When you visit an HR trade show two things stick out in the tech section:
A. You mostly encounter either tools for process automation or technology with a focus on recruitment.
B. Many of the newer (< 5 years) solutions are focused on recruitment.
This focus on recruitment ties in with the growing concern of the C-level about attracting the right talent, as demonstrated by The Conference Board’s 2018 C-Suite Challenge Survey.
Their concern is legitimate.
The ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey 2018 tells us that 45% of companies report having difficulties filling in jobs, an all-time high in the 12 years that Manpower has been conducting this survey.
For many HR professionals, this War for Talent has been an important point of focus for over a decade. But today even the general public is familiar with the War for Talent because of the steady stream of media coverage on this topic. No wonder companies are spending tons of resources on recruiting efforts, including €491 billion on engaging the employment industry to find the talent they need…
In this digital age, it is no surprise that this issue has led to an explosion of technological solutions related to recruitment. Just have a look at Anna Ott’s research on HR Tech Startups in France or HR Tech Valley’s map of Belgian HR Tech.
So the question is: will all these hiring, staffing, talent, marketplace, recruitment automation solutions help you win the War for Talent?
Let’s explore why in this article by looking at a number of (often neglected) facts.
Blinded by the battlefield
When we talk about the War for Talent, we tend to focus on the acquisition side:
- How do we get the attention of the best talent?
- How can we convince them to consider working for us?
- How do we speed up the recruitment process so we don’t lose them to someone who hires faster?
An increasing number of people are stating that the War for Talent is over and that Talent has won. This is true when you focus on the battleground of recruitment. But it’s not that organizations as such have lost from talent. The underlying issue here is that the talent available to fill job vacancies is decreasing.
In a recent paper (in Dutch), VOKA, the combined Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Flanders (Belgium), states that over the last 4 years the number of available candidates per vacancy has dropped from 9 to 4,5. And this is not just an issue in Belgium.
If we look at Korn Ferry’s most recent ‘Future of Work: The Global Talent Crunch’ study, this number will continue to drop as they predict a global human talent shortage of more than 85 million people by 2030. In some lines of work this issue is already a huge concern – just ask any IT department how difficult it is to find good developers.
Maybe by now, you are thinking “But hey, with all this robotization, automation, and Artificial Intelligence going on, we will need fewer people, so there won’t be a problem”. Sure, jobs will disappear – some 75 million between today and 2022 to be exact.
However, according to the World Economic Forum, 133 million new job roles will be created in that same period. That’s 58 million extra positions to fill while Korn Ferry tells us we’re already heading towards a shortage of 85 million…
Looking at these figures it’s crystal clear that the War for Talent will continue to be a relevant concern. Yet the concern of having the right talent on board requires a different focus. It’s not recruiting talent organizations should focus on, but retaining and developing the talent they already have.
What if they stay?
When someone decides to leave your organization, it often happens unexpectedly and results in an “all hands on deck” approach to find a replacement. This problem is seldom solved overnight, meaning that the rest of the team will have to work even harder to compensate. The benefits of not having to replace someone are obvious and that’s why retention is such an important battlefield.
In the past, companies retained their employees by providing a good salary, the promise of promotion, and employer loyalty. Such extrinsic motivators no longer suffice and companies are no longer able to keep this kind of promises. Jobs are less stable. Keeping top talents with extrinsic motivators requires you to (over)stretch when someone else is trying to make them a better offer.
As a result, companies use varying efforts to create a working environment that encourages current staff to stay. Financial motivators are now complemented by other efforts like creating ‘nice places to work’ and efforts to ensure cultural fit. But keeping people on board is just part of the equation.
You have probably already come across the following conversation between a CEO and a CFO.
CFO asks CEO: ‘What happens if we invest in developing our people and then they leave us?’
CEO: ‘What happens if we don’t and they stay?’
The CEO’s question is becoming more relevant every day. In just about every job today new skills are required continuously, as demonstrated by the MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte’s fourth annual study of the digital business:
An astonishing 90% of their respondents indicated that they need to update their skills at least yearly with nearly half of them needing to update their skills on an ongoing basis.
