More than any time in the history of the world, Technology (driven by knowledge) and Service Delivery (driven by employee engagement) are the keys for organizational growth, and the foundation for the evolving economy. With this environment, comes a need to place focused emphasis on attracting the best people (read: the RIGHT people) to achieve sustained organizational success.
The value of having the right people in the right seats is that it allow organizations’ to work more efficiently and, to use an overused term, do more with less. The extra effort put forth to complete work that is necessary for your company’s success, but falls outside the normal job description or requirements, can be defined as “discretionary effort”- that effort which goes above and beyond what is minimally required to perform the job. Discretionary Effort is the foundation of, and a measuring stick for, employee engagement. That is, the more engaged an employee is the more likely and willing they are to put in extra effort on behalf of the company’s goals.
HR Leaders, therefore, can strongly impact the organizational success (revenue and profit), by ensuring that employees are motivated and engaged. The first step is discovering and defining what attributes of your workplace drives motivated employees- your employer value proposition. Once you have that in place, it’s necessary to develop an effective strategy to communicate those attributes to develop an emotional connection across the talent life-cycle- candidates, new employees, employees, and exiting employees.
In my experience, and based on research from Gallup, Tower Watson, McKinsey, and others, sustainable organizational success is tied directly to the level of engagement (discretionary effort) of your employees. Companies who do this effectively, are filled with employees who take pride in the work they do, and who are exceedingly willing to actively drive the organization’s overall success- the 110%ers.
Within the labor force in the US, and to a lesser degree the world, there is a confluence of circumstances that cannot be ignored by C-Level leadership, and not relegated solely to the role of HR leaders: a shrinking workforce in key skill sets and demographics, and a decreasing average employee tenure.
One set of circumstances is a cultural shift in employee engagement and loyalty (I shared some thoughts on this on LI and below). While many factors are affecting this and it is unlikely that these circumstances will change in the near future, the reality is that this environment has been created by a cultural shift, and therefore, can plausibly be impacted and redirected by focused efforts to change the culture.
The second set of circumstances, unfortunately, is in fact a fixed issue. According to the US Census, between 2000 and 2020, the population of 35-44 year old employees in the US will decline by 10%- a category that has traditionally been relied on for management and leadership development and succession planning. In the age groups of 15-34 and 45-55, population growth is around 5%, while the experienced end of the spectrum, ages 55-64 is growing by 73%. It’s important to note that this general change in the age of the working population is happening in major economies around the world.*
When strategic leaders look at the convergence of these two major changes in the workforce- while considering that unemployment for critical positions and key skill sets normally fall between 0.0 and 3.0%*- it’s clear that there’s a need to change how organizations plan for and manage talent and the workforce in general.
So… explaining the problem is the easy part. Organizations that are successful in the coming decades, will be those who confront these realities head on, and devise innovative solutions to managing the Talent Lifecycle as it pertains to candidates, new hires, employees, and exiting employees.
Here are my thoughts on the issues facing career mobility, copied from a post I shared on the Employer Branding Group in Linkedin:
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has been running a longitudinal study since 1979 to look at Number of Jobs Held and Duration of Employment, and your estimates are very accurate. 18-46 year old Americans have an average of 11+ jobs during that time, changing jobs just about every two and a half years. Extrapolated out, it’s safe to estimate that across an employee’s career, they will average around 3.5 years per stop.
Great question, though, on the why, and something I’ve researched heavily. The core factors are pretty evident, and I think have been stated above- lack of pensions combined with portability of 401k plans, increased rate of organizational mergers and acquisitions, and a greater economic uncertainty and lack of stability.
The factors have changed the way we view careers and how we identify paths to success, particularly for the younger workforce. In my parents day, if you switched jobs 4 times in 10 years, there would be concern about your commitment and consistency. Now, if a candidate has only held one job in 10 years, there’s questions about this persons willingness or desire to grow and challenge themselves.
With career mobility no longer frowned upon, and in many cases expected, employees see greater and faster opportunity for promotion and growth through employer change, rather than by staying with their current job. Another factor has been suggested as well, with respect to ownership/leadership expectations.
