70% of business leaders believe the existing talent pool is shrinking

25 October 2018 Consultancy.uk

According to a study of global business leaders, the talent pool is drying up, amid increased competition, high employment and an ageing population, among other factors. At the same time, however, they remain hostile to utilising technology to address this, with just 10% saying implementing technology to achieve their strategic goals was a priority.

The UK is one of a number of leading economies facing a major talent shortage, which could see the nation miss out on an unrealised revenue of more than £300 billion. With the approach of Brexit threatening to stifle the flow of labour between Britain and the continent, the effects of an ageing population could see almost 3 million jobs left unfilled by 2030

With the stakes so notably high across the industrial spectrum, while the majority of the world’s most powerful nations now face an ageing population, many firms have been left worrying what the best practices are for successfully courting and retaining key talent. The situation has become so drastic that some of the world’s most fastidious corporate entities have even openly considered paying a more liveable rate to their staff, in the hope of obtaining a strong supply of human resources.

Technology that drives success

In a global report based on a survey of more than 1,000 stakeholders and some 1,500 employers in North America, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and APAC, recruitment process outsourcing consultancy Cielo has found that seven in every 10 business leaders now believe the existing talent pool is shrinking, and are worried about how to close the gap between their needs and their resources. At the same time, 54% said their company has more open positions than ever before, while 30% of companies are now hiring contingent labour across all job levels.

In terms of the top priorities among shareholders for hiring new staff, it was predictable perhaps that the quality of the hire would be the near-unanimous choice as the top metric to measure success. Only respondents in the procurement sector disagreed, instead opting for hiring manager satisfaction as a top priority. The differing end-goals of procurement as a business sphere were further illustrated by respondents naming conversion rates as the second most important factor, while the remainder of sectors listed candidate experience as key.

Meanwhile, cost savings were marginally favoured over the customer satisfaction new hires could provide. This could be argued to show that shareholders are currently placed in a conflicting position, where they acknowledge that new hires are needed, but they remain hostile to the increased pay offerings which are becoming necessary to bring in that talent.

Stakeholder perspectives on metrics for success

At the same time, leaders in all of the business functions surveyed remained behind the curve in terms of adopting technology to draw in new staff. The Cielo research showed that only 10% prioritised implementing technology to achieve their strategic goals. As big data and artificial intelligence have advanced rapidly over the past several years, the authors admitted to a certain level of consternation at this, as when faced with an automated future, technology continues to struggle to move further up the agenda for firms looking for recruitment solutions.

The results were similarly low among shareholders. Less than 20% of those polled in the business and HR sectors said that AI was a priority for talent acquisition. The exception again came from procurement, which named analytics and AI as its most technologically important fronts for recruitment. Broadly, however, most shareholders were keen to put technology to use for advanced background screenings, something designed to weed out applicants rather than attract them.

Commenting on the findings, Seb O’Connell, Managing Director – Europe and APAC of Cielo said, “Over 70% of C-Suite leaders now say they want to play a role in talent acquisition decisions, a clear indication of the increasing pressure to align talent acquisition and retention with business goals. There is a tremendous opportunity to improve outcomes through better collaboration and communication across the enterprise and taking the time to implement technology into talent acquisition programmes will achieve this at a much quicker pace.”

×

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.