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America’s Next Top Talent

Recruiting is only one part of the talent equation. Learn how a holistic approach to talent management can make the difference in attracting, keeping, and motivating your people.

The last few years have seen seismic shifts in the U.S. workforce. Among them, the Great Reshuffling and the massive increase in remote and hybrid schedules. Today, many jobs have been unleashed from local geography, resulting in often global competition for talent. And despite government interventions aimed at tempering inflation, the labor market remains tight.

Employees who learned during COVID-19 to reprioritize life and work are not, so far, returning to their pre-pandemic ways. Business leaders are realizing that recruiting, developing, and retaining people requires more—and different—effort than it used to. Without an appropriate reimagining of talent management structures, organizations face a workforce willing and able to pursue better opportunities.

Many senior executives have been caught on their heels by these shifts. In fact, a McKinsey survey found 87 percent of company leaders believe their organizations are not adequately prepared to address emerging skills gaps driven by current labor trends.

How can your organization rank among the few that are keeping pace on the talent front? We provide some actionable steps to consider.

Mind the gap

First, you’ll need to identify existing and forthcoming talent gaps. Look at what capabilities the business needs to generate value now and in the future. Then compare these requirements to the abilities and bandwidth of your workforce.

Don’t be surprised if you uncover some serious mismatches. Armed with an in-depth understanding of your needs, you can create a pragmatic strategy to meet them.

As a rule, such workforce planning should happen more frequently these days. You may want to transition from an annual or biannual review to quarterly or even monthly efforts.

Think holistically

Many companies consider their talent strategy to be little more than their recruiting pipeline. Perhaps an exclusive focus on hiring worked decades ago, but today, a multi-layered talent management strategy is a must.

This means applying a holistic approach “from pre-hire to retire,” taking into account all aspects of workforce development: attracting candidates, screening prospects, onboarding and training new hires, upskilling workers throughout their careers, measuring performance, promoting internally, and even interviewing employees who choose to exit and keeping up with them in their new roles.

Sound like a lot? It can be. For simplicity, we’ll break these issues down into two key areas: candidate experience and employee experience.

Candidate experience

It used to be that companies only concerned themselves with the first impression prospects made on their HR team or hiring managers. No longer. It’s now essential to consider the other side, too, how candidates view the organization they might join.

That means asking at each stage, “How would a potential recruit feel about this?” and “What does our hiring process communicate about our organization?” For example:

  • The application Are you effectively communicating your brand? Does the application ask only for what you need or do you make candidates jump through hoops, like entering box-by-box the same information included on the resume they’re also uploading? A streamlined, mobile-friendly application demonstrates your organization is up to date on tech and respects candidates’ time.

  • Next steps Make another good impression by responding to applications promptly with messages outlining next steps and offering points of contact should the candidate have a question or encounter a problem. Such basic courtesy shows your consideration and can cut down on ghosting.

  • Time to fill Vetting candidates is important, but it shouldn’t require five rounds of interviews, a culture assessment, a sample project, etc. Too many requirements come across as a power move and the extra time involved allows other organizations to scoop up your top prospects. How can you simplify and streamline your screening while still gaining sufficient insight into prospective hires?

  • A two-way street The above points may lead you to cut out parts of your recruiting process, but here’s one thing to add—opportunities for candidates to learn more about you. Invite candidates to ask questions, seek a deeper understanding of the organization’s values and mission, and gain clarity about the culture, the expectations, and the role they’d be taking on. This will not only increase the quality of hire, it communicates that you care about your people.

Employee experience

A well-crafted candidate experience should make new hires excited about the organization they’re joining. The employee experience must then deliver on the promise, so great talent is inspired to stay and contribute over the long run. To do it, you may wish to consider the following.

  • Leverage the power of small Smaller teams are more agile. They also foster cultural belonging and offer novice leaders opportunities to build their skills. If you have large business units or departments on the org chart, find ways for challenges and opportunities to be divided and conquered by smaller groups.

  • Cut the nonsense Ruthlessly eliminate time-wasting practices and unhealthy behaviors. Why? Because top talent won’t put up with these frustrations for long.

  • Offer mobility Design more career pathways within the company. After all, hiring from outside is risky and expensive. Internal candidates offer benefits and competitive advantages like institutional knowledge and assured cultural fit. Even if they need training to grow into a role, you’ll likely wind up with a better match and more loyal employee when you promote internally, making the practice well worth the investment.

  • Foster well-being The pandemic shined a light on the longstanding problem of employee burnout, and it’s a good thing more companies are taking action. Organizations can cultivate well-being by enhancing elements of the benefits package, evaluating and optimizing workloads, building connection and community among employees, and taking other actions outlined our recent article on the topic.

  • Take the Nike approach to DEI Commit time and resources to welcoming and promoting genuine diversity, equity, and inclusion. The “business case” for DEI is well established, plus it’s the right thing to do. So just do it.

Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good

The “pre-hire to retire” journey is a long one and the prospect of perfecting every element can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, you don’t have to! An intentional strategy and a willingness to adapt as the workforce changes will enable you to continually improve candidate and employee experience step by step by step.

Perfection will never be achieved but many positive results will. The most important thing is to take that first step. What can you do today?


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