If there is one challenge all our clients’ face it’s the attraction and retention of scarce skills, despite unemployment in SA hovering at around 25%. My experience is that companies (and recruiters, for that matter) all too often use the same approach when recruiting for scarce skills, as they do for roles for which there is a talent surplus. However, the two need very different approaches.
In a talent surplus situation we have a quantity vs. quality of hire scenario. Our goal is to separate out the weakest candidates through incredibly specific, detailed, non-negotiable and targeted job descriptions and hence advertising, so that only the strongest candidates respond. The skill here, I’ve found, is in creating job ads that attract top talent while dissuading underqualified candidates from applying.
When it comes to scarce skills, there may only be a handful of qualified candidates out there. Many of them not even on the job market. Even the most skilfully written job ad may not find them. You need to know where to look (and be prepared to look in unexpected places) for the few that may be actively open to a new opportunity, as well as those passive candidates who may be ideal but aren’t scouring job portals. You need to understand what conversation to have to entice them.
In a surplus environment we fit candidates to required qualifications and compensation range, in a scarcity scenario I recommend emphasising the work itself, the employee value proposition and the impact the candidate can have on organisational strategy, mission or project/initiative. Fit the job to the candidate rather than the other way around, convince them this is their best career move.
At DAV, we recommend to our clients, that they be a little flexible when reviewing CVs for scarce skills. Even the best CV from the most confident candidate could result in a wrong hire when the pool of talent is this small. Sometimes it’s the candidate with the right soft skills and a demonstrable potential to adapt and grow that will succeed in the role. Their CV may fail against a checklist but their drive and ingenuity makes them a good fit. Look for potential, the right attitude and the ability to learn. Sometimes it’s even the people who have seemingly failed, or dropped out or changed their career paths that are the best choice. Traditional measures such as past experience, academic accomplishment and test scores are not always the best predictors. I say be willing to embrace an unconventional view of what skills are truly needed for the role. Don’t be blinded by achievements alone.
When it comes to hiring these scare skills, we recommend:
Speeding up time to hire. These candidates will be in demand. Streamline the interview process. If at all possible, get all the decision makers together in one interview. Once you have identified the right candidate be decisive and make them an offer.
Making an offer that is fair and collaborative. A good candidate will not move for less money than what they are earning. Regardless of where the job is located or who the company is. Top candidates need to know what the bottom line on their payslip is going to be. Reflect this in the offer which will, to some extent, negate the threat of a counter offer.
To safeguard against losing these difficult to find gems, I find the following to be useful strategies:
- Ongoing monitoring of job and pay satisfaction levels.
- Taking a personal interest in your top talent and finding out what motivates them and what they are looking for in their careers.
- Implementing a collaborative career roadmap.
- Keeping your employees challenged and stimulated with new assignments and situations.
- Rich and flexible benefit packages, possibly including share options.
- Allowing for flexitime or telecommuting.
- Educational opportunities.
Lastly, you’ll probably lean on these employees to take on the most difficult and important assignments. Monitor their workload and make sure they do not ‘burn out’.
In a world where demand often exceeds supply, we are in an ongoing war for talent. It’s time to get both strategic and creative in order to win.
As always, if we can be of any assistance, please get in touch.