Tactics for winning the talent war

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by Genevieve Roberts

Tactics for winning the talent war
The war for talent is not new, but it’s intensifying every day, as the talent pool continues to shrink. But how bad is it, and what are companies doing to win the war for top talent?

Forty-three percent of Human Resource professionals surveyed by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) indicated that demographic shifts of skilled workers would have a “major impact” on their organizations. Fourteen percent feel the need to radically restructure to compensate. And 48 percent felt the need to develop better retention strategies.

The Challenge

Understanding what drives the current labor shortage is helpful:

Aging Workforce
Baby boomers will exit the workforce practically en masse—79 million within 10 years. U.S. unemployment rates continue dropping (from 4.6 percent in 2005 to 4.3 percent in 2006) with Virginia hovering at around 3 percent, forcing companies to actively recruit passive job seekers.

Fewer College Graduates
Although more men and women are entering college, the number of graduates is dropping. In five to 10 years, competition for college-educated talent will tighten dramatically.

Immigration Constraints
Since 9/11, skilled foreigners are being denied entry in record numbers. H-1B visas issued for highly skilled workers have shrunk from 200,000 per year in 2001 to 65,000. Our share of overseas travelers since 2000 has dropped 20 percent.

Winning Tactics
Grow Your Own
Retain talent by assessing vacancies, selecting talent with potential and grooming for success. For example, a firm that is expanding its technological products may need to fill engineering and marketing jobs. That means recruiting processes, compensation levels and hiring techniques may need revamping.

Select employees who have potential for movement. For example, Toyota reports that only “10 percent of job applicants pass screening tests that include team-building exercises” because it believes this attribute has helped build a great company.

Once employees are targeted for potential roles, assess where they are against a competency model and create an individualized development plan to maximize their potential including mentoring, training, researching, temporary assignments to new departments, and, of course, learning from mistakes.

Growing your own is an investment, but it beats recruiting from scratch, particularly for leadership. Even Harvard University is touting the slogan “Don’t Hire Great Leaders, Make Your Own” in its 2007 Financial Times ad.

Hold On To Great Employees 
Offer benefits based on demographics: A younger workforce is interested in time off while an older work force values retirement options.

Take the perspective of John Stewart, chief security officer at San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems. “Cisco hugely embraces the idea that employees can also do personal business in work hours, because so many employees are doing work in their personal hours. Provided their work objectives are met, their personal and work lives will be more harmonious.”

SHRM notes top actions that many organizations are taking:
• Train managers to respond to generational differences
• Plan actively for succession of key managers
• Invest in training to boost skills
• Foster a better work/life balance
• Offer options that attract generations X and Y
• Invest in “intelligent recruiting”

Call in the Recruitment Experts
Many companies enlist the expertise of specialists. “Technology has completely changed the way we help businesses find and hold onto talented candidates,” says Jimi Gibson of Bernard Hodes Group, a worldwide HR advertising and recruitment agency with a branch in Richmond. “Interactive solutions move candidates through prescreening and on-boarding more quickly, and can even track new hires to see where retention techniques could be improved.”

From niche-related and regional sites, to email marketing, virtual postcards, Google and Yahoo word searches, and tagged banners, the candidate search is becoming ever more targeted and creative.

Studies also show it’s important to stay in touch with candidates from the moment they show interest in a company, which recruiters can now do through automation.

Ford Motor Co. recently launched a dynamic email campaign inviting candidates to a job conference, providing benefits information and sending congratulatory messages to the family members of new hires.

At the very least, companies need a strong online presence with a user-friendly Web site, ideally with built-in tracking for site analysis and metrics gathering. With 97 percent of candidates searching online, career websites must be a destination of choice, or great candidates will surf away for something better. 

The war for talent has no end in sight, but companies have some powerful tools to give them a fighting chance. And the time to use them is now.

Genevieve Roberts is managing principal for The Titan Group LLC in Richmond. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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