Tag: workforce planning
Last summer, I had the opportunity to help a friend who was having some challenges staffing his infrastructure team. I hadn’t actively recruited for over five years, but, I thought it would be great fun to be onsite, work with smart people and play with new tools such as Jobvite and Checkster. It seems like yesterday that I was having coffee with Jobvite founder, Jesper Shultz, as he shared his vision for a unique recruiting tool that would leverage social networks and help recruiters manage their applicant flow. Yves Lermusi, who developed Checkster in his post-Taleo career, was a memorable speaker at one of our NCHRA meetings. I discovered (as Raghav Singh tried to tell me) that in spite of some really cool tools, the recruitment process hasn’t changed since I first cut my teeth at the Santa Cruz Operation in the 80s.
I’ll stake my career (spanning leadership roles in technology, professional services, and HR) on three things:
1. Your company’s career site must function
Your marketing team spends a lot of money to attract customers to your site. While they are there, they will almost always look to see if you’re hiring. Any one who becomes aware of an opening you have (via employees, job postings, advertising, etc.) will go to your website to learn more. Don’t blow your biggest opportunity to attract talent with a dysfunctional site.
It needs to be easy for people to navigate and apply. If it isn’t, the best ones won’t bother. Only the most desperate job seeker will bother to click more than 3 times to apply. If your applicant flow is slow in this job market, look at your career site with a critical eye. It may need an overhaul.
2. No murky messages
Potential employees need to know what you want. Don’t be lazy with your message. Most job postings are cut and pasted versions of job requisitions, which are rarely read internally. Netflix’s jobs page is a great example of how to do it right!Treat applicants as nicely as you do your customers
3. Treat applicants as nicely as you do your customers
The dreaded white postcard or automated response that says, in essence, “we got your application. Big deal. We will review it when we get a chance, and maybe, just maybe, you will hear from us” is no way to treat future employees, who may be one of your customers.
It isn’t that hard to answer an email or return a phone call. Customer service reps are adept at this and customer service skills are important competencies for recruiters and HR professionals.
To attract people who will make a difference, focus your resources on these three things.
Vicksburg. The Civil War.
In case you missed it, we are “celebrating” the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States, aka The Civil War, which was anything but “civil.” This was the culture war of culture wars. Those who live north of the Mason Dixon line will tell you the war was over slavery. Those who live south of that line will tell you it was about states’ rights. Historians’ views are more nuanced.
A couple of weeks ago, my spouse, Jim, and I took a few days off and decided to meander (he thinks any speeds under 75 are slow) south on the Natchez Trace. We stopped along the way at Meriwether Lewis’s murder site (a real cold case) and several Native American mounds. Our final destination? Vicksburg, the site of a long, grueling and determinative battle in this war.
Jim, who is writing a novel about female spies in this war, is an expert. Me, not so much. In fact, except for the local Civil War sites in the Franklin, TN, area, this was my first visit to a major battlefield. A century and a half later, the site is almost pastoral, with rolling, grassy knolls (if you can overlook the obvious cannon guns and bunker sites) with tall trees and beautiful memorial monuments. However, the Visitor’s Center film, and a gun (cannon) firing demonstration, set the context for our 16 mile drive tour of the site. Tens of thousands of men, on both sides, hunkered down for weeks. Air was acrid and ash laden — not breathable. People ate dogs, cats, and when necessary, rats. Vicksburg citizens vacated their lovely homes to “hole up” underground — literally.
Yes, we definitely do. I do, anyway. This morning, I duked it out with my partner of 20+ years, over where the fly spray was and why do we have bottles of something poisonous in our pantry that are unlabeled and at least two years old, and why does he want me to throw things away, but won’t let me get rid of his college (half-century old) clothes?
In the office I share, we duke it out (much more quietly) over which news channel should play in the lunch room. I tried to get the manager to rotate between Fox and CNN (the “liberal” station). I didn’t even try for MSNBC, but I wanted to! The stations are supposed to rotate every week, but mostly it’s on Fox, until a few of us can’t stand it anymore and complain.
