CEO Insider

Ensuring your talent pool in the war for talent

Ingrid Maynard

There was once an advertisement that was trying to sell Australia to the world which finished with the catch cry from model Lara Bingle asking, “Where the bloody hell are you?”

The advert, whilst heavily criticised, certainly did not hold back the careers of those involved, with Lara Bingle finding great fame and the heart of an Australian cricket captain and the then head of Tourism Australia, Scott Morrison going on to become Prime Minister of Australia.

Showing that most situations provide the opportunity for positive outcomes.

Right now, the infamous ‘where the bloody hell are you’ call is coming out of the mouths of senior business leaders across multiple organisations as the talent drain created by the lack of people movement in the Covid era has left many organisations scrambling to fill critical positions.

So how should you as a business leader deal with this lack of available talent?

In Australia total job vacancies as of November 2021 were up 58.5% in the private sector and as people return to the office we are seeing an explosion, similar to that experienced across the US and Europe, of resignations making it an applicant’s market. 

For a valuable employee there has never been a better time to ask for a pay rise, for flexible working conditions or more favourable terms. 

Such is the talent shortage we have even seen media reports that some companies are going as far as offering candidates up to $100,000 above market value for roles in order to attract the best talent.  

What this means is that business leaders everywhere need to think and act differently if they’re going to attract, grow and retain the talent they will need.

Reverse your approach away from skills and experience towards values, qualities and attitude

Whilst we are experiencing a definite talent shortage, it does not mean we should simply hire people on the basis that they have a pulse, yet as business leaders we need to accept that our potential recruits will likely not be ready made for the role.

In today’s market it is important to have clarity about the qualities, values and attitudes each role requires, which will enable employers to then align position descriptions accordingly so that job ads literally speak to the “right” people.

These behaviourally based interviews will better reveal qualities that extend demonstrated experience and will assist in rounding out an onboarding process that maximises existing strengths and identify the needed supports to fill skill gaps with training and development.  

This approach also establishes a culture that celebrates and deepens connection to the company beyond a pay cheque. When a role is aligned with purpose, people come to work inspired and able to utilise grit when challenges arise.

Think more laterally about the talent pool 

You can advertise with everyone else using the traditional platforms and be competing for talent publicly, or you can get creative when you realise that talent can be drawn from a variety of sources.

  1. Networks matter. Indeed, “who you know” starts to matter even more when you consider that it’s one of the best sources of like-minded candidates that come with a ready-made personal reference by someone who is a trusted known quantity. Use all available connections when sourcing a good fit for your role vacancies. Through this source you will also have an inside scoop on how their peer’s see them as well as insights into their previous work history and achievements.
  2. Tap into internships. An intern not only gains valuable skills and demonstrable experience for their future career during their time with your business, they also provide employers with an opportunity to fill shortages with people who, with a bit of support, can grow into long term productive staff members. Seeing how someone operates, instead of just what they do better facilitates an evaluation of skill, cultural and ongoing fit in ways that a recruitment process cannot.
  3. Redeploy existing employees.  In response to its February 2020 survey: “Beyond Hiring: How Companies are Reskilling to Address Skill Gaps” McKinsey Consulting Group suggests 3 key considerations to redeployment right:

    1) Understand which skills you need.  Start by conducting a skills audit to illuminate the existing skill base across the organisation.  Next, identify the skills the company will need going forward based on its strategy and then align the two. The gaps that emerge inform the work to be done to close them.

    2) Be strategic in how you close gaps. Actions to fill gaps include decisions about hiring and reskilling. Determining which specific programs or initiatives to implement may also include candidate selection in order to gain the right skills. How will the organisation prioritise reskilling? Consider job, employee, future role, and reskilling methods.  Above all, remember that communication with employees about the organisation’s reskilling agenda will go a long way to providing them with context and help to alleviate any concerns which could otherwise have key people leaving and taking their valuable skills and experience with them!

    3) Build training capabilities and partnerships. Cultivate a culture that values continuous improvement and encourages curiosity and a love on ongoing growth.  Structure the learning journey across in-person and digital methodologies to enable employees to retain their new skills and apply them to their role. Being in a training cohort of other employees with similar experiences fosters a positive learning experience. Allow employees to have access to projects that facilitate the practical application across a broad range of workforce skills while they’re learning.

  4. Think beyond location.  Are you taking advantage of the global reach technology provides and offering extended working hours and working from home conditions? If not then you need to quickly readjust your perspective around how technology can be used effectively to keep your team on track, connected, performing from anywhere, remember that it is a global market of opportunity out there, which includes talent.
  5. Shorten the recruitment process.  One employer told me that their preferred candidate had 4 offers at once to consider. They knew that if they went down the “usual” recruitment track (i.e., testing, second interviews, etc.) they would lose them, so they offered them the job on the day subject to reference checks. These times are not BAU, so extending trial periods can give you both comfort as an alternative to the usual “hire slowly” recommendation.

Double down on employee engagement

Customers aren’t the only stakeholders that matter – employees are your internal customers. Without them, you won’t be able to operate, so it’s the responsibility of leaders to uncover what matters to each team member and ensure their big rocks are demonstrably being delivered.  

If recognition is a key driver, ensure that there are opportunities to do that formally and informally. If company values are important, it might be a smart idea to encourage involvement in projects that connect them to contributing time outside of their roles.  

If global issues such as climate change are on their radar, getting them involved in company tree planting initiatives or clean up days will help to connect their hearts and minds.

Whatever you do make genuine connection a priority. When you can meet in person, do.  When that’s not possible, Zoom or FaceTime more frequently mixing up the formalities with informal conversations. Use apps like WhatsApp to create group chats to foster a sense of team.

Allocate buddies so new people have a more experienced team member to lean on and to alleviate the bottleneck that comes from needing to be the all-knowing expert. 

This all fosters inter team relationships, inner team culture, provides stretch for those seeking opportunities for leadership and fast tracks understanding. 

It’s not until we’re challenged that we uncover what we’re truly capable of, these times call for change and if you get it right your organisation will emerge a smarter, leaner and a more connected organisation.

Written by Ingrid Maynard.
Have you read?
Building The Growth Advantage by Bob Lisser.
Are CEOs in the construction industry deploying their foresight by Dr. Manoj Joshi.
Google’s Myth of Losing Social Capital in Hybrid Work by Dr. Gleb Tsipursky.

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Ingrid Maynard
Ingrid Maynard, Founder of The Sales Dr For over 20 years Ingrid Maynard has worked with Australian and international companies to arm front line sales people and their sales leaders with programs, tools, skills, processes and new behaviours that work. In a world of smart technology, Ingrid believes that our greatest competitive advantage will be how well our people engage, connect, question, influence, deliver, exceed expectations, and lead others.

Ingrid Maynard is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.