Archive for January, 2016

Are We Still Fighting the Talent War? Strategies to Help Improve Hiring and Retention

Kip Harrell, VP- Client Talent Acquisition, Govig & Associates

Talent Crisis

Remember the War for Talent that began about 20 years ago? It officially started with the 1997 McKinsey publication of the same name. Are we still fighting? Did we win? Well the answers are fairly simple – the War for Talent is still raging and some say it has become a crisis. The battle won’t be over for a long time. While those questions may be elementary and their answers simple, there are many other questions still unanswered and with far more complex answers.

Even with an unemployment rate around 5% and the economy showing steam, there are currently more than 5.4 million job openings in the U.S. The current college graduation rate is stagnant and according to a recent Georgetown University study, the economy will face a shortage of 5 million skilled workers with the education and training needed by 2020. Yikes.

There are multiple fronts to this war, too. Competitors are vying for the very same talent and the competition is fierce. Demographics are such that about 10,000 Baby Boomers retire each day. Millennials are the logical and only replacement for the most part, but there are challenges Millennials bring, including teaching our current supervisors and managers how to lead and develop this new work force. And, by the way, most companies probably need an internal cultural revolution of its own in order to keep these new workers happy.

And then there is you –me, us, HR, talent acquisition, the company. We can be our own worst enemy when we fail to spend money to train and develop our workforce. What’s up with that? Do employers not trust workers to stay long enough and therefore are reluctant to invest in training them? Or do workers leave too often because their employer has failed to train and develop them properly? Maybe this really a simple matter of building trust between the two parties. Or maybe not so simple.

Let’s pile on to the above with a few more tidbits. The recruiting balance scale has shifted and the advantage goes to the workers: more options, bigger salaries and an increasing number of demands to keep them happy. And don’t forget that we are in an era of the naked company. Most corporate laundry, clean or dirty, has been hung out to see at Glassdoor and similar sites. We are one upset employee or bad candidate experience away from a small disaster and it will require full damage control to protect our Employer Brand – that is, assuming we have one.
Most agree and will be agreeing for many years – the talent war really is a talent crisis. And we better start doing something about it. It doesn’t matter who fights the war- you as a business owner, manager, C-suite or talent management executive- it will take all of us to endure. Let me offer a few starter suggestions.


  1. Improve the employee engagement and retention strategy. The bottom line here is that job candidates are in high demand and cost a lot. Shouldn’t we be doing everything we can to keep them? Think engage to retain. Ask the Gallup Q12. And then actually do something with the answers. Think in terms of ways to increase recognition, total rewards, flextime, mobility, coaching and mentoring. According to a Globoforce survey, of those workers who feel appreciated, only about 20% consider looking for a new job, while for those that don’t feel engaged, 60% are actively seeking.
  2. Invest in recruiting infrastructure, processes and people. According to LinkedIn’s Global Trends Survey, 42% of companies lack a defined recruiting process. Seriously? If we are going to be competitive, we better have our internal resources and processes in place. Best recruiter’s attract the best people and these best recruiters are in high demand. They may be expensive and scarce but the candidate return is worth it. Hire them for their creativity, persistence, track records and winning attitudes.
  3. Change the traditional recruiting model. Hire to build bench strength. Forget just-in-time recruiting only when there is an opening. Focus instead on keeping the pipeline full. Recruiting should not be done on an as needed or part time basis and when someone is available to do recruiting. Hire early. Build and develop future managers and leaders from the ground up. Think more often about hiring for future potential and less on current skills.
  4. Hire Millennials and teach managers how to lead them. Traits and characteristics of Millennials are very different from Baby Boomer and Gen-X managers. We need to stop expecting this workforce to work like it is 2006. Managers who learned how to lead from other Boomers and Gen-Xers and who have not adapted won’t be successful if they don’t understand Millennials. We must change everything about our people management techniques to be effective with the new workforce – culture, environment, learning structures, motivation, feedback and communications.
  5. Go Mobile. Mobile is quickly overtaking desktop as the preferred job application channel. Glassdoor states that if we do not have a mobile portal, we may be losing as much as 45% of our potential applicant pool from applying and that 89% of job searchers use their mobile device to job search.
  6. Create the best employer brand possible. Employer or Talent Brand is different from corporate brand. It is what is commonly described as an organization’s reputation as an employer and most communicated through social and electronic media. We can control our Corporate Brand but only influence our Employer Brand. A compelling offer, tales from a Day in the Life, testimonials from employees, a good corporate social responsibility reputation and awards that push the hot buttons of our new emerging workforce should be part of the branding process. And let’s speak to our audiences in the right voice! Stop letting us Boomers dictate the message. If we are trying to sell opportunities to Millennials, we need to compose messages that will appeal to them and not our C-suite executives.
  7. Add leadership development and succession planning to our strategic initiatives. Let’s not forget about the current senior management team and their needs. Many executives pay lip service to this. We need to talk to our management teams and senior leaders. Do we know what their skill sets are? Do we know the areas of the company where they could contribute in areas outside their primary responsibility? Who is at risk for leaving? Who will succeed them if they do leave? We should be identifying the skill gaps and commit to closing them. We need to assess our current management talent and ensure we are planning for their future as well as the company’s. Call it risk management insurance.


Can we afford to do all of the above? Probably not. But if we want to be successful, shouldn’t we begin to make progress in some of these areas? It is time to start, albeit better late than never. Soon, there are going to be only two types of companies. Those that can figure out how to win the on-going talent war on all fronts and those who can’t.