by Tammy Munson

Today’s Environment

Across every industry, executives worry about finding the talent and critical skills to deliver on their organizational strategies. Wherever competition for key skills is intense, the ability to hire and retain the right people can make or break a company’s ability to deliver products and services to market. Finding skilled talent to deliver on strategies has become a top concern among CEOs.

Point B’s Perspective

As the statistics begin to impact the daily workplace, much has been written about fighting “the war for talent.” Some companies recruit aggressively and one-up the competition with more attractive pay and benefit packages. At best, this is a short-term, piecemeal fix. Such reactionary measures leave companies at the mercy of external forces when they could have much stronger, more sustainable control of their destiny by optimizing their internal talent management practices.

A better solution to the talent shortage is to look within and plan ahead, applying best practices that work both immediately and long-term in recruiting and retention. Making incremental improvements that build on your strengths, and being diligent in applying practical wisdom may not be sexy, and it’s not rocket science. But it works.

We suggest three essential strategies to get started.

1. Get the basics right.

The most effective recruiting efforts begin by getting the fundamentals—recruiting processes and talent sourcing—right. And then putting them to work.

One of our global clients was competing across its industry for technology talent, and struggling with losing candidates during its recruiting process. We helped them discover that they had too many interviewers involved, resulting in lengthy recruiting cycles and a poor candidate experience. Basic process improvements, such as a preparation meeting and panel interviews, dramatically shortened the process and improved the candidate experience.

It is also critical to develop a sourcing strategy that targets pipelines for critical roles. According to a recent Point B survey, 30 percent of companies had not defined a sourcing strategy at all. Companies can optimize sourcing by making more targeted efforts to seek out recruits from other industries, especially for functional and back-office roles. A common weakness of employee referral programs is encouragement of across-the-board referrals, failing to target specific roles or levels. Your company may benefit much more from focusing referral campaigns on the employees most likely to be connected to the target profile. Together with tailored incentives, such targeted referral campaigns can have immediate impact.

2. Give talented people good reasons to stay.

Does your organization give people compelling reasons to stay? Studies on the cost of employee turnover vary, ranging between 20 to 100 percent of annual salary. In industries where critical skills take years to develop, this cost can be even greater. In short, it pays to focus on keeping the key talent you have.

Inadequate internal advancement is a top driver of employee attrition—particularly among early-career professionals who often have high expectations and short timeframes for development. Look for opportunities to beef up your development, job shadowing, and job rotation opportunities, and eliminate legacy barriers such as time-in-job requirements. Strengthen your programs for talent development and internal mobility. Look for ways to market internal job opportunities more effectively. And make it easy for internal talent to find and explore these opportunities. One of our clients is improving its systems and tools to enhance internal career movement and increase retention. The new process is easier—both for the company to find skills internally and for internal candidates to take the next step in their careers.

You can also improve retention and internal recruiting by developing skills that your organization needs for the future. Cross training and job rotation early in a career can build transferrable skills. One client bolsters its pipeline of future talent by focusing on versatile skills and competencies, such as problem solving and learning agility, so that employees can more easily succeed in different roles. Employees with broad skills can adapt to evolving business needs more effectively than those with a very specific technical profile that may rapidly become outdated. Their adaptability positions them to be the next generation of leaders.

3. Think holistically about people practices.

A strategy to attract or keep talent will only be effective when it is aligned with other talent efforts and stays focused on specific business imperatives. Leading companies develop an integrated talent strategy that considers how each program along the employment lifecycle contributes to business goals.

An integrated talent strategy includes prioritized goals and plans for recruiting, onboarding, development, performance management, retention and succession planning. Start by mapping a clear set of priorities for the business along the end-to-end talent lifecycle. This helps to reveal any gaps and identify where improvements are needed.

In many industries, mergers and acquisitions are a key growth strategy—one that highlights the importance of having an integrated talent strategy. When the business priority is to grow through acquisition, yet the organization is already struggling with retention, recruiting and engaging key talent can become an increasing challenge. 

We recently helped a fast-growing organization define a five-year strategic plan for talent management. The plan includes an overall “people vision” closely tied to the business vision along with specific goals, actions, accountabilities and success metrics for each talent program. By ensuring these programs were aligned to business priorities, the plan mitigated the risks of decision making focused too narrowly on one topic.

The Bottom Line

The ability to get, and keep, the right talent is all about focus and follow-through. Develop a sourcing strategy that targets the specific roles you need to be competitive. Streamline the recruiting process to reduce time to hire. Bolster skills development through career opportunities that give people good reasons to stay. Above all, think holistically, with “people” programs that work together and support a cohesive talent strategy aligned with your company’s strategic goals.