Changes to the transactional mechanisms and the opening of global markets has lead to greater volatility in stock markets, and with the increase in the rate at which stock value and targets affect corporate compensation, public companies are not only more willing, but also incentivized to “right-size” their workforce more quickly to maintain or achieve those targets. This has impacted worker’s expectation of loyalty from their employer, thus changing their feelings of loyalty to their employer. This is also impacting the business practices of private companies looking forward to IPO’s.
Again, many have written- there are many factors affecting this, and none of which appear to be changing soon. So, the question for employers and recruiters, is how to you attract, select, hire, and manage employees within this landscape. Here are a few thoughts:
Attracting – leverage employer brand related to tenured employee stories, career paths, and long term outlook of the organization to attract people who are looking for those qualities.
Selecting- provide clear career path and specific long-term compensation roadmaps to help candidates envision a long term career with your company from the interview stage. Also, talk with candidates about culture and fit and how those factors impact long-term success for your workforce- this can help weed out those who don’t feel they are a good fit.
Hiring- ensure that your employer brand is both genuine and unique, then communicate and live the brand throughout the onboarding process. Ensure that your new hires experience the workforce as you have illustrated it during pre-hire discussions.
Managing- be aware of the career engagement arc, and implement processes to continue to challenge, reward, and respect your employees appropriately to different stages of their employment with you.
*From Tom Casey, Tim Donahue, and Eric Seubert in their book, Talent Readiness, The Future is Now.
“The Recruiting Department is where data goes to die.”
This sentiment was shared with me during a recent conversation related to one of the many sourcing technologies flooding the market. It was the opinion of this person, that the idea of data driven recruiting and the reality of data driven recruiting simply don’t match up. Ultimately, his point was that only a very small percentage of corporate recruiting departments have the resources to analyze the data being captured coupled with the knowledge to leverage the data and information to add value to the recruiting process.
The solution? Well that’s easy- purchase a technology that will capture and analyze recruiting data for you and will intelligently generate recruitment marketing content and shift delivery channels based on this information. Problem solved.
Or is it. This simplified view of integrating technological solutions to abate real, human problems puts blinders on to some very relevant issues. There are two areas that you want to make sure that you have your eyes wide open to when reviewing sourcing and recruiting technologies.
Technology’s Blind Spots
First, all of the data that is captured through these platforms is historical, and does not provide users with effective and reliable forecasting. For example, a few years ago, I sat in on a presentation of what was hailed as “game-changing technology to the recruitment marketing industry”. This was a tech that intelligently placed banner/display job ads in various ad networks and websites, while also changing the look and feel of the ads. The engine would then allocate more money to push ads to where there were more clicks, and would also create more ads with the look and feel that was garnering the most attention.
The idea was that this platform would “learn” what type of ads were most attractive to people interested in the specific job opening, and which advertising media would provide exposure to the greatest number of those people. This was actually a great application of consumer web marketing of the time, and has, to this day, a lot of value. Unfortunately, it’s not the end all and be all of recruitment marketing. While it does show you where people are seeing your ads, and telling you how they want their ads to look, it cannot predict where your next qualified candidates will come from. This, and other technologies, are making quantity based decisions on your marketing efforts only, and therefore will be more likely to push ads to high traffic websites whether or not the people there are more likely to get hired by your company.
The second factor that you should be aware of when reviewing sourcing technologies and strategies is the reality of personal preference. What tech cannot directly affect is your employer brand and reputation. While new technologies can scan users’ social profiles and activities to identify potential candidates and deliver job ads or campaigns to them, the tech simply cannot make that person want to work for you. Too much of the focus is placed on finding people through these intelligent recruitment engines who could be a good match for your job openings; and not enough focus is placed on positioning your company as a highly desirable employer.
Google Receives 60,000 Unsolicited Resumes Per Month
Finding the right people and serving up the right ads in the right place is still only half the battle. We all know the best candidates are already working, or, are receiving numerous offers for their services. In order to effectively manage both high volume and hard to fill hiring, employers need to continually promote and reinforce the unique characteristics that attract the best candidates. That doesn’t mean that job ads are a thing of the past. It does however, mean that the amount of time and money spent on advertising job openings should diminish over time, as you invest in your employer brand, and incorporate technologies that are more efficient at targeting and reaching potential candidates.
