Manufacture talent

Faced with an acute talent shortage, employers continue to re-assess how to “manufacture” the talent they need to prosper.

For millions of job seekers, this is a frustrating conundrum. Job seekers want to work and have capabilities, but employers are becoming increasingly specific about the skills they want for employment.

ManpowerGroup’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey revealed that 52 percent of U.S. employers are having difficulty filling mission-critical positions, up from 14 percent in 2010. The top three jobs identified as the most challenging to fill include skilled trades, sales representatives and engineers.

The survey indicated that “old” skill requirements are not meeting the new job demands. To illustrate, the former criterion for hiring a sales representative included assertiveness, a thorough knowledge of product or service, a competitive nature and determination to achieve goals. Now, contrast these with the “new” sales representative competency requirements:

  • Excellent oral presentation and communication skills.
  • Consultative approach.
  • Ability to read people and diagnose problems.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving.
  • Top notch organizational skills.
  • Integrity.
  • Perseverance.

Once upon a time, it was common practice for companies to invest in employees’ professional development. What could not be coached or trained in-house was outsourced. Leaders viewed professional development as an investment in the company’s future. But, as revenue and profit margins declined, training departments and professional development were eliminated.

Mounting pressures emanating from the shrinking talent pool have forced corporate leaders to re-evaluate the cost/benefit ratios of talent acquisition and talent development.

In the “old” days, leaders could hire just in time – when a business need arose. But times have changed and the shrinking talent pool has leaders re-evaluating the benefits of developing talent and promoting from within.

If they venture down that path, the concern shifts to retention.

The answer lies in creating an attractive culture where the best and brightest want to work. Visionary executives recognize that to become a great place to work requires a dedicated commitment. I recall a conversation with a CEO of an international financial institution who said, “I work at building our culture every day!” The results speak for themselves as they have been voted one of the best places to work for eight consecutive years.

To create a workplace that is attractive and rewarding to top talent, consider how these culture builders become company differentiators:

  1. Leadership authencity: Are senior leaders trustworthy? Do they say what they mean, and mean what they say? Are they predictable? What values do they promote? Are their behaviors, especially in difficult times, reflective of the company’s promoted core values?
  2. Leadership/management commitment: Do leaders seek feedback and embrace new ideas? Do they genuinely care about their employees’ well-being and if so, how is that demonstrated? Do leaders make time to connect in meaningful ways with employees?
  3. Leverage strengths and talents: Are employees encouraged to leverage their unique talents and strengths? Do employees feel they have permission to offer ideas and strategies for improving productivity and output, even when what their suggestions challenge the status quo?
  4. Professional development: How are employees encouraged to expand their knowledge and talent? What is the commitment to professional growth and development demonstrated throughout the year?
  5. Organizational pride: Do employees recruit talented individuals to the company by promoting the company as a great place to work?
  6. Performance expectations tied to organizational success: Do employees understand what is expected from them? Can they track and monitor their own performance? Do they understand how their work advances the strategic plan and why that is important? Are they excited about the company’s vision and value statements?
  7. Job satisfaction: Are employees happy? Is turnover low because people love the culture and the work they do?
  8. Team relationships: Do employees trust, respect and feel connected to other team members?
  9. Discretionary effort: Are employees willing to put in extra effort?
  10. Learning culture: How willingly do employees embrace new ideas? New strategies? New methodologies? How well does the senior leadership team embrace new ideas? New suggestions? New strategies especially when it is offered by someone in the “ranks”?

Top talent is attracted to success. The best and the brightest enjoy being challenged when the output is meaningful and measurable. They are self-driven and feel the thrill of accomplishment when they achieve what others say is impossible. And while they expect to be appropriately compensated, they set the bar high and deliver so they pay for themselves.

As you prepare for success in the new year, allocate time to review these factors with your leadership team. Ask them to individually rank each of these strategies from 1 – 5, 1 being most in need of improvement to 5 being least in need of improvement. Compile their votes and identify which three items rank highest in needing improvement. Discuss that value of investing resources behind these developmental areas and then develop measurable action steps.

Attracting and retaining top talent doesn’t happen by accident. It takes an ongoing and conscientious commitment to achieving and sustaining business excellence.

Wishing you continued success in the new year!

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