidates, and checking my LinkedIn every half hour are just a few of the changes I’ve made to keep up in the recruiting world and find that “special someone.” And the fun never ends. I’ve spent countless nights dragging myself to networking events after a 10-hour workday in hopes that I’ll find the prince or princess that can fit into the glass slipper my client has carefully crafted.

Take engineering – the industry I’ve dedicated my recruiting and consulting life to. Over the past few decades, it’s been a desert out there and I’m not the only one who’s complaining. In order to combat low test scores in science among American students and catch up to global rivals in innovation, politicians and industry groups have called on colleges to graduate 10,000 more engineers a year and 100,000 new teachers with majors in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math. If technology is the future, we are doing a woeful job of preparing our kids for it.

And the problem doesn’t stop with our youngsters. “We’re losing an alarming proportion of our nation’s science talent once the students get to college,” says Mitchell J. Chang, an education professor at U.C.L.A. “It’s not just a K-12 preparation issue.” While efforts to produce engineers have caused a rise in college freshman majoring in a STEM field studies show that only 40 percent of students planning engineering and science majors end up switching to other subjects or failing to get any degree due to the tough curriculum or lack of interest. And computer science has actually seen a decrease in student participation over the last 20 years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. To make matters worse, the number of women involved in the industry is falling, despite the high-profile government initiatives relating to non-gender specific STEM education. Still think the talent shortage is a myth?

Employers aren’t making the search any easier. Judging from their high demands, I can tell you with utmost certainty, long gone are the days when recruiters could squeeze or mold the right person into a role. What used to take 25 touch points to find the perfect match now takes hundreds in order to present a manageable few. Hiring managers are lamenting the same challenges and are actively crunching numbers to figure out the economic impact a bad hire or an unfilled position has on an organization.

But while companies are measuring client metrics in terms of quality, market share, and financial growth, few have adopted any kind of key performance indicators for their staff. Technology has provided an amazing platform for data analytics, but it’s time we all realize that there is a real struggle for talent, and good preparation on an organization’s part is mandatory in order to maintain a competitive edge in the business world in spite of the skills deficit. For starters, employers must manage the talent they have effectively by instituting KPIs that relate directly to its growth plan.

 

BEAT THE SKILLS DEFICIT WITH SOLID PREPARATION

Align talent correctly. Do you know if your staff is engaged in their roles? From my experience, management is usually the last to find out whether or not its people are challenged and fulfilled in their positions. Be sure that you are placing your staff members in the right roles, are taking proactive measures to retain them for the long haul, and utilizing every drop of talent they have to offer.

Devise a human capital strategy. Study your company’s organization chart, find out where the gaps exist, map out succession plans, measure employee performance, and implement training programs. These best practices should all be set in motion with the bigger picture, namely your company’s growth plan, in mind.

Fill the gaps. Having a position go unfilled is like coming up short on the products or services you offer to your clients. I realize that your external customer is always ranked number one in your book, but in order to properly cater to their needs, you must also take the time to consider your internal customers (staff members).

Predict future needs. By planning ahead and getting organized, you’ll make better hiring decisions rather than last-minute ones based on short-term operational needs instead of long-term business goals.

Be prepared to pay for good talent. One of my clients, a smaller manufacturing company in Michigan, has been looking for a specialty engineer for over a year. Here’s the kicker – they expect this new hire to take a $9,000 pay cut. In a buyer’s market, where the supply of engineers surpasses the demand, employers need to realize that this talent won’t come cheap.


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