You may have heard that U.S. unemployment is low right now. Extremely low. In fact, it recently hit its lowest point in almost 50 years. Even lower than during the booming late 1990s when McKinsey coined its now-famous term “the war for talent,” which perfectly described the human capital battleground that was playing out during that time.
The current combination of low unemployment and a strong economy truly makes it a candidate’s market when it comes to talent acquisition. The recent trend of candidates ghosting recruiters is a clear sign that the tides of recruiting have changed in the candidate’s favor.
Demand for great marketing and advertising talent is far outstripping supply, particularly in key growth areas like digital, mobile, data analytics and technical roles. In fact, over half of the most in-demand skill sets for 2019 exist either primarily or heavily within marketing.
For businesses looking to buy talent in this market, this has costly implications: time-to-fill goes up, sourcing efforts must rise either through more in-house resources or the use of external agencies, more aggressively marketing roles through sponsored job slots or ad campaigns. And when you finally find that perfect candidate, you likely have a hard time trying to pry them away from what is probably a great situation at their current job.
That’s the bad news. Now how about some good?
There has never been a better time to refocus our efforts on developing the awesome talent we already have within our organizations. There will continue to be a place for a buy strategy, particularly if you are a fast-growing company. However, this is a great opportunity to fortify and focus on a build strategy instead. That’s because building a strong pipeline of internal talent is the best way to futureproof your business against not only macro-economic shifts but industry and competitive shifts as well.
Developing a learning culture at your company is crucial for two reasons: it encourages employees to stay with you longer so they can grow into new positions, and it enables employees to learn skills that equip them for roles with greater responsibilities at the company. But creating a learning culture doesn’t only involve making learning available. You must also give your team time and space to learn, motivate them by clearly showing how learning will benefit their career and provide a blend of learning options to keep them engaged (e-learning, classroom-based, on the job, mentoring, etc.).
And although hard skills gaps are easiest to diagnose and oftentimes train, we must not neglect soft skills. Digitally native Gen Z needs extra support in this area compared to past generations, and the rise of automation and AI mean the value of human-based competencies will continue to increase over the coming years.
At the highest level of your organization, leaders promote the build strategy by advocating for internal upward mobility (i.e., promotion from within), investing in learning (i.e., in-house L&D resources, technology, MOOCs) and leading by example by doing both of these with their own teams. If a company preaches build but all their executives got there through buy, there is a disconnect that will trickle down.
Outside of the executive suite, the leaders and managers within your organization are really the linchpins of making build sustainable through working with their teams, giving them feedback, creating custom learning and development plans and advocating for them and their advancement internally.
HR and ops
When people operations teams think about “optimizing their pipeline,” they usually think about recruitment. But what if the focus was on internal talent pipelines? HR is uniquely positioned to remove friction around upward mobility through their organization’s ranks.
They can start by making it easy for managers to promote their people by removing administrative barriers, having frequent promotion windows and recognizing managers that frequently promote well-deserving staff. Ensure consistency and merit, of course, but grease the wheels rather than applying the brakes.
They can also create bridging plans as part of the regular talent calibration process. This ensures that there is dialogue about every employee’s readiness for the next role, what is needed to get there and appropriate succession plans, making the internal pipeline dream a mapped-out reality. They also need to work with leaders and managers to foster the learning culture by identifying where development is required across levels and help deliver it.
Finally, don’t forget that diversity and inclusion matter. Diverse teams perform better and drive greater innovation and are also increasingly important to retaining top talent. Almost three-quarters of millennials say they would stay more than five years with a diverse employer, compared with 27% at a non-diverse company. Diversity promotes a range of diverse skills, characteristics and competencies you need to fill key roles as the company evolves, which, in turn, will make your build strategy even more robust and resilient for the future.