One of the top 5 concerns noted in Vistage’s recent report Decision Factors H2 2018, is talent shortages.

The unemployment rate at 3.9% is near an 18 year low. Last week, the DOL announced the number of Americans applying for unemployment fell to a near 49 year low. By measure of most economists, we are at full employment; some say we are past that. Additionally, there is a growing mismatch between skills desired and skills available. In short, demand exceeds supply on several levels.

Joe Gavin, Vistage chief research officer, offers these suggestions gleaned from experts he interviewed:

Change how you retain talent – Quoting Fabiola Brumley, Southeast regional executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, “To hold on to your best people, try supplementing employee benefits with non-traditional benefits, such as financial counseling or a reward system that recognizes high performers. Additionally, Joseph Quinlan stresses that companies should be “much more flexible — not just for millennials, but for the aging cohort as well. There are a lot of folks who are ‘retiring’ who really want to keep one foot in the door, and companies should think about how they utilize that talent.”

Build a workforce within your community – If you can’t find people with the right skills, train people to develop those skills. Quinlan encourages companies to reach out to community colleges and mayor’s offices to develop vocational training programs and attract local talent. “You’ve got to be creative about creating a workforce that’s local to your environment or operation,” he says.

Rethink how you recruit – “It’s about rethinking human capital from 20,000 feet, deploying more resources to the HR function and making sure the entire management team is invested in the process,” says Marc Emmer, a business strategist and president of Optimize, Inc. Consider following what 20% of CEOs surveyed are doing and try artificial intelligence for talent management and hiring. Another consideration Emmer notes is the importance of a strong brand and strong offerings if you are going to attract millennials.

Substitute labor with technology – Explore whether technology can help you deal with a labor shortage by automating tasks or improving efficiency. Brumley offers the example of a landscaping company that might invest in equipment to reduce lawn mowing time from three hours to 45 minutes.

Develop a systematic framework for talent planning – Data from NCMM confirms that talent planning has a strong correlation with the growth and performance of a company. To that end, CEOs should use a talent-planning framework that meets four criteria:

  1. Align talent strategy with strategy.
  2. Build sufficient processes to ensure systematic talent-planning efforts.
  3. Lead by example and involve leadership in the process.
  4. Engage employees in talent-planning and ensure that they recognize the value of the process.

In addition to the suggestions offered above, I invite you to consider these innovative methods that are yielding results for CEOs:

  • Have you considered apprenticeships for professional roles?
    • Instead of competing with everyone else for talent with “5-10 years of experience”, what about offering a high energy, junior person a chance to learn? Perhaps pairing them up with grey haired talent that you are trying to retain? Many, perhaps most, experienced workers, including professionals, want to mentor junior employees. It’s their way of leaving a legacy.
  • What about non-traditional sources for finding talent?
    • Social purpose organizations, like Cara, offer job and life skill training to people convicted of non-violent crimes, thereby preparing them to re-enter the workforce. For those who want to try this carefully, Cara will even take on the risk of employment through their temporary agencies Cleanslate and Cara Connects. Vistage member, Maria Kim, CEO of Cara, shares more on the benefits of this opportunity in this book, In The Business of Change, by Elisa Birnbaum.

Are You a CEO or President of a Privately Held Business? If you are also a lifetime learner, and want to learn more about Vistage, click here.

You can read more of my blogs and leadership quotes here.


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