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Solving Talent Scarcity: 5 Steps to Identify & Keep Key Talent

Solving Talent Scarcity: 5 Steps to Identify & Keep Key Talent

Looking for highly skilled employees to fill key positions but having trouble finding them? You’re not alone. PWC’s 2013 Global CEO Survey showed that nearly half of CEOs are concerned with the availability of key skills.

In the U.S., where more than half of the approximately 4 million job openings go unfilled due to the lack of the right talent to fill them, organizations are realizing that the skills they need aren’t always available on the job market. You could say that the right talent has become an endangered species.

The way to find those employees isn’t by solidifying your employment brand or ramping up your recruiting machine, and there are probably plenty of people aware of and applying for your jobs. To consistently provide your organization with the specialized talent you need to sustain operations and create a competitive advantage, consider looking internally.

Use these five steps to identify and keep key talent:

1. Understand your true talent needs

Is your organization on the hunt for the elusive purple squirrel? That is, are you constantly searching for an employee who just doesn’t exist? Or, worse, do you only hire people who have done a job instead of people who can do it?

Knowledge and experience are important, but who people are and what they can do are more indicative of future performance. To understand your true talent needs, regularly assess personal attributes and capabilities.


2. Know your organization’s talent profile

Whether you have thousands of people across the globe or are part of a smaller, growing organization, 75 percent of organizations have used more than three human resource (HR) systems, including many with employee data buried in spreadsheets and company legend. This results in a data nightmare, making it almost impossible to get a comprehensive view of who works for you and their skills.

Instead of undertaking a costly HR system consolidation project, work with an HR technology vendor that can provide a virtual system of record and a comprehensive view of your people across your current systems infrastructure. The solution should standardize data and integrate with information in whatever systems you already use, even those outside your HR infrastructure like LinkedIn.


3. Perform gap analyses

Organizations that regularly examine gaps between the expertise that exists internally and their needs react more successfully to changing business conditions and see better results in employee productivity, engagement and internal promotions. Once you know your organization’s talent profile — the supply side — comparing it to your expected demand and analyzing the gaps is relatively easy with the right tools.


4. Provide tailored learning opportunities

The hard part is what comes next: doing something about the gaps. People are different, even if they work in the same organization doing the same job. Most development programs, when they exist at all, are still one-size-fits-all. And some organizations are hesitant to offer comprehensive programs for fear of distracting employees from their current duties.

In contrast, context-aware and pervasively delivered HR technology provides tailored learning opportunities to grow individual capabilities when and where employees are working. These applications provide specific recommendations based on employees’ profiles and proven activities from other successful employees.


5. Incentivize managers to prioritize talent mobility

See Also

Maybe the biggest obstacle organizations face in solving talent scarcity is themselves.

Most managers are incented primarily, if not solely, on what their departments accomplish and are not recognized for enabling their people to find jobs in other departments.

Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that younger workers change jobs every 1.8 years. If your organization isn’t incentivizing managers to grow employees and help them move into new positions outside of their purview, your best people are likely looking outside your organization for their next position.


Why Should You Develop Internal Talent? Because Internal Hires:

  • Perform significantly better the first two years on the job
  • Have a 20 percent lower turnover rate
  • Are substantially less expensive



Author: Steve Parker is vice president of HR solutions and strategy at SumTotal Systems, an HR software provider headquartered in Gainesville, Fla.


[1] Knowledge @Wharton. “Why External Hires Get Paid More, and Perform Worse, than Internal Staff” March, 2012,


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