The Talent Challenge

Our four-part series on the challenges senior executives face when finding and nurturing great people begins with a look at the talent market and evolving company strategies

by Megan Bungeroth

At the core of every successful business are people. Finding and keeping the right people with the right capabilities leads to organizational growth. This strategy is a win-win for employers and employees alike, as growth leads to new opportunities for high-performing team members. But this strategy is more difficult to implement in today’s enterprise. A candidate-driven job market requires leaders to redefine how they attract great talent on the front end. And once talent has entered the company, changing workforce norms require organizations to rethink their retention and development efforts.

We spoke with more than fifteen executives across the C-Suite about how they craft effective talent strategies. The result is a four-part series that explores how such leaders overcome the talent challenges faced by the modern enterprise. Here, in part 1, we dive into the unique challenges posed by the landscape itself. In part 2, we examine how the CEO sets the tone for talent in an organization. Part 3 examines how finance, IT, legal, and operations leaders craft talent strategies from their seats. And finally, in part 4, we see how HR leaders are navigating these changes.



The Talent Landscape, By the Numbers

2017 study by employment information website Glassdoor reveals striking trends that impact companies hoping to attract great talent, especially as millennials gain increasing influence in the workplace:

  • 66% of millennials expect to leave their organization by 2020
  • Only 32% of all employees in the United States feel engaged by their role
  • 63% of millennials believe their leaderships skills aren’t being fully developed
  • 80% of employees would rather have new or additional benefits than a pay increase
  • 72% of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills
  • It takes an average of 28 days to fill an open position
  • Only 4% of HR leaders believe very strongly in their ability to keep millennials engaged at work
  • 85% of executives rated engagement as an important priority
  • 89% of companies cited leadership as a top issue in 2016
  • Companies with a formal engagement strategy are 67% more likely to improve revenue on a year-over-year basis
  • 49% of CEOs are actively focusing on the leadership pipeline

Tomorrow’s Work Requires New Skills

As companies adapt to changing workforce norms and skill sets, they are facing a talent pool that lacks key skills. A survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that only 36 percent of the general population are confident that they are suited to find success in the workforce. However, nearly 75 percent of those surveyed said they were ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable.

The disconnect between these numbers reveals a great need for better talent strategy. HR executives are impacting the growth of their organizations by formulating comprehensive, long-term strategies that combat these concerns. These strategies include identifying strong core values, facilitating alignment to the company’s mission, and implementing diversity and inclusion practices. More importantly, such leaders are demonstrating how an effective talent strategy can make a major impact on thousands of lives—as well as the bottom line.

HR Can’t Face These Challenges Alone

For companies cited with robust and effective recruiting and retention efforts, every C-suite leader engages in the hiring process. Such executives view filling and maintaining the talent pipeline as a vital part of their leadership role. Every executive has the opportunity to identify potential improvements, think strategically, and set the tone from their seat.

Organizations with cohesive, company-wide talent strategies and alignment yield happier employees, better work, and increased growth. Though the steps to achieve such strategies may have been the exclusive purview of the HR department in the past, the modern workplace requires sharing this responsibility among leadership.

The first step is preparing for a situation before it even arises. This can mean developing a better understanding of your organization and where it wants to go, gaining buy-in across the industry, or actively recruiting and networking, even when there aren’t yet positions to fill.

Another important element of this strategy requires connecting employees to the higher purpose of the organization. This purpose will typically be identified as fitting the employees’ skill sets, needs, and goals, but it will also extend to ensuring that incoming talent will be a value-fit.

Developing incoming and existing talent is a crucial follow-up. Throughout the organization, leaders have a responsibility to show a path to personal and professional development. Growth opportunities show a real commitment to individuals, and in turn these individuals will feel empowered to make a bigger impact on the organization. A key aspect of these efforts is to open those opportunities to employees that may often be overlooked traditionally. Diversity is an important element of a successful office, and executives at all levels and departments can impact this by recognizing and utilizing the gems that may otherwise have been passed over.

If every executive in the organization sees the talent strategy as a part of their daily responsibility, that culture will filter down to every individual employee. Part of that, notes AstraZeneca senior director of HR Lynnsie Peterson, comes from seeing those employees as more than a number in the list of reports. “To maximize effectiveness, we need employees to be agile, resilient, and able to collaborate and look beyond their own areas of expertise,” she says. This, of course, extends to breaking the perceived barriers between the HR office and the other departments. Talent acquisition, management, and development are “an integrated and continuous process,” Peterson says, and benefit from care and attention throughout the organization.

In the second part of our series, we look at the role of the CEO in crafting an effective talent strategy. Read Why the CEO Sets the Tone for Talent Strategy now.

Share the entire series with your team as a white paper. Download “Every Executive Impacts Talent Strategy (Even You).”

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