Position your company for the ‘Human Age’

As a manager, I apply three core principles to the art of interviewing and hiring good people: (1) You can’t teach “smart;” (2) You can’t fix “stupid;” and (3) Personality counts for as much as technical skills and experience.

Few things in my professional life are more exhilarating or rewarding than making the right hire and watching a young journalist soar to new heights. I’m certain employers and managers in other fields have felt that same sense of accomplishment and pride with their people.

Unfortunately, for many employers, that feat is becoming more difficult, according to ManpowerGroup’s new report, “Hire and Retain the Best with Success Mapping: New Models for Unlocking Human Potential.”
Despite high unemployment rates, employers globally face steep challenges in finding the right talent. According to ManpowerGroup’s 2011 Talent Shortage Survey, one in three respondents report difficulty filling vacant roles, while 28 percent of employers report a lack of experience in candidates as a key barrier to filling vacancies.

“So while employers worldwide are trying to hire, they simply can’t find the right candidates. And they’ve become increasingly better at making do with existing workers. Organizations which streamlined their workforce during the downturn learned to maximize the potential of employees, by layering job descriptions across fewer roles. With a doing-more-with-less mentality, employers are more likely to budget for only the right talent, offering a specific mix of skills and competencies. What this means is that hiring today is contingent on finding the perfect fit,” the ManpowerGroup report concluded.

Milwaukee-based ManpowerGroup is calling this new era the “Human Age,” a time when individual human traits are the most valuable corporate assets, because in the aftermath of the “Information Age,” every company has access to the information it needs.

“Individuals’ strengths and potential, which define talentism, have become the world of work’s new capitalism,” the report stated. “Employers cite collaborative teaming as the No. 1 competency missing in today’s new hires and candidates. Interpersonal skills and enthusiasm/motivation levels follow.”

This new era also is posing an unprecedented challenge to the American educational system. The value of the traditional four-year college degree, heaping tens of thousands of dollars on debt upon the student, while often falling short of developing the skills that employers need, is being questioned across the board.

Employers need to rethink their hiring processes.

“Flexible skills and a learning mindset, which enable individuals to adapt to diversified, cross-department roles, are more important than ever, as slimmer businesses fight to remain competitive and sustainable. Hard skills are equally as important, yet rapidly evolving technology means many core technical skills quickly become obsolete. In short, employers seek flexible individuals with strong hard skills and workplace competencies (traditionally known as “soft skills”), yet continue to use outdated methods to attract and retain this talent,” the ManpowerGroup report stated.

In the end, businesses must work with governmental institutions and the educational system to develop the talent they will need, the report concluded.

“The world has entered a new era; employers demand more from their employees and yet are reluctant to hire those who are unlikely to add value to their organization,” the report stated. “Only by identifying what success looks like — and committing to helping employees advance their businesses will today’s employers truly unlock human potential and bolster competitiveness in the Human Age.”

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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