Talent Acquisition: The Challenge Ahead

Here is an article written by Mike Prokopeak for Talent Management magazine (January 2011). To check out other resources and/or sign up for a free subscription to one or both magazines published by MediaTec, (Talent Management and Chief Learning Officer), please click here.

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In a time of high labor supply, with U.S. unemployment hovering at more than 9 percent, it stands to reason that it would be relatively easy and cheap for organizations to find needed labor. As many hiring managers will tell you, that’s not the case.

Supply is plentiful, but organizations still struggle to find skilled workers. According to senior talent executives surveyed by Talent Management magazine and HCM Advisory Group, a majority (79 percent) report difficulty finding qualified employees for high-skill and technical positions.

It’s not just recruiters and talent managers who have noticed the problem. Only 17 percent of COOs at high-tech companies said they were well-positioned to attract and retain talent, according to a December 2010 study conducted by Accenture. Despite the flood of supply in mature markets such as the United States and in emerging ones like China, critical talent remains a valuable commodity. In fact, the high number of candidates makes talent acquisition more difficult as recruitment departments sift through mountains of resumes and data to find the right candidates for job openings.

“Having the right talent is going to be pivotal and fundamental to design and develop customer solutions [and] to have distinctive offerings that will set them apart competitively in the markets,” said Hans Von Lewinski, managing director with Accenture’s Asia Pacific electronics and high-tech industry group and leader of the study.

The problem is particularly acute in China, where labor is plentiful but experienced workers with English language skills remain in short supply. “As soon as you start getting into slightly more experienced managerial ranks — by that I mean five years plus — you suddenly run into a real crunch because everybody is after the same people,” Von Lewinski said.

This apparent conundrum — high supply paired with high demand — lies at the heart of the challenge facing recruiters this year. It’s only the first of them. With hiring widely expected to pick up in 2011, recruiters will face heightened demand for their services. At the same time, skittish bosses remain hesitant to turn on the tap and give talent managers the go-ahead to find those workers.

On top of that, talent acquisition itself has become a more complex process. Social networking technology has changed the landscape for sourcing talent, opening up new avenues but also creating new challenges. Given continued business volatility and uncertainty, bosses are also asking for more sophisticated measurement and meaningful analytics, challenging many recruiters to rethink their approaches.

The only real certainty: Recruiters, be prepared. It’s going to be an interesting year.

Job Market Growth and Churn: With workforce productivity peaking, many organizations will be forced to hire to sustain growth in the coming quarters. The good news is that stock markets are broadly up, corporate profits are surging and many organizations have built a substantial war chest to fund that growth.

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Mike Prokopeak

Mike Prokopeak is editorial director for Talent Management magazine.

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