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Is The Talent Shortage A Myth?

It’s difficult today to find an employer who is not seeking to fill a role of some type. Emerging from the pandemic, what seems all to common is that many people have decided to make a job or career change while organizations scrabble to fill vacancies. As described in the media as “the war for talent” a more competitive job market has forced employers to raise wages and benefits to attract people. Some sectors are finding it more challenging than others. For example, the Business Development Bank of Canada, earlier this year reported,

55 per cent of tech entrepreneurs are struggling to hire the employees they need and 29 per cent are finding it hard to retain them

and as a result,

the only thing that is going to limit growth is going to be on the labour side.

Businesses that refine their value proposition in recruiting new hires can create a competitive advantage instead of accepting the widely held but false idea that recruiting talent is primarily a function of the prevailing economy. Although there is no ‘silver bullet’ for recruiting, by focusing on fundamental dimensions of the employment relationship beyond the standard job description, opportunities for more effectively attracting talent can be unlocked. While many Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) may lack the dedicated human resources to take this important step, many larger businesses who do, are missing or minimizing this aspect.

For many employers, a job vacancy is posted, advertised and shared with recruiters primarily focused on job tasks, responsibilities, competencies and possibly some description of the company. This is what potential applicants see and generally informs their choice. We know culture, values, purpose, fit and alignment are more important in creating a positive and productive employment relationship resulting in higher engagement, yet this is not the focus of many employers, to detriment of recruiting in this ‘war for talent’.

As the above graphic indicates, many employers are misreading what is important to potential employees. Businesses spend a lot of time and money seeking to understand what their customers want but much less effort with such a fundamental driver of success like talent. Why might this be happening? Often, it’s simply easier to define and quantify elements of a job description, responsibilities, etc. than to delve into what might be seen as the nebulous areas of purpose, values and culture.

“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

To be more effective in recruiting, employers and especially SME’s may want to consider several things. In his hugely popular book and business guide, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber states that,

you’re going to have to create an environment in which ‘doing it’ is more important to your people than not doing it

in regard to creating an engaged workplace. He’s referencing the workplace relationship where for employees, money and benefits (which needs to be competitive with the market for similar jobs) are not the primary drivers of engagement but rather connecting employees to the ‘game’ or purpose is and that drives your business forward through every activity and role, every day. Another valuable idea is provided in The Great Game of Business by Jack Stack in reference to the power of giving a stake in the outcome of a business as something that should not be overlooked. This means aligning incentives to not only the individual performance of employees but also to the team goals and overall organizations goals at differing points of time, suggesting

every employee should be part of the same bonus program, from the chief executive to the people who sweep the floors and answer the phones.

Some businesses may be thinking this is temporary situation and when the economy slows and the job market cools, the war for talent goes away. If trying to fill a vacancy with just anyone, waiting might be an workable approach but if your business want to attract A-players (defined as someone in the top 10% of the available talent pool) a deeper consideration and understanding of the fit beyond the extrinsic aspects will continue to grow as a competitive advantage for many. We know that its essential to attract the right people since most jobs involve discretionary work effort (the effort an employee gives more than the bare minimum required) which can make a significant difference in organizational productivity and success.

Ultimately recruiting for the best talent in any economic situation needs to prioritize:

1. culture fit

2. alignment to purpose and living it

3. demonstrating core values

Without a primary focus on these, the risk of attracting the wrong talent for long term success increases. The talent shortage is a myth perpetuated by some organizations continuing to view recruitment as transactional rather than a long-term investment.



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