Bridge the Talent Gap with a Radical Approach to Recruiting

Aug 01, 2017 - Joe Matar
Have you noticed that recent graduates don’t seem to have the skills required for your open positions? It’s not just your company; it’s plaguing employers across the nation. The steady decline in the United States’ unemployment rate since 2008 has been good news for workers but more troubling for employers. The rate currently hovers at about 5%, but a ManpowerGroup survey revealed that as many as 46% of employers are struggling to find the talent they require. Unfortunately, recent graduates sometimes don’t appear to be particularly good fits for the roles most in demand. Although 87% of college graduates feel prepared to enter the workforce, only about 50% of hiring managers agree that they possess the skills necessary to thrive. Why are the skills of today’s workers so out of step with the needs of today’s employers? There are two main culprits: First, development cycles have become so accelerated that skills quickly peak in terms of demand and then fade into irrelevance. In addition, some higher education institutions have been slow to adjust programs and teaching methods to fit the needs of the evolving economy. Identifying the sources of the problem feeds into what’s really important: the solution. If employers don’t find a way to staff their ranks with the dynamic and high-tech skills that today and tomorrow require, companies in every industry and every state will find it increasingly difficult to compete on the world stage.

Recruiting strategies to bridge the gap

Resolving the talent gap will require both a concerted effort and a new approach to recruiting. As the gap widens, it’s a grave mistake to assume traditional methods of recruiting and retention will be able to keep pace or meet quotas. Instead of relying on traditional recruiting strategies, try experimenting with these new approaches:

1. Focus on aptitude

Rather than search for new hires who already possess every skill you need and years of professional experience, look for candidates who have aptitude and potential. With focused training, that raw talent can be molded into exactly what an organization requires in its ranks. The St. Louis-based nonprofit LaunchCode has partnered with local employers such as Anheuser-Busch, Mastercard, Boeing, and Square to help connect them with promising but inexperienced coders based on talent need, expertise, and culture fit.

2. Look past the degree

Whether or not a candidate has a specific degree is often the linchpin of a hiring decision, but this strategy is unnecessarily limiting. Employers restrict their search to perfect candidates instead of also considering promising candidates. For example, military veterans who possess innumerable valuable personal and professional skills face an unemployment rate that hovers above the national average. Considering credentials beyond just formal education does a lot to expand the available talent pool. In many cases, organizations such as LaunchCode and the Midwest Cyber Center, a training model that fast-tracks those with an aptitude for cybersecurity roles, have encouraged companies to hire talented individuals without college degrees for roles that typically would have required them.

3. Build flexibility into employment

Bridging a talent gap requires employers to attract the best and brightest talent in the market. Many of today’s workers, especially younger workers, are looking for better work-life balance. As a result, they prefer employment opportunities that offer flexible scheduling or the ability to work remotely. It might not be possible for all employers to open up the workday, but those who do will hold much more appeal for talented professionals who want more flexibility in their work life.

4. Collaborate with other stakeholders

Recruiting doesn’t have to be a competitive exercise. All employers can benefit from partnerships with other local stakeholders. Employers could partner with local community colleges to help them evolve their curricula and funnel new graduates to local employers. This proactive, collaborative approach to recruiting must become standard for local and regional economies if they want to grab talented graduates. More than anything else, it’s important for employers to realize the talent gap won’t resolve itself. The longer the problem goes unaddressed, the worse it will become. The time for waiting and worrying is over — recruiters have to make strategic staffing and long-term talent development major priorities for the future.   With more than 30 years of experience leading economic development efforts, Steve Johnson, CEO of Missouri Partnership, works with companies as they evaluate Missouri for expansion and investment and to meet their unique talent needs.