Why Your Firm Has a Talent Shortage Explained (Bluntly)

 Most organizations that are facing a talent shortage blame a variety of external factors, even though the actual culprit is the way their firm recruits. Even without visiting your firm, I can guarantee that your recruiting process contains several of the following egregious “talent killing” flaws.

The Top 8 Reasons Why Your Organization Has a Talent Shortage

The following are common strategic flaws that will dramatically hurt your recruiting results. The most impactful flaws are listed first.

  • You Recruit Using Your Gut Rather Than Data — if you examine the top recruiting organizations like Google, Sodexo, and the U.S. Army, you’ll find that their recruiting approaches are quite scientific and driven by data. In direct contrast, the odds are that your organization’s approaches are based on past practice, intuition and gut feelings. Unfortunately, relying on intuition likely results in antiquated recruitment marketing, sourcing, selection criteria, and employer branding. Thinking or believing that your recruiting process is not flawed is no longer enough. You need to know for sure what is working, and what is not.
  • You haven’t quantified the cost of weak recruiting — you are unlikely to get the resources and the executive support that is required for modernizing your recruiting program until you quantify the negative business impacts from weak recruiting in dollars. Expect nothing but headwinds until you dollarize the cost of losing a top candidate, slow hiring, excessive position vacancies, a weak employer brand, and a toxic hire. Give added credibility to your calculations by producing them in conjunction with the CFO’s office.
  • You don’t boast or brag in order to differentiate your company — recruiting top talent is an intense competition between firms. The winners are those that proactively and aggressively brag about the factors that make their company a great place to work. At most companies, the HR function is so conservative that it finds some excuse to block boasting or bragging. Even though you may actually be at a superior place to work, you can’t win talent competitions when you keep those differentiator factors hidden from your targeted applicants. Bragging means that you must differentiate yourself and make it crystal clear in the prospect marketplace how and why your jobs are more exciting and special. And of course, the typical HR subtlety in messaging will hurt your chances. So, aggressively sell your jobs just like your products and proactively show how they are superior in all the key attraction factors. The best way to ensure that you have a differentiated and superior employer brand message is to conduct mock Internet and social media searches. Test whether potential applicants can easily find powerful messages, stories, and examples revealing specifically how yours is a superior place to work.
  • You don’t even know the attraction factors that excite top talent — if you closely examine your job postings, your careers website, and your recruitment marketing, you will find that in almost all firms they emphasize “paycheck job” factors like benefits and the skills and capabilities that are needed. Where if you want to attract the best, you need to instead reveal the specific factors that top candidates care about. And rather than intuition, this requires constantly gathering data on the “attraction factors” that are specific to top candidates. Including exciting work, a chance to make a difference, rapid growth, and great managers, coworkers, and technology. And you must clearly differentiate your firm on each of those attraction factors in your recruitment marketing, job postings, and during your interviews. Assuming the top performers want the same things as the average worker is a common but deadly mistake.
  • Your sourcing approach is designed for active jobseekers — I estimate that up to 90 percent of all sourcing channels (including job boards and career fairs) are focused on attracting active job seekers. But most people must be found and convinced that they need a new job. Attracting “not actively looking employed talent” requires employee referrals, direct sourcing, a talent pipeline approach and directly poaching from your competitors. The top finding and selling approach are by far employee referrals. The top firms get over 50 percent of their hires, while weak recruiting firms land fewer than 20 percent or they don’t track it at all.
  • Slow hiring is weak hiring — organizations with data-driven recruiting processes already realize that top candidates are off the market between 10 and 30 days. That means that if you meet or exceed the average time-to-fill of 42 days, your top applicants will likely have received and accepted a competitor’s offer long before yours is delivered. The top applicants will presume that slow decision-making during the hiring process reflects a culture of slow decision-making and not speed at your company.
  • Your application process is painful — even when your marketing and branding messages have excited potential applicants, you may be losing them because your application process is painful. In fact, research by SmashFly revealed that 74 percent of potential applicants who start the application process drop out before completing it. The major differentiator between the weak and powerful application processes is that the best firms design and test their process to ensure that an application takes no more than five minutes to complete on their mobile phone.
  • Not having a proactive retention approach causes unnecessary turnover — the impact of effective recruiting at most firms is immediately offset by a firm’s laissez-faire retention efforts. Research shows that between 50 and 75 percent of all turnover is preventable. So, your firm’s turnover rate may be twice as high as it would be if you dropped your automatic assumption that every employee is loyal. Instead what is needed is a proactive and personalized retention approach. That requires periodic “stay interviews” (which I wrote about) which remind key employees how important they are to the team while also identifying and reinforcing the reasons why they stay.

Final Thoughts

After literally advising hundreds of organizations on the critical success factors for recruiting success, I find that it’s relatively easy to identify the weak ones. They recruit using their gut and they lack the cojones to boldly brag and to poach top talent directly away from their competitors.

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Author’s Note: If this article stimulated your thinking and provided you with actionable tips, follow or connect with me on LinkedIn, subscribe to the ERE Daily, and hear me and others speak at ERE’s Recruiting Conference in October in Washington, D.C.

Dr. John Sullivan, professor, author, corporate speaker, and advisor, is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high-business-impact talent management solutions.

He’s a prolific author with over 900 articles and 10 books covering all areas of talent management. He has written over a dozen white papers, conducted over 50 webinars, dozens of workshops, and he has been featured in over 35 videos. He is an engaging corporate speaker who has excited audiences at over 300 corporations/ organizations in 30 countries on all six continents. His ideas have appeared in every major business source including the Wall Street Journal, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Fast Company, CFO, Inc., NY Times, SmartMoney, USA Today, HBR, and the Financial Times. In addition, he writes for the WSJ Experts column. He has been interviewed on CNN and the CBS and ABC nightly news, NPR, as well many local TV and radio outlets. Fast Company called him the "Michael Jordan of Hiring," Staffing.org called him “the father of HR metrics,” and SHRM called him “One of the industry's most respected strategists." He was selected among HR’s “Top 10 Leading Thinkers” and he was ranked No. 8 among the top 25 online influencers in talent management. He served as the Chief Talent Officer of Agilent Technologies, the HP spinoff with 43,000 employees, and he was the CEO of the Business Development Center, a minority business consulting firm in Bakersfield, California. He is currently a Professor of Management at San Francisco State (1982 – present). His articles can be found all over the Internet and on his popular website www.drjohnsullivan.com and on www.ere.net. He lives in Pacifica, California.

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