Despite the potential blind spots, I do firmly believe that there are new and innovative technologies in the market that can be incorporated into your recruitment strategy effectively and add value to your processes. In assessing these new solutions, it’s important that we are honest about the limitations and opportunities of our current recruiting staff and resources, and that we are pragmatic in selecting tools that align with and optimize our strategies, rather than creating strategies that fit the solutions.
I have been blogging and presenting on the practice of Employment Branding since 2005, and facilitating a group on LinkedIn focused on this subject matter since 2009. This is an area of human resource management that I’m zealously passionate about, and the group has served as an excellent opportunity to connect with and learn from other like-minded professionals who truly believe in the importance and value of making great hires for every opening.
While I have put little to intermittently no effort into promoting or growing the group, there’s been a sustained, if slow, ongoing membership growth particularly since early 2011. As I have lived and worked my whole life based in New England, it’s no surprise that more members are from the Boston area than anywhere else, at 6% of the membership. What I’ve found to be extremely surprising is the growth of membership outside the US. Beyond Boston and Chicago- the top two demographics in this group-, the next largest groups are in New Zealand and Canada, with a good percentage coming from Australia, India, and Russia. What exactly does this mean?
I believe this shows that the idea of globalization is becoming a reality, that organizations across the world are buying into the value and importance of employment branding. Given the development of remote employment opportunities and increasing ease of global mobility and expatriate careers, are US employers now competing directly with Global organizations for talent?
Today’s business climate is forcing a shift in the role HR plays. Instead of providing administrative support, HR is becoming a strategic manager of the organization’s greatest asset – its people. Driven by this shift, the industry is seeing more companies implement integrated talent management processes.
So why has talent management become a strategic imperative for companies?
From there, he goes on to highlight 6 reason why, at that time, he believed that there was renewed focus on Talent Management.
Fast forward 25 months, and Conrad highlights the issues and perils associated with a lack of employee engagement in his post, Employee Engagement & Retention, in which, he writes:
Leaders who want brilliant results from their teams need to make employees feel it’s their company too. How? By making employees part of the decision-making process.
Collaboration is an essential ingredient for creating accountability and ownership. At first, it may take longer to come to a decision when pooling a large sea of minds. But implementing decisions in a comprehensive way unfolds much more quickly when everyone is involved from the beginning and is clear on the objectives.
Look Back Over Two Years- What’s Changed?
I think most HR leaders would agree with Conrad’s original post about the need for investment in and attention to talent management, particularly given the culture of job loss and growing unemployment in the spring of 2010 when it was written. Over the past two years, I’ve spoken with a number of directors and executive leaders in human resources, and very, very few had the time or resources to focus on strategic talent management. More commonly, leaders in this space were focused on maintaining organizational viability amidst workforce reductions, slashed budgets, and epically low levels of employee engagement.
Here we are two years later, and while the economy has turned – slow job growth has replaced job losses, decreasing unemployment (while still too slow) has replaced spiking unemployment rates- many companies still lack the resources, talent, and time to focus on not just developing their talent management/employee engagement strategy but on implementing change. In today’s environment, there is much more reason to believe that the next two years will be substantially different from the past two. Even with slow growth, employers can expect that to feel the effects of the talent deficit in key roles, the loss of key personnel to delayed retirement, and the latent effects of disengaged employees. In the past two years, what has your organization done to mitigate these impending risks?
Look Ahead Two Years- What Will Change
As companies recalibrate their long term strategy to achieve business goals despite the changing economy, it is evident that talent management and employee engagement are key. Flexible, engaged, employees who take ownership in their company are most likely to support organizational initiatives and changing priorities. The hard questions facing executive leaders across all roles is how to manage the short term costs associated with with these areas to position their organizations for long term success. HR leaders play a critical role in these decisions, and must be able to assemble detailed projections and strategic initiatives; and communicate the importance, value, cost, and return associated with the investments required (and the costs and risks associated with failure to make these investments) to support strategic talent management and employee engagement.