Where Has All the Talent Gone?

The search for talent dominates most leadership conversations these days. Many if not all the business owners I’ve been speaking with lately bemoan the challenges of finding and landing great candidates. The numbers support their dilemma – Statistics Canada recently released new data indicating that the number of job openings in BC’s Lower Mainland are up 20% over last year at this time. This is before Amazon’s announcement of 3000 new jobs coming to Vancouver over the next few years. With such extreme job growth, the talent shortages are real. No company is immune from today’s version of the war for talent.

There’s little doubt that the talent crisis puts constraints on a company’s ability to grow. At the same time, are they doing all they can to attract the talent they need? Too many small to mid-market firms remain unaware of their need to raise their profile in the talent marketplace. There are too many company websites without any careers pages, poorly written job postings, and onerous or mysterious application processes, the biggest recruitment downfalls for any company trying to hire these days.

When it comes to sourcing talent, employee referrals are one if not the most effective sourcing channel. Yet many companies don’t actively enlist the support of their current team members in the recruitment process. For the most part, employees are unaware of the positions currently open at their company and they aren’t actively encouraged to share with their networks the opportunities on offer. This isn’t to suggest every staffer should be a talent scout, but when an accounting department is looking for a new team member, the current staff could be encouraged– and incented– to think about who they know and who they know who might be a potential candidate, now or in the future. For many small to mid-market companies, there are underutilized opportunities to leverage the power of their people and social media to get the word out.

Then there’s the issue of the candidate experience. Many don’t receive any acknowledgment of their application, and even if they weren’t an ideal candidate, there might be a chance they know someone who is, or they might be in the future. Providing some base level of communication with even the most active but not-quite-right candidate can bring returns down the road. Hiring may be a short term tactical activity in most instances but hiring well is a long game that requires the daily care and feeding of a well-executed process.

Then there’s the need to revisit your ideal candidate profile and the skills and experience needed to do the job. Does the candidate really need to have your industry experience? If you want to cast a net for great people, thinking more broadly about transferable skills and experience is essential. This is particularly true for SME’s who often feel that because of their size, they attract a smaller pool of talent. While sometimes that may be true, they also offer opportunities to do meaningful work that’s closer to the front-line success of the business.

Then there are the stories about the job offer extended to a great candidate who turns it down for more competitive compensation elsewhere. That’s a tough one to swallow. At the same time, you need to know that whatever you offered was on the money. It’s important to have a handle on where the market is for specific positions, so you’re not left behind by salary ranges that may have been appropriate five years ago (or longer). For administrative or junior level positions in particular, the difference between an offer at $45,000 and $50,000 can be a lifestyle game changer for your star candidate.

No doubt there are questionable practices on the other side, too – there are so many poorly written resumes, no cover letters, compounded by candidates who are slow to respond, ill prepared, and don’t do their research on the company. The whole online application process can be fraught with missteps on both sides. These are genuine complaints, but they are realities made even worse when an employer’s process falls short.

There’s no one right answer to overcoming the talent shortages we see. But without using the best methods out there and putting candidates first once they’re engaged, companies will always find themselves on the losing end when it comes to recruiting the best. It’s time to close the gap between company hiring practices and the need to find and keep great people.