No wonder LinkedIn discovered in its 2018 Workplace Learning Report that 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.
Unfortunately, only 34% of the people surveyed by the MIT SMR and Deloitte said they are satisfied with the degree to which their organization supports ongoing skill development. What’s more, Josh Bersin found they have on average only 24 minutes a week to learn (which barely boils down to 1% of their time!).
As relevant as the CEO’s question is, it seems that for now, the CFO is winning the conversation. Actually, this shouldn’t even surprise us because there currently is one big flaw when it comes to learning and development: it isn’t measurable (except for maybe attendance).
So let’s dive into how we can mend this flaw, the role technology can play and how you can win the War for Talent on the battlefield of retention and that extra of developing your people.
The evolution of learning and learning tech
For the next 3 seconds think about learning within your company.
Chances are that what first came to mind was instructor-led classroom training. This used to be a dominant teaching method as we learn from The Bersin Corporate Learning Factbook®.
But these instructors and their methods are under fierce competition, not in the least from any new technology that has arisen over the last couple of years. After all, who hasn’t used YouTube to learn how to do something? Who hasn’t gained new insights from reading a LinkedIn article or by following a thread shared on Twitter?
This kind of online self-study, as well as learning by doing and learning from your colleagues, is gaining momentum. It is a shift that we also see in learning technology which is transforming from a Learning Management System Market into a Learning Experience Platform (LXP) Market as Josh Bersin has coined it.
The focus is shifting from ‘offering a catalog of courses’ to the facilitation of ‘learning in the flow of work’.
This leaves us with three questions:
- Will bringing in LXP’s completely fulfill your talent’s need for support in their skill development and thus help you in retaining them?
- Will this stimulate people to proactively approach their own learning instead of waiting for their superiors to tell them to take a course?
- Will this align the development of your people to where the company’s strategy is headed for the future?
In this age of digital transformation technology, it is undeniable that technology like LXP’s and other (HR) tech solutions will play a role. After all, people expect technological solutions to come in and it is an important way to increase efficiency, save time and create transparency and clarity.
However, we need to keep in mind that technology is only a means to an end, never the solution. Technology needs to be embedded in an approach which helps everyone see its benefits. Without such an approach, the technology will never be used to its full potential and can cause frustration instead.
Let’s briefly explore what the elements of such an embedded approach are when you want to make learning your weapon for retention.
People and data inspire a learner’s attitude
Let’s be honest. Once we have left school and entered the workforce, we get so caught up in our everyday work that we tend to push everything aside that isn’t immediately related to the task at hand.
The uncertainty of how professions will evolve – think of the Doomsday messages linked to robotization – can also make us hold back on investing our time in learning.
To overcome these obstacles, organizations must create a context that inspires, activates and facilitates continuous learning. A context where people develop a learner’s attitude. It’s this attitude, this behavior that is essential for making sure you have the talent you need within your organization.
Such a context cannot exist without the collection of data.
With data, management understands what the impact of focusing on learning is on productivity, on the ROI of learning and on cost centers like the loss of an employee (Securex estimates this to be around €35,000 in Belgium).
Besides, data functions as a mirror on a person’s performance, which is exactly what many people desire. This may come as a surprise but it’s something that was uncovered by the MIT and Deloitte study too (“90 percent indicate they want to use data analytics from their organization to help them improve their own performance”).
Technology can provide you with tons of data.
What it boils down to, is to understand what exactly it is you need to monitor the effect of the context you are creating on:
- company performance;
- retention and;
- learning (or to be more precise: skill development).
So talk to vendors, see what data they can provide you with and understand which data is relevant for your company to monitor.
So, will technology help you win the War for Talent? Yes and no. Depending on how you use it, technology can help you be victorious if you:
- Understand that the War for Talent will be fought on the battlefield of retention so you need to deploy the right technology in that area;
- Use it to support employees in their career development so your company has the skills in-house to survive and thrive;
- Focus on technology that enables you to create a context in which data can feed your people strategy.
Godspeed, dear reader!
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