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Finding, and keeping, the right people when talent is scarce

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the longstanding talent scarcity problem even more acute. In manufacturing, for example, the problem is reaching a crisis point, with most organisations that manufacture goods struggling to resource their operations. Across multiple geographies and sectors, increasing demand is creating vacancies that talent acquisition teams simply can’t fill – on both the permanent and contingent workforce.

This high demand/low supply dynamic is creating a candidates’ market, as individuals with highly sought skills enjoy more choice than ever before about who they work for. The result? Rising wage inflation and a worrying trend of desperate employers offering attractive incentives to secure available candidates.

But these financial incentives, or “golden hellos”, are clearly an unsustainable, short-term fix for what is a chronic issue. From a retention point of view, they’re also likely to be counterproductive. Workers who accept a role purely on the promise of a one-off financial boost are likely to move on to the next highest bidder at the first available opportunity.

So what should employers be doing instead to attract and retain the people they need in such a sparse and competitive market for talent?

First, organisations must develop compelling talent acquisition strategies that are based on far more than financial rewards. The starting point for this employer value proposition, or EVP, is one simple question: why should an in-demand candidate choose to work for us instead of the competition?

The answers will differ for contingent and permanent workers but, in both instances, they will incorporate elements such as your corporate values; learning, development and progression opportunities; flexible working arrangements; your technology stack; opportunities to do meaningful work; and your approach to collaboration and line management. An important step for many organisations right now is to recognise that contingent workers value these things just as much as their permanent counterparts do – and that both are equally scarce right now.

The second part of an effective attraction and retention strategy is finding the right route to market. While talent scarcity is very real, it’s also true that many organisations could combat this to some extent by broadening their horizons – both in terms of who they want to attract, and how they do it.

A tight market for talent can often be eased with relatively simple measures. Modifying pre-employment screening processes, for example, can open a wider pool of talent. Suppliers that specialise in recruiting historically overlooked segments of the workforce – talented mothers looking to return to work, minority groups, former members of the armed forces, people with past convictions – can also help organisations find the talented people they need in places they hadn’t previously thought to look.

These steps can be truly transformative when taken in partnership with an experienced workforce solutions provider. By leveraging that provider’s access to a supply chain of specialist recruiters and technology to unlock overlooked talent, and expertise in designing and implementing compelling EVPs for both permanent and contingent workers, organisations can start to overcome the challenges of talent scarcity – and perhaps find that talent isn’t quite as scarce as they imagined.