Why the War for Talent is Unwinnable Unless You Do This
It's now too easy to change jobs. As a result companies focus too much on the tactics of managing high volumes of applicants rather than the strategy of attracting top people.
Over the past four weeks I've asked more than 1,000 hiring managers, HR leaders and recruiters representing more than 200 different companies to stand up proudly if they've won the war for talent.
No one did.
However, many of those sitting did remember the pronouncements that with the birth of job boards in the 1990s coupled with the "World Wide Web" - which is what the Internet was called then - the war for talent would be won for companies and candidates alike.
A number of things. The most important: The best talent is finite. The demand isn't.
The second most important: We made the process of changing jobs too easy and focusing on managing this volume of change not only cheapens the jobs but also the people applying.
Despite the inherent "letting the genie of the bottle" problem I then suggested a possible solution exists by categorizing every major hiring problem into one of the following four categories:
Strategic: Determine if quality of hire OR efficiency, cost or whatever, drives your talent acquisition strategy.
Most companies have an efficiency-driven strategy by default but few leaders even recognize this problem. They just know they want to hire people faster and at a lower cost. Most companies, however, say they have a talent-driven strategy where quality drives the hiring decision. This might be true when they select among the final 4-5 candidates but it's not true when the best people never become candidates. This is the Catch-22 dilemma I describe in this important video every company executive should evaluate with his/her senior advisors. Understanding the Catch-22 problem (what you are doing prevents you from doing what you want to do) is the first step in improving quality of hire.
Tactical: Unfortunately, a company's short-term needs often determine its long-term talent acquisition strategy.
If your legal department prevents you from writing compelling ads or you force every candidate to take a pre-screening test, you have a tactical problem. Of course, these problems could be caused by a bad strategy or some ill-conceived process. Consider compensation. Every company wants to hire the top 25% but few are willing to pay top 25% salaries. That's a tactical problem. One solution is to hire people who are a little lighter on experience but heavier on potential. But hiring managers don't want to train or develop these "youngsters" so you're stuck in a tactical Catch-22. Another solution is to shift to hire performance-qualified people rather than those who are skills and experience qualified.
Process: A process designed to weed out the weak more efficiently is destined to fail no matter how robust and user-friendly.
Most companies' hiring processes are driven by their ATS (applicant tracking system). Some are very good. Many are too cumbersome to use. But even the good ones use a one-size-fits-all approach focusing on efficiency and weeding out the weak. Worse from a process control standpoint, few track in real time the factors that drive quality of hire by job, by manager and by recruiter. Without this you can't identify problems as they occur and make the corrections needed.
The interviewer and assessment process is often the culprit when it comes to making hiring mistakes. Lack of clarification around job needs is the prime cause. The result is hiring people who are competent but not motivated to do the work or demotivated by the circumstances. Sadly, few hiring managers or HR leaders are even aware of this foundational issue raised by Harvard Professor Todd Rose in his remarkable study on human performance, The End of Average. Instead they incorrectly believe assessing behaviors and competencies represent the secret sauce.
People: Lack of clarity around real job needs forces bias or some narrow criteria to be the dominate selection criteria.
Even if you get the processes and tactics aligned with the right strategy the people involved will typically take matters into their own hands. Compounding this is that the recruiter and the hiring manager are rarely on the same page. Consider how many great people never get seen because the recruiter's screening criteria is different than the hiring manager's. Aligning these is a critical first step in improving the results of any hiring process.
Too many companies let their short-term needs determine their long-term talent acquisition strategy. This is certainly a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. From a commonsense standpoint once you get the strategy agreed upon it becomes the driving force behind every tactic, hiring program or process design feature and each yes/no hiring decision. Implemented properly, this approach also solves the people problems. Not surprising, these are the hardest nuts to crack.