Preparing for the Future of Talent Acquisition

With unemployment rates in most developed nations at the lowest levels since the Great Recession, and with new skill sets required to keep pace with head-spinning technological advances, it’s no surprise the talent acquisition environment is incredibly competitive. March 28, 2017, HBR (Adapted from Korn Ferry’s “The Talent Forecast.” To learn what talent acquisition leaders can tell us about tomorrow’s workplace, click here.)

In a new Korn Ferry Futurestep global survey of more than 1,100 talent acquisition professionals, 54 percent said it’s harder to find qualified talent now than it was just one year ago. The same study found that identifying people with the right skills in a rapidly changing market is the top issue impacting recruiting.

Although the type of organization, the sector of the industry, and geography, among other factors, determine how challenging it is for an organization to recruit talent, it’s clear that the changing global economy has created a demand for new jobs, new skills, and new capabilities, leaving organizations scrambling to find the best workers to fill positions.

But it’s not just technology and markets that are changing—workers are changing too. The survey revealed that talent acquisition professionals can’t rely on what worked in the past when recruiting top talent today. Five years ago, compensation (i.e., salary and benefits) was the top reason why a candidate chose one employer over another, respondents said. Today, culture is the number one reason why candidates choose an employer.

But the future will likely bring a new set of candidate expectations. Talent acquisition executives predict “workplace flexibility” will be the top reason why candidates choose an employer five years from now. This flexibility goes well beyond workers’ hours and location, to the very nature of the employee-employer relationship.

That is part of another shift in the talent landscape: the move from a full-time employee base to contingent workers. Seventy-five percent of survey respondents reported that they use a contingent workforce on either a regular or an as-needed basis, and the numbers of those workers are expected to grow substantially in the years ahead.

As talent acquisition professionals work to adapt to the changing priorities of candidates, they must also focus on the attributes and skills needed to fill the toughest positions. Survey respondents indicated the most difficult roles to fill today are in sales, research and development, and information technology, and filling them is only going to become more difficult.

The pace of technological and marketplace change will continue to create demand for new skill sets and brand-new job categories. Candidates with the right skills will be looking for organizations that provide flexible working arrangements and a congenial working culture. They might agree to be available via their mobile devices at all times of the day and night, but in return, they expect to work from home and take time off during the day when the need arises.

Demographics suggest the talent shortage will become more acute in the years ahead. Between 2015 and 2025, the 167 million workers entering the workforce will barely outpace the 166 million workers retiring (McKinsey & Company 2015).

In the face of these challenges, it is crucial that talent acquisition become more intertwined with all the functions of the business. In order to stay competitive, leaders must understand where talent needs will arise throughout the organization, and talent acquisition professionals must map a talent management plan to support the overall goals of the business.

This plan can take a blended approach to talent management that includes an effective campus recruitment operation, a robust contingent workforce, a strong social media presence targeted at workers’ needs, a powerful employee brand, and an effective training and leadership development program.

Organizations that implement a blended approach, provide flexible work structures, and give workers what they want from their employers will be best positioned to win the talent acquisition game.

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