Filling the talent gap with innovative recruitment strategies


An Accenture survey of 1,088 U.S. workers and unemployed citizens tells the story: The majority of workers surveyed (55%) report that they are under pressure to develop additional skills to succeed in their current and future jobs. But only 21% say they have acquired new skills through formal, company-provided training during the past five years; only 6% have participated in training through podcasts and other informal mechanisms.

While employees take the responsibility to develop their own skills, they’re not getting good guidance from employers about exactly which skills would be most beneficial. As a result, they tend to focus narrowly on technology skills, the Accenture survey reports. Few people have updated other in-demand skills such as problem-solving or analytics.

The Accenture study highlights that there are a number of important innovations in the recruiting and hiring fields that can make it easier to find top-performing, skilled talent on a global basis, quickly and more cheaply. Recent company expernce suggests a number of ways to take advantage of these new techniques

1. Use social media platforms to find talent yourself

Instead of relying on expensive headhunters or job postings, many organizations are moving toward identifying the ideal candidates through social media sites such as LinkedIn or Taleo Talent Exchange, and then contacting those people directly, often with customized employment offers.

When gaming company Red 5 Studios was struggling to compete with large technology companies for skilled developers, for example, it didn’t post a job opening at all. Instead, it identified a list of ideal candidates, learned what it could about each, and then created individualized employment pitches that were recorded on iPods sent to candidates in attention-grabbing Russian-doll-style nested boxes

  1. 2. Identify and filter people by looking beyond what’s listed on their résumés

Numerous studies have found that screening people by looking for key words on a résumé is not an effective way to predict performance. Such an approach can also lead companies to cast their nets too narrowly, missing potential top performers.

New startups are emerging to help companies alter that approach inexpensively, teaching them how to use competency, skills or cultural fit assessments on the front end of the screening process to supplement the initial, résumé-based screening.

Other companies, including Google, are broadening their search for skilled people by screening candidates based on the quality of their work or their personal biography—not only where they went to school or what work experiences they’ve had.

The company might, for instance, ask a series of detailed biographical questions shown to be statistically correlated with top performance at the company: Have you ever set a world record in anything? Have you ever started a club? What Internet mailing lists do you subscribe to? Google also stages work competitions (for software coding, for example), with the winner getting the open position.

Accenture envisions new Internet companies that will work much like a dating service. This would enable closer matches between job candidates and companies, through profiles that contain such information (properly protected and secured) as samples of actual work, assessment scores, answers to biographical questions, competition results, pre-recorded videos with answers to common behavioral interview questions, work motivators and interests, geographic preferences and more.

3. Forge relationships with potential employees before you need them

When 3D design software company Autodesk was having trouble finding skilled candidates, it realized that it needed to proactively build relationships with potential hires on an ongoing basis.

Explains Matthew Jeffery, head of talent acquisition, “It’s all about opening up a conversation to create a talent pipeline. This doesn’t mean just posting your jobs on Facebook; it means revealing your culture, how people are having fun, what the jobs are really like, even the silly things that go on in your office. It’s about being authentic and transparent, and engaging your own employees to be a brand ambassador in a human way, and helping build emotional connections.”

By actively engaging in conversations with candidates, Autodesk built a Facebook community of more than 150,000 members in just 12 months, creating an active and interested talent pool to draw from when the company is ready. Candidate relationship databases that work much like customer relationship marketing databases can also help a company send periodic tailored information to interested parties, creating ongoing relationships a company can tap into when opportunities arise.

4. Hire from alternative talent pools

Increasingly, companies are finding innovative, off-the-beaten-track ways to find skilled people. One way of achieving this is to target selected industries with a surplus of workers.

In the United States, for example, healthcare companies have worked to retrain displaced autoworkers. Entergy Corp., a US energy company, targets ex-military personnel to fill positions as varied as repair technicians and nuclear engineers. JetBlue Airways staffed its reservations department with mostly stay-at-home workers who can take reservations while still caring for their households.

Organizations are also increasingly targeting workers in different geographic regions, including countries where the companies are not headquartered, where there is a surplus of talent in specific skill sets.

4. Partner with schools to help develop the skills you need

An often gaping disconnect between what a student learns in school and the needs of employers contributes significantly to the global skills crisis. But today, leading companies are working with universities, community colleges and trade schools to develop a pipeline of people to recruit years before they need them.

For example, HCL Technologies, an Indian-based global technology services company, has entered into collaborative partnerships with 25 top engineering colleges in India. Managers at HCL review the curriculum and offer input to the colleges, which then tweak and revise the courses as needed to meet the company’s requirements. HCL also works as a member of the national consortium of IT companies called NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies), helping to define and communicate the skills required in the industry, including the levels of supply and demand for those skills.

What are you doing to help with filling the talent gap?

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