Our Talent Supply Chain Sucks
Think Like a Supply Chain Manager
Recruiters rarely think about recruiting as a supply chain, yet it is one, and it is as critical as any other. The talent shortage is as much a result of the lack of a well thought out talent supply strategy and strategic thinking as it is a shortage of skills.
Every manufacturing organization has a supply chain management team who are responsible for making sure the parts they need to make their products are available when they are needed and at the lowest possible cost.
Service organizations, includin g recruitment, also have supply chains, albeit slightly different than those for manufacturing. They need to ensure they have the skills and experience needed to help their customers whenever needed and at a reasonable price.
For over a year, recruiters have bemoaned the lack of talent. Many organizations have spent millions either trying to find talent or automating processes so that people are not needed. If the supply chain is weak, there will always be a shortage of skills and the potential to miss deadlines or be unable to meet a customer’s needs.
The difficulty in finding talent and meeting deadlines clearly shows that existing talent supply chain processes are not working. In fact, they suck.
Supply Chain Elements
Every supply chain needs to define both current and future needs. They need to find suppliers, create relationships and agreements with those suppliers, ensure that transportation is available, develop timelines for delivery, and negotiate pricing.
We all know the difficulties created by last-minute planning, reactive sourcing, poor negotiating skills, the inability to develop long-lasting relationships with potential candidates, and the challenges of outdated and market-ignorant HR and compensation policies.
Recruiting functions need to think more like supply chain managers to change this. Recruiters need to know what skills are needed, how many are needed today and in the future. They need to know where people with those skills are located, and how to reach them. To do this they need accurate data, compelling marketing messages, and personal communication. There are several essential elements to supply chain management, as indicated in the diagram below.
Let's look at how each of these applies to recruiting.
Workforce Planning/Forecasting Demand
Almost all talent functions lack foresight and information about the skills the organization currently needs and what skills may be needed as technology and customer needs change. They also lack insight into how many people will be required and over what period. A talent strategy coupled with the company’s strategic direction can help to define these.
Demand and supply forecasting are fundamental elements of any supply chain and should be for recruiting. Recruiters should gather data on how many are projected to retire and leave voluntarily and how much growth is projected. Tied to this should be a supply forecast indicating how many people with needed skills are available locally and globally, how many are graduating from college, and how many could be developed internally.
Marketing and Multi-Channel Sourcing
It is always a challenge for recruiters to find talent. Even after years of sourcing the same skills, recruiters still struggle to locate the people they need.
LinkedIn and other social media sites have helped recruiters find talent by creating global talent databases, but theese databases are limited. Not everyone chooses to join these sites, and some of the scarcest talent choose not to join. Recruiters have resorted to elaborate Boolean search schemes to find people listed on the web and have milked their employees for referrals, but even these have limits.
The priority should be to develop an industry and function-specific, dynamic map of hard-to-find talent. It should indicate where people with the required skills are located, what they are looking for, and whether they are willing to relocate. There are online tools available to help do this, but it will take a deep understanding of current and future talent needs to make this truly useful. Every channel should be used and analyzed for success. Some channels will be better than others, but this can only be determined by analyzing results.
It is also critical to develop marketing strategies to attract skilled talent. This can include various activities ranging from public advertising, social media, and asking for referrals to improving the career site.
Talent Pipelines and Communities
Most organizations have a just-in-time procurement policy to ensure that materials are ready when needed. Recruiting needs to adopt a similar policy by building talent pipelines that allow recruiters to present qualified candidates immediately when needed. No hiring manager should expect to wait weeks for suitable candidates to be presented, especially if recruiters have previously recruited for similar roles.
It is inexcusable not to have a talent community and an active process of adding to the community, building it through marketing efforts and referrals, and keeping the content interesting and engaging.
It requires a full-time marketing and engagement process to fill those communities and keep them active. It is vitally important to create content, provide information and insider tips, and keep the community informed of open positions and skills needs. Doing this serves two purposes, it encourages candidates with the needed skills to apply and educates others on what skills are being sought.
Negotiating and Hiring
Making an offer is often challenging. Everyone has different expectations, and “purchasing” talent requires understanding why they want to work for your firm and what they expect to receive. As we face inflationary pressures on wages, the best counter is to stress other benefits, such as ongoing training education, opportunities to work on special projects, or travel. The talent community can be a good place to influence candidates on what benefits there are in working for your firm beyond salary.
While people are not “shipped” as are good, they are located in diverse places, and not all are willing to relocate. Yet, most organizations remain in a mindset that everyone must be located nearby the headquarters or workplace. In this post-pandemic era, it is essential to have a flexible working policy to ensure that talent, wherever it is, can be hired. This will require educating management and changing HR policy to accommodate a more diverse and potentially global workforce.
Hiring to Schedule and Onboarding
By having a talent community, proactively searching and building relationships, and anticipating needs, recruiters can provide talent just in time. There should rarely be a case where a manager does not have a suitable candidate within a few days.
Onboarding is similar to delivery in the material world. It is important to have qualified candidates and to have them start work as quickly as possible.
Part of the negotiation process should be the time to start, and once an offer is accepted, there should also be a process to provide the new hire with information about the role, his teammates, and the company.
Using data from your career site and ATS, you should examine every step to see what worked well and what did not. It would be wise to ask questions such as how long a potential candidate stayed on the career site, what messages attracted the best people, or what candidates were asking for that you could not provide.
Thinking like a supply chain manager rather than a recruiter can dramatically change the success of a recruitment function. The focus needs to be on the front end of the process in determining needs, timelines, and skills and then creating a talent pipeline through marketing and search. Most of the remainder is administrative.
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