As an executive recruiter with over 20 years’ experience, I’ve found it both amusing and frustrating to hear the same myths throughout my career. Whether in good times or bad times, booms or pandemics, employers and recruiters consistently complain about the ability to attract and retain quality staff. In this article, I’m going to focus on the “war for talent” and the “great resignation”.
Myth One – The War for Talent
When I first started working in the recruitment industry in 2002, I clearly remember being introduced to this term of doom and gloom, “The War for Talent”, designed to spread fear amongst employers and to lower their expectations regarding the quality of candidates they would see on a presented shortlist. It’s not dissimilar to a real estate agent manipulating homeowners into accepting a lower price for their house, because “it’s a buyer’s market out there (i.e. tough)” so the owner should be grateful to receive an offer at all.
It amazed me that recruiters basically sold a service by pre-emptively conditioning employers to be underwhelmed. Plus, that’s exactly the level of service they then delivered. On the other hand, I believed (and still do) that as recruitment professionals, we must be able to guarantee to deliver outstanding shortlists.
It’s twenty years later and I still hear about the “War for Talent” on an almost daily basis, from CEOs and business owners, HR Managers and internal and external recruiters. Quite frankly, it’s a load of rubbish and the fact that it is perpetuated is just an indication of how dumb and lazy most people charged with recruitment are. Rather than working harder and smarter to attract outstanding candidates, it’s so much easier to blame the market and accept mediocrity.
I recently spoke to two HR managers from an Engineering firm, who explained that they currently had over 40 vacancies they were unable to fill. Through asking some probing questions it became obvious that they were not bothering to take quality briefs from the hiring manager, they were writing very boring job advertisements, they were not making themselves available to speak to potential applicants, and if was often over three weeks between someone making an application being interviewed. Plus they were doing zero headhunting.
It’s absolutely no wonder at all that their results were so poor. Yet they continue to remain employed and continue to offer the same BS excuse to their boss, “Sorry boss, it’s just that there’s a War for Talent”. Give me a freaking break!
There is no “War for Talent”, there never has been and if you are being duped into believing this then do so at your own peril. There are simple, proven and consistently successful recruitment strategies; and on the other side of the coin, there are lazy and incompetent people who are wasting your time and money through being terrible at their jobs.
Myth Two – The Great Resignation
How many times have you heard this phrase in the last couple of years, especially in our post-Covid world. “It’s not my/our fault we can’t retain our people, it’s the Great Resignation”. It’s as if everyone drank the Kool-Aid whilst working from home, and they woke up hating their boss, hating their profession, and all wanted to quit and join the circus.
Average professional job tenure in Australia from 2000 to 2022 has consistently sat at around 3 to 3.5 years. This means that people change employers roughly every three years. A recent PwC report on the Great Resignation, “What Workers Want: How to win the war on talent”, found that 38% of Australian workers intend to leave their current employer during the next 12 months. Which is, guess what? A tenure of about 3 to 3.5 years. So the more things change, the more they stay the same.
There is no Great Resignation, it’s just media doom and gloom being fed by consultants trying to sell more snake oil (anyone remember Y2K?).
My simple explanation is this. During Covid there were a lot of people who wanted to change jobs, however chose not to do so because they felt the risk of change was too high. So they stayed in jobs longer than they would have normally because it was “a safe harbour in a storm”. Now that Covid is largely behind us, these people are resigning for new opportunities. Covid was just a bottleneck and now the employment market is returning to normal.
There are so many other myths around recruitment, leadership and retention that I could write a whole book on this subject. Then there are the cliché memes that seem to get repeated in every business book written. Examples are, “Strategy Eats Culture for Breakfast (Peter Drucker)” or “Start with Why (Simon Senek)”, or even “Courage Over Comfort (Brene Brown)”. Any whilst at the time these quotes were thought provoking and challenged some old paradigms of thinking about business, they just seem a bit naff now through endless regurgitation.
How about we just learn some simple tools and then go out and kick some butt?
Written by Richard Triggs.
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