Vice President, Global TA Transformation, & Senior Client Partner, North America
We’re in the midst of one of the fastest-growing labor shortages in history with no end in sight. In June, American Airlines canceled nearly a thousand flights because they didn’t have the staff required to fly. Unfortunately, this wasn’t an isolated event, but rather a sign of things to come.
For years, we’ve heard about labor shortages in IT, engineering, project management, customer service and skilled trades. Now, we’re facing an even more dire talent shortage. There aren’t enough recruiters in these fields to identify already hard-to-find talent. Talent acquisition itself has become part of the global talent crisis.
But where there’s a challenge, there’s usually an opportunity
The current state of global talent
At the end of April 2021, the U.S. hit a record with 9 million open jobs. During June 2021, the number of workers available in Britain dropped at the fastest rate since 1997. The EU has reported shortages in construction, engineering, software development and healthcare. They aren’t alone.
This worldwide phenomenon is the result of a perfect storm of several factors:
- Rapid economic expansion (the World Bank says the global economy will grow at its strongest post-recession pace in 80 years during 2021)
- A sudden release of pent-up demand for projects that were delayed because of the pandemic
- Even greater demands for digital transformation talent because of digitalization
- Talent acquisition labor shortage, which is hurting recruitment
High competition for candidates is also creating a problem at the other end of the employee lifecycle. Retention is increasingly difficult because incumbents can readily find opportunities elsewhere and are receiving unsolicited yet enticing job offers, even if they aren’t openly looking for a new job.
All of this means that talent acquisition teams are facing an even greater squeeze, between trying to find new candidates and replacing the ones that are leaving for greener pastures.
Organizations are also feeling the pinch in this global talent shortage on two fronts. They’re having to pay candidates and incumbents in high-demand roles more to attract and retain them, so compensation for these roles will likely continue to rise exponentially. Meanwhile, organizations will continue to struggle to scale due to lack of labor.
How to recalibrate your global talent acquisition strategy
To survive the current labor shortage, organizations must do two things. First, they must attract and retain the talent they need. Second, they need to reconfigure the work that must be done to navigate the constraints of the current talent market.
This requires adjusting your talent acquisition strategy. Thinking broadly and creatively will help organizations move beyond the traditional method of “buying” new candidates.
There are many other global talent configuration and retention strategies at your disposal that you may not be utilizing. We call them the “B” strategies.
- Balance: Stabilize your organization through operational transformation, performance improvement, and technology.
- Build: Make more of the talent you have through reskilling, upskilling, succession planning and diversity planning.
- Borrow: Draw on the skills of contingent labor, contractors, seasonal staff and gig workers.
- Bot: Scale up through robot process automation and machine learning.
- Bind and bounce: Reduce employee turnover and increase engagement and productivity through pay and reward, retention schemes and performance management.
Putting new global talent acquisition strategies into practice
How might these strategies play out? Here’s an example.
Let’s say in the past you would staff your recruiting function to fill a post-pandemic nationwide surge in demand. You have 1,000 positions you want to fill in three months. With your current model, you’d hire a bunch of additional recruiters to identify and review candidates.
Now, with recruiters in short supply, you struggle to find high-quality candidates for your roles. You fill in with your existing talent acquisition staff as best you can, but no one has time to fill the recruitment role on top of their own work. As a result, roles sit vacant, and the business can’t grow.
But what if you took a different approach?
The key is to rethink how you’re currently getting things done. The question to ask here is how you can help the recruiters work more effectively.
Adjusting recruiter workload
First, you need to assess the recruiter role to determine what recruiters do that no one else can. Say, for example, that the assessment shows your recruiters currently spend half their time recruiting and half their time on administrative work.
You need to find a way to free up that 50% of the time they’re working on admin tasks. You have three options, from least to most creative:
- Balance and bot: Automate admin work and help recruiters streamline the time they spend on less valuable tasks.
- Borrow: Send the recruiters’ nonessential tasks to a different role that has less scarcity.
- Build: Think about adjacent roles that might be a good fit for the recruiter talent pool. For example, recruiters have to use selling skills to attract candidates. Elsewhere in your organization, you may have sellers with the willingness and learning agility to retrain in a recruiting role.
All of these methods, especially when used in concert, can optimize your recruiters’ workload and help you start bridging the talent shortage without the need to go through traditional methods to “buy” new candidates.
Get ahead of the talent shortage
Even if you’ve deployed all of the B strategies, you’re going to ultimately need to recruit top candidates to fuel your organization’s growth. So how do you beat your competitors in the race for top global talent in hard-to-fill roles?
You’ll need to find new ways to access talent. Compensation is one way to attract high-quality candidates. But just focusing on pay is not enough, because other organizations that have more mature talent processes at their disposal will quickly move ahead of you. Here are the other levers that you can pull to address the talent shortage.
- Employer brand: Check your employee value proposition. Have you made it as compelling and differentiating as possible? If it’s strong, you may be able to offer candidates a smaller rewards package. But if it’s weak, you’ll need to make up for it with higher compensation, and you may miss out on top candidates.
- Candidate experience: Your hiring process should be candidate-centric. Evaluate whether every step of the candidate’s journey demonstrates that you care about them. If you aren’t attracting the best candidates, it may be because your hiring process is falling short.
- Working arrangements: The pandemic showed us that working from home is not only possible; it’s also productive and often preferable. If your company offers flexible working arrangements, you’re likely to have a hiring advantage over organizations that don’t.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion: The more inclusive your talent pool, the wider it is. A wide pool makes it easier it is to attract, engage and retain high-quality candidates, even for hard-to-source and niche roles. Hiring practices that focus on diversity, equity and inclusion also strengthen your employer brand and improve your overall hiring process.
Do you have the talent strategies to withstand the labor shortage?
The global talent shortage is likely to worsen before it gets better. Organizations need to ensure they’re following a strategic, rather than reactive, approach to talent acquisition and workforce planning.
Leading organizations have the people, processes and technology that will enable them to respond proactively to the global talent crisis. They have technology and insights that drive better hiring practices. They make better hiring decisions because they have access to up-to-the-minute market, assessment and compensation data. And many also rely on recruitment process outsourcing (RPO).
RPO solutions can give your organization a competitive edge. Because RPO solutions combine technology, insights and data gathered over years, they can identify talent at a reduced cost in even the most competitive markets.