The War for Talent Continues

In 2006 I was sharing with many people about the impending employee shortage that was looming on the horizon. At that time it was predicted that by 2010 there would be a 10 million more jobs than qualified employees to fill them. There were a variety of factors that were going to be in place to cause this shortage, including the beginning of retirement of baby boomers in 2006. Another reason was that jobs were becoming increasingly more technical in nature, requiring people holding even the most rudimentary of jobs to have some sort of technical skills. Then 2008 hit and threw things dramatically off track. Or did it?

Here we are in 2011, with unemployment rates still hovering around 9%, considerably much more than where we were in 2006. But after just over 3 years of higher unemployment rates we are beginning to again see the job market tighten, and employers are struggling to fill positions with qualified, high performing employees. I spent the summer of 2011 talking with current and previous clients about their employee situations. Every single one of them indicated that they were having a hard time to find qualified employees with the right skills to fill their vacant positions.

It seems that they are not alone. In a survey conducted by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute found that there are currently about 600,000 open positions across the industry in the USA. This is about 5% of the manufacturing workforce, and is due largely to the lack of skills by current applicants. This isn’t an isolated incident. Across all industries there is about 3.2 million jobs that are vacant for the roughly 14 million unemployed.

Most claim the 3.2 million job openings is normal, a result of normal turnover and the lag in the ability to refill the jobs. In fact, this number has been fairly consistent for a number of years, even before our recent economic downturn. But with current employees hesitant to jeopardize their income, many have postponed looking for new or better jobs. So we should see a drop in job openings, not remain the same; and with the number of unemployed people, we should be able to fill the positions even quicker than before.

But this isn’t the case. In a survey by Towers Watson recently, they found that 59% of companies across all industries were unable to fill critical skills positions due to a lack of skills by applicants. This is down only slightly from the pre-recession rate of 66%; a rate that was at a time when unemployment rates were 5% or less!

What this all tells us is that finding top performing employees that have the drive and skills to dramatically impact your organization is still going to be tough. They are still in short supply while being in great demand. It doesn’t matter how many people are unemployed, the best employees will still have jobs and everyone will be competing to recruit and retain them. These top performing employees can still move from job to job with little concern, as they will always be in demand.

The challenge for employers is to be able to find and retain these top performers at all levels within their organization. This means that organizations must create a climate where these top performers can feel appreciated and have the ability to be responsible for their own work as they continue to grow and become masters at their craft. Most organizations struggle with this, while only a few excel. These few have learned how to master the Seven Elements of High Performance™, and these elements allow them to find and keep the best employees.