In our recent article Three Challenges to Managing Technical Talent, we reviewed several emerging talent management issues that put business operations at risk. The challenges we outlined are especially urgent for companies that compete for skilled and increasingly rare technical talent, because these resources disproportionately influence a company’s ability to transform digitally. Managing the shift to digital has become core to the execution of the modern business strategy, regardless of industry. The pivot that many organizations are making involves leveraging technology to achieve more agile and efficient operations, and if managed well, will provide a meaningful edge over the competition. Companies are applying innovative tactics to source and manage the resources they need to build the necessary capabilities and address emerging talent challenges. In our research, we determined these tactics generally fall into a number of key strategic areas.
Widen the Aperture on Talent: Broaden the scope of your search by tapping into new labor pools. Sounds simple enough, but requires revisiting every assumption you’ve made about what a successful hire looks like. It may not be easy to challenge orthodoxies that have been engrained over the years, but doing so has the potential to unlock a much broader set of options to choose from.
To some, that might sound like a compromise, but we argue this expansion helps to focus the search on what’s most important in a new hire. Finding the right talent today is more about the skills and experiences applicants have gained vs. traditional qualifications. Look for the technical skill sets you need in boot camps and coding schools or technical high schools and community colleges. Additionally, experienced professionals like stay-at-home parents are a rich source of talent for companies like Toptal and Catalant and more accessible now that we are more comfortable with remote working arrangements. Use consultants and freelancers to fill specialized skill gaps and to provide as-needed expertise in the capability areas that are not core to your strategic advantage but essential to getting important work done.
Develop Enduring University & College Relationships: Identify learning institutions that can provide the right kinds of talent and work with them to shape program design and curricula to better align to what you need. Sounds self-serving and of course it is, but the tactic benefits students by enhancing their preparedness for the labor market, and schools by enhancing their brand as an institution that helps the community and provides students with better access to opportunities.
The dearth of technical talent coming out of North American schools is encouraging high growth organizations to look further upstream and invest in building close partnerships with schools so they can influence program design. These businesses are building for the future by detailing capabilities needed to accomplish long-term growth goals and creating a pipeline of talent around them. Clarify the skills and experiences that make the difference between a good and a great hire in critical roles and then focus on partnering with schools that incorporate learning events (including internships) and experiences that develop them. We can see a great example of this tactic applied in 2017 when Howard University partnered with Google to launch a three-month, summer Computer Science residency for rising juniors and seniors called Howard West. The residency includes a dedicated workspace on Google’s Mountain View campus and a generous stipend to cover housing and other expenses in Silicon Valley.
Provide an Exceptional Candidate Experience: Put a measurement system in place that enables a continuous review of how the hiring process is experienced by applicants. Very few talent acquisition (TA) teams have good data and visibility on what the journey looks like for a candidate, and without visibility, there can be no action. TA resources are consumed by the unrelenting task of keeping up with tens of thousands of resumes, often leaving measurement needs unaddressed. Assign the project to a data analytics resource or team with a clear project mandate vs. professionals that will be distracted by day-to-day operations. The solution should be uncomplicated and automated through the ATS – outsource this if you must.
As you collect and analyze the data, remember applicants (applied to position) and candidates (qualified for position) present a different value proposition to the organization. Pay special attention to individuals put forward for interview because they are more closely aligned with the talent you truly want and need. The insights you glean should allow you to personalize and humanize the experience by directing TA resources to higher value applicants. The businesses that succeed in attracting and retaining top talent in the future will make the process less mechanical, more seamless, provide a differentiated “pitch” to different candidate profiles, all the while leveraging technology to ensure speed and quality of communications. Both are highly correlated with candidate experience.
Provide Differentiated Culture, Work Environment and Rewards: Compete more effectively by offering a differentiated EVP that sets you apart from the businesses you compete with, and resonates with the types of talent you need in your most critical roles. We know that technical employees care particularly about products and the technology stack. Develop a deep understanding of the workforce through pulse surveys and create employee profiles that highlight a) what different roles generally care about, and b) what different individuals want from their employer within and across roles. Individual needs can now more easily be discerned from enterprise data. Design programs that are flexible around compensation, learning, and time-off that allow for individual tailoring. The key is to build flexibility into the system and allow employees to make choices that work for them.
Increase Employee Mobility: Build the systems and processes that create visibility and provide access to opportunities inside the business. Newer generations entering the workforce today really do have itchy feet. More than previous generations, they crave new and different experiences, which translate into a desire for more frequent moves. One of our clients recently discovered 20% of the workforce were applying for open positions internally every year. Even though the majority were highly valued contributors, few succeeded in their search. When their search was unsuccessful, they had a high probability of voluntary termination (60% within the following year) making up nearly 50% of overall employee turnover. Imagine the business impact of retaining even some of these resources, as well as the implications for hiring, productivity, engagement, leadership bench, etc.
Start by discovering how much movement you see today. Document the most important reasons why internal applications are low or why applicants are unsuccessful. Change processes, measurement approach and incentives to deliver more options for employees to move, and then promote the practice every way you can. Use technology to find and match opportunities for your workforce but with an initial focus on key employee profiles and the individuals that are most valued. The opportunity to broaden skill sets will encourage Millennials, Gen Z and Gen Alpha employees to remain. Plus, the exposure you provide will increase their value to your organization and better prepare them for the next vertical move and who you want running the business.
As work requirements and employee expectations change rapidly in today’s market, talent management practices must evolve along with them. Looking for a solution? Contact us today.
For further reading on similar topics, visit Three Challenges to Managing Technical Talent and Talent Management Strategy That Delivers Business Results.
Additional perspectives on talent.