Human Resources: Attract top talent

In a season when we hear more discouraging news each day about jobs being lost, I was surprised to learn the results of Manpower’s 2009 Talent Shortage Survey.

This survey is not to be taken lightly, as Manpower surveys about 39,000 employers across 33 countries and territories in order to measure employers’ ability to find essential talent.

In spite of high unemployment, the survey results point to a shortage of talent in specific areas – key areas where employers need help. So it seems that while there is an overabundance of available workers, 30 percent of employers are nevertheless struggling to fill the following positions: skilled manual trades, sales reps, technicians, engineers, management/executives, accounting and finance staff, laborers, production operators, administrative assistants and drivers. 

Remember this is a global measure. There may be more jobs for engineers in Taiwan or New Zealand than in Chicago. Still, even in the Americas, the survey results show that 36 percent of employers can’t find suitable talent for the positions on this list. (The complete report of Manpower’s survey is available at

Another survey done in conjunction with found that nearly 83 percent of respondents expect greater competition for talent five years from now. This survey took place late in 2008.

So, in spite of so many jobs being lost, attracting and retaining the best talent is still the business owner’s number one priority, and the best insurance for lasting success. The latest research gives me pause. I was not believing those leaders in the big financial houses when they defended the large bonuses by saying it was the only way they could keep their top talent. Now I’m having second thoughts. (Not that I can make peace with their asking for bailouts and then doling out bonuses that make my head spin.)

In the search for talent, the key is to build a reputation as a place where people want to work.

If you create that in your culture, it will become known. Word-of-mouth is probably the most powerful force that will attract top talent to your organization. There are also many online and print articles that award “Best Place to Work” titles, with varying criteria.

There are definite steps you can take to create that level of magnetism in your organization and it will increase your chances of finding the top talent in your industry. Furthermore, it will help you keep them around after they’re on board. About one-fourth of U.S. employees leave their jobs in the first year. 

So how do you prevent that expensive and disheartening turnover? Many of the steps boil down to these two: 

1. Care about your employees. 

2. Show them you care.

Step one is interior work and you must search your own heart and mind to find – or develop – that humane attitude toward the people working for you. Caring about their values, their dreams, their work-life balance doesn’t mean you have to become best buddies with them. It doesn’t mean you have to be Mr. Personality, beaming goodwill throughout the office all day. In fact, recent studies of the most successful business organizations reveal that their CEOs are often analytical and a bit distant from their employees. Still, they care deeply about their welfare and find ways to make that evident. 

Employees report that they are more committed to an organization when a mentoring/coaching program is in place where experienced employees are paired with newer ones. Employees want to grow and learn, so they are more likely to stay in a company that offers stimulating educational opportunities geared to their interests. Fair compensation is essential if you want to attract and keep top talent. Never think prospective or current employees won’t find out the range of salaries in the marketplace. Never think they won’t know if you’re paying someone a lot more than they’re getting for a comparable position.

The benefit package is such a complex issue and becoming more so each day. Still, you have to tangle with it and leaders who involve a broad range of employees in the process will build loyalty and avoid many misunderstandings. 

Employees need recognition and respect. How they come to feel appreciated and valued will vary from individual to individual, and may change during one’s tenure with your company. So the employee must have an easy outlet for giving feedback. Someone must be listening deeply and regularly. Delivering criticism is an art and should never be done in public. (I am always a bit stunned to hear bosses still do that, and they do!) 

Celebration of victories large and small goes a long way to build an environment in which loyalty and positive attitudes prevail. What would you rather do around the office, whine or celebrate?

And when your company starts receiving accolades like “Best Place to Work” let me know. I’ll help you celebrate.

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