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10 Insights on Forming a Competitive Talent Management Strategy


When CEOs around the globe are asked what keeps them up at night, the top responses for the past several years have included talent management. This is indeed a rapidly moving target, but essential for any organization’s success. To address this challenge, organizations should consider the following 10 insights in today’s business landscape.

Insight 1: There’s a War for Talent
The news of a war for talent is not new. Organizations have been waging this battle for more than a decade. However, the nature of this war is evolving.

For the first time in our history, there are more open positions than unemployed individuals. This signals a major shift in that the focus is on the shortage of critical skillsets required for success in today’s workplace. And perhaps most importantly, this has created a job-seekers market. The pendulum has swung the other way and the balance of power no longer resides with the organization, but rather with the candidate. This is a game changer in talent management.

Insight 2: Human Capital Can Be a Competitive Advantage
Organizations cannot afford to ignore the need to address changing talent management strategies. With people as the source of competitive advantage, only those organizations that create effective talent management strategies will be able to thrive in a highly competitive global marketplace. As organizations have access to the same technologies and information, it is people who will make a difference in how resources are leveraged for competitive advantage. A deliberate, intentional talent management strategy is critical.

Insight 3: Talent Management Is a Three-Pronged Approach
Talent management requires that organizations attract, retain and engage human capital. It’s no longer enough to hire the best person who fits the job. Today’s three-pronged approach requires attention to the person, the job and the culture fit. Individuals who do not fit the culture of an organization may be more detrimental than those who do not possess the necessary skills.

The best advice today is to hire for talent instead of skills. With most jobs to be filled five years from now not yet in existence, it is more important to consider flexible and teachable talent than to consider specific skillsets that may have a relatively short shelf life.

Insight 4: There Is a Huge Cost to Bad Hiring
These costs are financial and nonfinancial. Tony Hsieh of Zappos suggested that costs could be as high as $100 million. Other experts have estimated the cost of bad hires to include 80% of employee turnover. And some have suggested that it costs as much as 200% of the departing employee’s salary to replace that individual. Opportunity costs include the waste of a manager’s time in dealing with a bad hire. Employee morale suffers as time and energy are drained. And entire businesses can be disrupted. To reinforce the critical nature of handling these costs, bad-hire calculators can be found online.

Insight 5: We Can Learn a Lot from a Fishing Expedition
Recruiting is much like fishing, in that it’s important to consider where the fish (or target markets) are “biting.” Dropping a line in the middle of the ocean in hopes of catching specific fish is akin to targeting everyone: This recruiting tactic attracts no one. It’s essential to target specific audiences — for example, consider specialized skills or geographic areas. The organization’s workforce plan should help identify who is needed, what skills are needed and when they are needed. Knowing the target market helps to identify where those markets are found.

And metrics can be used to determine where your good hires come from. This provides a great idea of where to begin the fishing expedition. Today’s progressive organizations are engaging passive candidates. This is considered a hidden talent market. For example, those individuals following your organization on LinkedIn (or another social media platform) can be segmented by skillset and tapped as a passive candidate market.

It’s also important to acknowledge that you are not the only fishing boat in the water. Other organizations are waging the same war for talent. Your bait (job description and employer brand) must be alluring enough to catch the attention of the target market.

Insight 6: Leverage a Social Media Presence
Job seekers are no longer flipping through the classified ads of the local newspaper. More than 14 million people in the United States used social media for their job search last year. Organizations should carefully consider their career pages and include links to social media on those pages. The company website must provide a compelling career page with up-to-date employee spotlights and videos.

The company Facebook page also can be used to build relationships with potential candidates and to post job openings. LinkedIn is a more professional resource that can be leveraged to search for specific skillsets and post jobs.

Insight 7: An Employer Brand Speaks Volumes
It’s critical to brand your organization as a great place to work and identify what makes your workplace unique. Recruiters are now brand ambassadors and need to think like marketers. Companies can share news, create blogs and entertaining videos of what it’s like to work for the company, and include calendars of fun activities. It’s important to show the company culture in very simplistic ways, such as hearing someone’s description of a typical day.

The company’s mission has become a critical part of the branding process. Many individuals in the Gen Z cohort want to change the world by working for an organization with a higher sense of purpose. The old employer marketing messages will no longer work. Today’s employer branding message also must include an emotional component to appeal to younger generations.

Insight 8: Reinvent Recruitment for Today’s Workforce
Recruitment today is all about the candidate’s experience, not the company’s experience. Reframing the process is required to gain a candidate’s perspective. Mobile optimization is crucial as 45% of individuals use their mobile device once a day to search for jobs. This means that organizations need to improve and simplify the application process. The website must limit the number of screens to navigate to get to the application and to ensure that it takes less than five minutes to complete the application process.

The war for talent has shifted somewhat in its focus with the newest generations in the workplace. Speed is now a critical element. The entire recruitment process must be faster paced. Not only does this apply to the website, but also to the interviewing feedback process as well. Today, 70% of job seekers will lose interest if it takes longer than one week to hear back after the final interview. And remember, you are not the only fishing boat in the water. It has been reported that 50% of candidates have multiple offers. If you delay, you may lose that candidate. The lesson: Communicate often and quickly!

Insight 9: Understanding Engagement is Critical
Two critical elements of the talent management process are engagement and retention. Once talent is recruited, it’s important to retain it. Conducting “stay interviews” can provide insight into how to accomplish this. The bottom line is to understand why A-players would want to work for your organization. An intentional retention program is required to retain top talent.

With approximately two-thirds of the American workforce considered totally disengaged or marginally disengaged, organizations have an opportunity. Increasing engagement levels can help retain employees, as well as increase productivity.

Insight 10: The War for Talent Continues
A solid talent management strategy is a fundamental part of an organization’s human resources strategy. Strategies to attract, retain and engage human capital must be specifically crafted. Human capital, then, must be viewed as an investment, not just a cost for the organization.

The war for talent is not ending and every organization is a participant — whether or not they acknowledge it. Organizations that successfully wage the war for talent also will be more likely to achieve a competitive edge in their own marketplace as their talent positions them for continued growth and innovation.

Pat Buhler Bio Image

Pat Buhler is a professor of management at Goldey-Beacom College.