The War for Talent—You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet

October 19, 2017

For industries looking to replace an aging workforce, two statistics can be quite sobering:

  1. Six million jobs remain unfilled today
  2. 4.3 percent unemployment rate

With almost no growth expected in the working age population over the next 15 years, replacing talent will remain a major obstacle for an industry that remains under the radar of most school-aged people.

“This is about the life and death of your company,” Johnny C. Taylor Jr., the incoming president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management told ALTA ONE attendees in Miami.

In addition to a dwindling labor force, only a third of those employed are engaged in their work.

“Something is wrong with that,” Taylor said. “What happened to the value system when employees paid for a day’s worth of work and employees gave them eight hours of work?”

Acknowledging millennial as the workers of the future, employers must figure out how to manage this population to grow their business.

There are things companies can do now to avoid this employment enigma.

Define Your Culture

The first, according to Taylor is to define your culture, and live it.

“It’s about who and what your organization really is,” he said.

Taylor encouraged attendees to have their employees anonymously describe in 10 words what it’s like to work at their organization. Next, Taylor said to ask yourself what your company value and what it doesn’t. Finally, companies must understand why they exist.

Recruit Right

Taylor said one wrong person can destroy a company’s culture. It’s more important to hire for fit. Ask yourself if the candidate will like working at your organization and if your staff will like working with them. Taylor also said to give strong consideration to those who exhibit “smarts” and a strong work ethic.

“I’m not talking degrees. I know a lot of educated fools,” Taylor said. “I want to know if this person can solve problems and if they are creative and innovative. I want to know what this person thinks about other than the job.”

Identify and Develop Stars

An important item to note here is that “all of us are not created equal in the workforce,” according to Taylor. “We differentiate just like sports teams,” he added. “Star players get paid this, while bench players get paid this.”

The basic premise is that everyone at work does not have to be treated equally. Companies, however, must be able to defend why someone is paid differently. If it’s a rational business reason “then you’re fine,” Taylor said.

Companies may want to consider individualized compensation plans for their star employees. Things to consider outside the typical compensation plans include a membership to a golf club and spa packages.

“This is the hottest idea right now,” Taylor said. Once a month, his company gives an employee a day at the spa. “She values that. Adding another $5,000 into her base pay doesn’t mean as much as a day at the spa,” Taylor explained.

To develop customized development plans, managers must let employees talk about their ultimate goal. After honest conversations, then you can create a plan.

“This is what you need to do in this whole new world of war for talent,” Taylor said. “You need to build a world for your stars.”

Take Good Care of the Rest

While cultivating and maintaining stars is important, it’s also vital to make sure the rest of the staff is being compensated fairly.

“People will start to resent you because you pay them what you can get away with and not what they earn,” Taylor said. “Figure out what matters most to your employees and give them benefits that matter to them.”

Again, having honest dialogues twice a year will help achieve this goal. Taylor writes a Dear John letter every six months for his employees. He explains what the employee did well and what they didn’t do well.

“People want real feedback,” Taylor said.

Manage Your Human Capital

Taylor encourages employers to constantly assess staff satisfaction and engagement.

“And then make sure to act,” he added. “If someone isn’t working out from the beginning, don’t think you can fix them. When someone shows you who they are first, believe them.”

Companies should constantly think of new ways to update the employment experience. One idea Taylor offered was to let people work from home one day a week. This helps employees save money no having to pay for lunch or parking. He did warn his staff that the “second someone doesn’t answer the phone,” the program would stop.

“We are experience a war for talent and it’s nothing like what we’ll see,” Taylor said as he closed out his presentation. “We have a millennial population and they already start at a different place. You need to identify your stars, develop them and pay them, and clearly define your culture. Not what you want to be, but what you are.”


Contact ALTA at 202-296-3671 or communications@alta.org.

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