Wading Through a Shallow Talent Pool

By following a few cornerstone practices, you will begin to see talent hiding in plain sight, perhaps obscured by those in more visible roles at your own place of business.

“The talent pool just isn’t as rich as it once was.”

I hear this sentiment expressed on a daily basis, across all industries. In a recovering economy, qualified individuals who have spent months—possibly years—searching for jobs finally are being hired. However, at the same time, businesses are increasingly frustrated by what they feel is a shallow applicant pool for their entry- and mid-level positions.

While I empathize with the perceived lack of depth, I believe by following a few cornerstone practices, you will begin to see talent hiding in plain sight, perhaps obscured by those in more visible roles at your own place of business.

As a talent management consultant, I always stress two significant pillars to improving talent acquisition:

  1. Use a trusted industry-standard tool to assess prospective employees’ performance potential.
  2. Ensure that stakeholders come to a consensus on what it takes to be successful in the role for which you are hiring.

I consider these essential elements to your journey, like a compass and a canteen. Now that you’re properly equipped, here are some helpful tips.

Look in Less Obvious Places
If you are excavating the same archaeological sites over and over, and you haven’t found anything noteworthy in a while, maybe it’s time to dig elsewhere. The same holds true when HR professionals’ searches for external talent turn up empty.

The first overlooked place you should check: your own business.

Look internally. Is there someone in an Accounting or Service position who might possess hidden high potential? If you already have assessed someone’s strengths and motivations through a validated personality assessment, you might discover that the talent you seek was there all along. You just didn’t know it because the person was busy balancing ledgers and no one asked what her aspirations or interests were.

You also might pluck a strong Sales person from your Service personnel. What if someone in IT can handle a cross-functional move? You never know until you have overturned every stone.

I tell my clients all the time to look in the less obvious places. I’ve found viable employees, who possibly would have never been given the time of day, working in my client’s warehouse. And I always say: “It’s lucky you found them because they could be out applying to other jobs, and you could lose them to a competitor.”

Keep an eye out for hard-working employees who remain, mostly due to job function, out of sight.
Grow Your Talent Organically
Like harvesting your own food instead of spending for overpriced takeout, the process of organically growing your talent is sustainable and makes sense for cost-conscious, savvy companies.

And it’s simpler than you think. Once we can see the personality makeup of your workforce and know what it takes to be successful in a given role, we can begin mining your staff to see if there are any unpolished diamonds.

Remember: Once you find those who possess the natural propensity to do the job, you can teach them the accounting software. And to those still hung up on the E-word, I remind my clients: the person with experience started somewhere with no experience. So there was at least one company that saw enough potential in that person to give him a shot and teach him. So why don’t you be that company?

Take your analytical, diligent, and task-focused administrative assistant and bring her into the IT world. If you feel you’ve exhausted your search externally, look internally. If you’re not sure, start with a stretch assignment and go from there.

Invest in Onboarding
If we are to accept the premise that the improving economy has led to a diminished talent pool, then businesses have to change how they onboard. Because if there truly is less viable talent available, then the men and women you deem hirable and ready to assume new positions at your business need to be retained, as strong replacements are in short supply.

If that does not persuade you, then the dollars and cents should. It costs more to keep bringing in new bodies than it does to invest the time on the front end and do it right the first time. Yes, in an ideal world, companies want to spend the least amount of time possible ramping up new hires, but things are rarely that easy and foolproof.

Even if you don’t think you have the time, make the time. Getting staff members off to the right start can make all the difference.

A new hire wants to feel you’re taking it seriously when he or she joins the company. No one wants to be a Band-Aid, and you can get that vibe right way. Strong onboarding fosters competence and confidence.

Keep Up With the Times
It’s a Millennial (or should we say “Generation-Z”?) market—like it or not. Your new hires coming out of high school or college were born in the late 1990s or even post-Y2K. That’s just a fact, even if it makes the rest of us feel old!

You have to know how to reach the workforce of today. So since we live in a social media society, let’s update how we go to market so we’re able to reach the next wave of employees.

It’s not good enough anymore to expect young adults to go to your Website and click the Careers tab. That’s not going to cut it in 2017 and beyond.

So it’s time to embrace the modern age. This will necessitate changes to internal processes, even your marketing. Long-held business practices may need to be revamped, too.

Young people have more options in a recovering economy, and their considerations are different from those of their mothers and fathers. They are interested in your value proposition and policy on working remotely, even your environmental footprint. Just as much as you are making a commitment to them, they have to want to make a commitment to you.

Stepheny Booker is a talent management consultant at Caliper. She has been with Caliper since 2011. With expertise in professional services and the recreation industry, she has delivered feedback to clients on Profiles and given workshops on client education. Prior to her work with Caliper, she was a recruiter for the behavioral health industry and an executive recruiter for mid- to senior-level Human Resources positions. She holds a B.S. in Sport and Recreation Management from Temple University.