At my client’s site, there’s a prominently posted sign “congratulating” ladies for flushing — and promising to tackle the men’s room next. Which makes me wonder — who wrote the sign? Who would care about flushing status of both genders’ toilets? I think I’ll call her (gotta be female, right?) the “potty” blogger!
Every office lunchroom I’ve ever been in has a sign saying “Please don’t leave your dishes in the sink!” It is prominently posted over a sink full of dirty dishes.
We love a good fight. We celebrate victories; we celebrate those who are brave enough to fight for us, now that we no longer have a draft; we play war games; we fight on Facebook™.
What we haven’t learned, is to channel our desire to tussle into something that will actually do some good.
What if, at home, we took those combative attitudes, worked with, instead of against, each other, to tackle our fitness programs? Our clutter? Our weeds?
What if, at work, instead of dueling over coffee cups, we worked on winning strategies to conquer our markets? Our processes? Our product quality?
What if, in our communities, instead of shout downs in our town hall meetings, we decided to compete with other communities to see who could be the best at educating our citizens, of all ages, races, and incomes?
What if, as countries, we decided to tackle the big things: corporate self-interests that don’t serve the greater good, runaway pollution, promoting tolerance and ending corruption?
Oh my goodness! I hear Jim calling me from the kitchen. He wants to know if he can throw away the extra blender top I’ve been saving! I can’t believe it. He’s going through the junk drawer! “Stop! I need those syringes for the horses!”
Never mind. I have battles on the home front to fight. I’ll tackle the big questions — later!
The question of the “perfect” candidate is one that anyone who touches the recruiting process must eventually confront. I explained a few of the challenges in my previous blog post and I have been poking around to see what practical tools exist.
I began with a long conversation with Lucia Erwin, a Silicon Valley workforce planning pioneer and HR strategist. She said that one of her biggest consulting challenges is when she wants to conduct an environmental scan for talent. That’s because often, when companies are scanning the external environment, they are looking at competitors, industry trends, governmental regulations, not the talent pool. Managers often assume that whatever they need in the way of skills will be there. This reminds me of building The Field of Dreams, if you have the jobs, they will come.
This discovery prompted me to interview Greg Nicastro, CEO of My Perfect Gig. I first discovered MPG a couple of years ago while having coffee with a former colleague from SCO (The Santa Cruz Operation), John James. John listened to my impassioned rant about talent and how it’s the people who make the difference between winning and losing companies and that if you have the right team, you can solve any problem, etc., etc. Then John said, “You need to check out My Perfect Gig. They are doing something really interesting.”
Two years later, their model is even more intriguing than when I first discovered it, MPG gives companies real-time information about the supply of and demand for talent in a specific market. Rob Roberts, VP of Product for MPG, showed me how they can show employers the current available supply of specific skills and experience levels by geographic location. Additionally, they show who else is looking for those skills. He did a sample search for software developers with Ruby-on-Rails, SQL, and Java. There were several thousand candidates in the market he selected. Then, he added Python. Whoops! The pool shrank from thousands to a few hundred.
CEO Greg Nicastro explained that when he joined MPG, he was looking at the product from the perspective of the recruiter, but, as he talks to more and more companies, he’s realizing that the ability to have a current snapshot of talent can be enormously valuable for companies when formulating their talent strategies and workforce plans. MyPerfectGig is like Google Earth with street views for talent acquisition executives. He stressed, that while MPG gives companies a very clear picture of the current state of the talent supply and demand, equally important, “MPG leverages that data and our advanced search smarts to generate very well matched short lists of technical candidates—I like to think of it as the last mile or candidate ‘cull to quality.’ ”
MyPerfectGig’s solution is targeted to help talent acquisition leaders find the best available talent fast. However, I think the real opportunity for visionary HR strategists, is to use tools like theirs to form their talent management strategies. The value of accurate information cannot be overstated.
To gain competitive advantage based on a talent strategy, companies must be go beyond rhetoric to actual implementation. That requires actionable intelligence, the ability to look at trends, in order to make the most effective talent investments. Accurate information will help you answer questions like: Do I need to hire skills? Develop skills? Send people to training? Outsource? My next blog article will feature several thought leaders who are working to address the need to spot talent trends.
