Supply chain issues aren’t limited to parts and products. Far from it. In fact, they’ve grown to include something even more vital in recent years: talent.
Simply put, the talent supply chain is broken, too, and things seem like they’re going to get worse before they get better. Just look at some of the numbers:
- Nearly every county in the U.S. has seen its working-age population decline over the period from 2011 to 2021 (Harvard Business Review)
- 1 million more workers retired than expected in 2020 (Pew Research Center)
- 4 million women left the workforce entirely in the first year of the pandemic (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- 55 percent of 18- to 29-year-old workers say finding a job is harder for them than for their parents’ generation (Pew Research Center)
Compound all of this with the Great Resignation as well as the fact that many education and training programs are wildly ineffective — just 18 percent of certifications issued through career and technical-education programs are actively sought by employers — and you’ll have to come to terms with a simple fact. When it comes to building a reliable talent pipeline, we’re on our own.
Now, it’s one thing to talk about the fact that the sky is falling. It’s another to stand firm — and hold it up with our own hands. In my work at SAP, I’ve learned a few strategies that will position your talent pipeline for success, regardless of what’s going on in the world around you. Let’s talk about a few of them.
1Always Be Recruiting
This may sound counterintuitive, but the absolute worst time to think about recruiting is when you already have open positions. Shift your mindset to one of always-on recruiting. In my schedule, I try to set aside time every week for recruiting as well as regular informational interviews. Because it’s essential to maintain open lines of communication with talent, whether they’re currently in the market or not. That is the only way to ensure you’ll be able to properly balance speed and deliberation in your decision-making process. It will put you in the best position to find the most talented candidates and not compromise the high standards you want to maintain. After all, your people are a big part of your brand.
2Start Expanding Your Reach to Make Real Change
U.S. Census data shows that the share of the white population is continuing to fall, and at some point in our lifetimes, we should expect it to no longer make up the nationwide majority. In other words, it’s not only a social and moral imperative to build more diverse and equitable teams; it’s a business one, too.
But this is about far more than race. We also have to work toward a fairer labor market for women striving for equal pay and embrace employees who fall within the wide spectrum that is the neurodiverse population. It’s been said before, and will likely be said again, but it’s true: Diversity brings new ideas, new perspectives and new possibilities. Not pursuing it is something companies will do at their own peril.
3Write a Brand New Story of Brand Opportunity
Money is an important piece of hiring — and, sure, it’s an important piece — but it’s not the only one. Another piece is – what’s your story? Do you have a compelling one to tell? Are people inspired to buy what you’re selling — both internally and externally? What will make people not only come to work for you but continue to work with you?
You have to build a winning culture, one where hard workers and achievers are recognized and rewarded and one where success, failure and overall growth are all possible simultaneously. I always tell my team the same thing. If our customers are winning, then our people are winning, and that means increased potential and opportunity for both current and future team members. It’s all about starting a virtuous cycle grounded in commitment to excellence that you don’t want to break, and reinforcing it so it never does.
4Invest in an Aspirational Culture
The culture we’ve built as a working country — and world — is one of free agency. Companies and employees can look at their job or people as dispensable and replaceable. That needs to change.
To secure the best talent you must build a culture where people can come to do their best work. When an employee is invested, the company must invest back by identifying opportunities for professional growth and promotion. Clearly demonstrate that there is a path to greatness by recognizing and investing in employees who are committed and performing.
These things are easy to talk about, but let’s be clear: They’re not easy to execute. They all require strong top-down leadership, full buy-in from those involved, clear and consistent communications, and much, much more.
Building a deep talent pipeline is a huge responsibility. But it’s our responsibility. And no one else is going to do it for us. So, let’s get to work.