BY TOM STARNER
Under the best of circumstances, strengthening a workforce that reflects an employer’s true business values, culture and growth objectives while filling critical talent needs represents a challenge.
But with today’s very low unemployment rates and ongoing skills gap, the formidable task of recruiting and retaining talent with the required skills to drive growth is even more difficult. In fact, the widening skills gap accompanying full unemployment numbers (3.7% in the U.S.)1 deals a double blow to employers. Weathering that storm requires innovative thinking and technology to fill talent needs through well-stocked pipelines, which, in turn, will lead to optimized productivity and the desired increases in business growth.
Research shows that the skills gap is not only very real, it’s reaching serious proportions. The Society for Human Resource Management’s survey of 1,028 HR professionals in late 2018 found that an eye-opening 83% say they had difficulty recruiting suitable candidates in the past 12 months.2 And a separate study found that 70% of HR professionals are experiencing a skills shortage among applicants—with even the minority who reported an abundance of applicants stating that those who apply do not have the requisite skills.3
Today, that widening skills gap—which, in most cases, involves the emotional intelligence and soft skills required to build a workforce that can drive productivity, deliver financial success and boost employer brand—is creating a very hard-to-solve talent-acquisition and retention landscape across the globe.
Pamela Stroko, Vice President of HCM Transformation at Oracle, says the ongoing skills gap is challenging HR professionals at every turn, especially when they are tasked with providing the necessary talent to spur growth under today’s trying conditions.
“There are two questions that everybody in HR is asking,” Stroko says. “First, people want to know if the skills gap is a real thing. Then, if it is real—and the data says it is—the second question is, how do you hire to support growth with a widening skills gap?”
Today’s job candidates can ask for things in this economy they couldn’t ask for just 10 years ago, Stroko adds.
“People are also much more willing to take a risk and ‘try something on’ or go to a company maybe they always thought about working for because there’s so much opportunity,” she explains. “There is a mindset out there—be it right or wrong—that, if I try it and I don’t like it, I can just go get something else.
“It’s shopping; but, in this case, they’re job shopping,” according to Stroko.
Hiring for Emotional Intelligence: Finding Soft Skills
Keeping talent pipelines supplied with the right candidates to meet emerging business challenges has prompted employers to shift needs and requirements from technical skill sets being the number one priority to candidates with so-called “soft skills.” That includes characteristics like emotional intelligence, clear communications, critical thinking, problem solving, innovation, desire/willingness to learn, teamwork and creativity.
Stroko says the notion of soft skills not being on equal footing with technical skills no longer holds true. “Soft skills actually are some of the hardest factors to hire for because those skills are not in great supply in the marketplace,” she says. “Qualities like emotional intelligence, and how it aligns with an organization’s culture, values and growth plans, are very important.”
Stroko says employers need to start thinking about external pipelines well before they need to fill a job. She also suggests an effective, low-tech networking strategy as a way to get external high performers interested in a company.
“I often tell people that every single executive at your company should go to a conference somewhere every year,” she says. “While they’re away, have them go out of their way to meet talent, take down names of people who impress them.”
Next, those executives should build their social presence with those connections, because every person they meet can go into an employer’s recruiting system, which will likely be a key factor in keeping up with growth objectives.
“They could be a potential job candidate at some future date, or could know somebody who could be a potential candidate,” she says. “You have to get much more thoughtful about this.”
Stroko is convinced that hiring is no longer a cause-and-effect proposition.
“It’s not, ‘There is an opening, so let’s fill a job,’ ” she says. Instead, employers need to understand that they are going to have job openings over a period of time, so they must solve the issue of how to bring people into its online community, in social conversations, in wanting to learn about the company. Next, employers must nurture those relationships long term and, finally, determine how to tap that talent resource at the optimal moment.
“These questions are critical for an organization’s future growth and financial success,” she says, adding that networking remains a potent strategy for successful talent sourcing.
“If that’s how people are mainly getting hired, build a network that can yield that kind of support for your organization,” Stroko says. “It’s critically important.”
As for potential high performers already in the fold, an internal pipeline for sourcing talent is important because, in many cases, the right person for an opening is already working within the company.
Technology, of course, plays an increasingly important role in employee retention and internal mobility—using career development, learning and succession-planning tools to hire from within. By doing that, employers with rapid growth expectations—situations that create a steep learning curve for both new hires and internal talent transfers—can keep pace with the speed that can cause a whiplash effect during rapid-growth scenarios.
Stroko adds that, without effective career planning, not only will employers potentially miss the chance to source talent internally, they could lose them altogether.
“In this market, keeping who you already have is so important,” she says. “For instance, I’ve recently read that if a high potential had someone in the company who served as an advocate or mentor to them, they were 89% less likely to leave.”
Finally, to recruit for and achieve a culture that will succeed in today’s highly competitive talent landscape, employers must imbue their values across the workforce.
“You need to create authenticity, meaning you actually do what you say you’re going to do and live by the words you say you’re going to live by,” Stroko says. “With that, a high-performing culture and desirable positive growth are the likely outcomes.”
To learn how Oracle HCM Cloud can help you hire for growth, visit oracle.com/hcm.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 2019
2 SHRM, Skills Shortage Tightens Job Market; 83% of HR Professionals Report Difficulty Recruiting: SHRM Research, February 2019
3 Challenger, Gray and Christmas Inc., Challenger Hiring Survey: Employers Report Skills Shortages; HR in Demand, June 2019