Where Is Everybody?

 –The war for talent rages on…

Don’t get caught with your pants down.
That idiom has its origins in the Roman Emperor Caracalla, later known as Marcus Aurelius. Picture1He was known as one of the bad-ass Emperors somewhere before 200AD. Legend has it he was killed while relieving himself, hence “with his pants down.” Though it may actually have been a robe. Or chainmail. Whatever he was wearing, he had it down and he was killed. Going forward, warriors took care of their business with sword in hand, so not to be “caught with their pants down.”

So, what does this incredibly interesting trivia lesson mean to you? Funny you should ask…

Simply put, in the people equation, demand has—and will continue to—outpace supply. Our recent 2016 Survey of Senior Leadership (SSL) ranked Talent Acquisition/Talent Management as the #2 Leadership Challenge today. Behind only Revenue/ Earnings Enhancement, the perennial #1 for many years.

Picture2I know what you’re thinking… War for Talent?? Seriously? Oil is at or around $50. Global layoffs in oil & gas exceed 350k in the past 18 months. Article after article tells of the woes of recent graduates, unable to find anything but McJobs after incurring a bucket-load of student debt.

I was born at night, you say, but not last night.

Yeah well, listen up—it’s happening. We’ve got something of a perfect storm brewing for talent.

  1. Demographics: Baby boomers continue their exodus. And many are stepping aside from leadership roles even if not leaving the workforce. Millennials aren’t just looking for a job, they are seeking specific roles with specific returns and rewards. Simply “needing to work” isn’t enough to cause action if the position and company aren’t a perceived fit.
  2. Market stabilizations, though welcome, mean that hiring simply must take place. Some layoffs were too deep, others brought to surface shortfalls heretofore unrecognized.
  3. Increased employee turnover is an added dynamic. National turnover rates in the U.S. continue to increase, nearly doubling (yes, you read that right, doubling) in the past four years. In other words, you’ve got to plan for new hires and replacement hires. And remember that about half of all that turnover occurs within the first 12 months of hire. Put that in your pipe and smoke it…

We’ve got to pay attention here, and plan for reality. Here are some simple suggestions:

  1. No, really… plan for hiring well in advance of desperate need. Identify what you truly need, and project out for at least a couple of quarters (a year is better).
  2. Be willing to hire when the right candidate is ready. Not when you’re ready, necessarily, but when the right candidate is ready.
  3. Charge recruiters with keeping an eye out all the time. If they stumble upon someone available today who fits a Q3 need, see #2 above.
  4. Be slower on staff reductions. Give market and company conditions some time to equalize. I know the short-term pressures can be big, but longer-term failures due to talent shortages are bigger.
  5. Leadership matters. People will stay with effective, meaningful leadership. They’ll leave if it doesn’t exist. We know that now, so act accordingly. Employee referrals increase when leadership cares. We know that, too. Plus, engaging leaders drive discretionary effort; new hires and incumbents succeed more often with engaging leaders.

Talent matters—nothing new there. The right talent can be difficult to find even when you receive 400 applications/resumes. Ask anyone responsible for recruiting today—they’ll tell you. Bodies are plentiful, specific talent… not so much.

Picture3Sort of like the Twilight Zone episode, Where is Everybody?

Know what’s coming, and get ready.