- “This position has been vacant for 9 months.”
- “We just can’t find the right person.”
- “HR hasn’t sent me any qualified people.”
- “I can’t find a good headhunter who can find me someone.”
- “We have hired the best search firm and they can’t find me anyone.”
Then, when I ask, “How many people do you think can do this job?” I get answers like, “Oh, there’s only a handful that I can think of” or “I have no idea” or “I can’t take time to train someone. They need to hit the ground running.”
If you don’t have a clear idea of the supply of available talent (possessing the required KSA’s, etc.) vs. the demand for that talent, you can’t possibly have an effective staffing strategy. You are basically crossing your fingers and rolling the dice. As far as I can tell, very few companies even think about it like that.
Some governments (i.e., Canada and Australia are two) think about the labor supply. Industries that need large quantities of similar skill sets (e.g., call centers, manufacturing, the medical industry with nurses and doctors) factor in supply and demand when doing workforce planning, but it seems like most companies are rather blind.
If the demand for a particular skill set is very high compared with the supply, you need to have a strategy to address the gap. Stephen Harvey, former naval intelligence officer and founder of Talent Intelligence, doesn’t understand how companies can think about business strategy without a coherent staffing strategy. Talent Intelligence works exclusively with a few select companies to map out the available talent pool for key positions. Their clients use their services for succession planning at the top layers, for key positions further down the hierarchy, and to do their workforce planning. I asked Stephen for his thoughts and got an earful.
“Our experience is that many companies struggle with workforce planning and understanding the talent supply chain. As a result they tend to be short term focused, reactive and hope that it all works out! This is a recipe for disaster really. There are numerous skill sets in short supply attached to high demand – this is particularly true in the oil & gas, resources/mining sector for example. Companies in this sector, large and small, are looking to attract and retain talent from a global talent pool that is nowhere big enough to satisfy everyone’s demand. As such they are adopting a range of innovative solutions to address this but at the end of the day they are still “fishing from the same pond” so competition is fierce.
To compete and outpace competitors (no matter what industry sector you operate in) an organization should have a strategy whereby they definitively know what their talent demands will be moving forward and then understand the depth and breadth of a particular talent pool with supporting real-time continuous intelligence on factors such as: location (current and preferences), mobility (and timing of any move), diversity, transferable competencies, compensation data, “getability” (likelihood of acquisition), etc. Having a constant and comprehensive quantified and qualified pool of global talent at your fingertips aligned to your key leadership and functional/technical roles will provide you with a competitive advantage.”
Talent Intelligence’s business model comes from the fundamental truth: you must know the target and the competition for that talent. Talent Acquisition (AKA “recruiting” or “staffing”) is a marketing problem. You must know the supply and demand.
Hiring managers often insist on waiting for the ideal candidate, one who meets their job spec, rather than a good candidate who can do the job. This may work if you are Google (with their strong preference for Stanford grads and PhD’s.) but the rest of us need a different plan. Don’t get hung up on finding the “right” fit. It’s more effective to be clear about the skills needed from Day One, vs. what can be learned, who can transfer the knowledge, and who can do the job quickly with some training.
Are you being shortsighted? Are you asking the right questions? Instead of asking, “What is the ideal candidate profile?” ask, “What work needs to be done? What skills are required to do the work? What is the available labor supply for this skill set?” and, most importantly, “Who else needs those skills?
Then, decide how to get the work done. It’s easy with unlimited funds. Most problems disappear if you throw enough money at them. However, if that is not the case, you need to get creative. Look at your own people. Often, there are bright, ambitious people who are eager to take on a stretch role. They want to learn new skills.
I have been astounded by the number of hiring managers who would rather wait 6-9 months (even longer) to get the “right person,” when they could have invested 90 days and a few thousand dollars in training. It’s a wonder more managers don’t lose their jobs, when you factor in relocation expenses, recruiting fees, and the opportunity costs of vacant positions. Wouldn’t it be interesting to have a “talent scorecard” as part of the balanced scorecard?