Connecting the Dots on Talent Shortage

Businesses will always seek to find competitive advantages within its industry. It’s part of any company’s strategic (survival) DNA. Whether it be new products, new services, even investments in technology, these levers for outsmarting, outmaneuvering ones competitors are short lived. They become duplicatable, eroding gained advantages.

Such a scenario, however, is business as usual for corporations.

If we turn to Gary Hamel’s work for insight about this well-worn race, we’d learn that 21st century leaders with a well-honed eye towards the future above the fray know that hard to duplicate competitive advantages are found in management innovation.

It’s an expansive topic in which Hamel explores in The Future of Management. So, let’s narrow it down to an area of management innovation sorely lacking in most companies in the U.S: talent shortage

The purpose of this post is to light a fire under the asses of many CEOs who are not acting on this hemorrhaging problem by connecting the dots of events pointing to a slippery slope that will not end positively for those who ignore the trends.

Let’s put this into context by looking at some trends.

  • Research from McKinsey Global Institute indicate that by 2020 over 90 million low-skill workers will be unemployed. Employees in the group will not have the needed skills for the work needed by corporations.
  • The anticipated shortage of workers needed for today’s work hovers between 38-45 million workers.
  • Couple this research with Manpower and we learn that CEOs are focusing on the easily duplicated competitive advantages like new products or services. The investment and urgency to develop a talent management strategy just isn’t happening at a pace matching the growing sense of urgency of a serious talent shortage already impacting businesses.
  • Going deeper, Huffington Post cited McKinsey’s research indicating that America is falling behind in producing graduates ready to compete in today’s knowledge economy. China and India will have the majority of college educated workers.
  • As more Boomer retire, leaving with them is valuable knowledge, experience and rapidly spreading vacancies not easily filled.

When you mix these trends together, what I can’t help but observe is the need for more companies to look at a global hiring pool for jobs in the U.S. American businesses will increasingly struggle to find American workers with the needed skills. Companies will need to adopt a more robust global hiring practice.
This sets into motion a host of realities that executives need to quickly wrap their minds and talent management plans around to innovate and compete in their industry.

Actions that should be on the table for executives talent management plans should include some variation of these strategies.

  • Train existing employees in areas of innovation, foreign languages, how business is done in other countries, for starters
  • Develop global recruiting policies and practices
  • Implement technology solutions that enable collaboration for employees locally and globally. Think social technology. Think cloud. Think smartphones.
  • Train managers to lead, manage, and thrive in this highly agile and rapidly evolving work environment
  • Remove layers that slow down decision making and put more of the authority locally, where the work happens: closer to the customer and employee interaction

This is by no means an exhaustive list. A company’s culture, strategic direction, values and geographic footprint will be vital inputs for any corporation looking to thrive in the 21st century. The winners are those who revamp the rigid business and leadership practices from the 20th century. The losers will be those who wait and let short-term thinking dominate how they generate value for customers.


Photo by  Abdulrahman Jaber

Change Leader | Speaker | Writer Co-founder and CEO of Switch and Shift. Passionately explores the space where business & humanity intersect. Promoter of workplace optimism. Believes work can be a source of joy. Top ranked leadership blogger by Huffington Post. The Optimistic Workplace (AMACOM) out 2015

  • Despite the research and trends, unfortunately so many leaders still see talent management/development as a nice-to-have rather than a need-to-have.

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