15+ years ago Jim Clifton of the Gallup organization wrote a book called The Coming Jobs War. The consultant, McKinsey and Company, warned that they saw a “war for talent” brewing for the foreseeable future. Both groups warned that having a “good” job will increasingly be difficult to obtain and this struggle will have negative repercussions on the mental health of our societies.
Even though the unemployment rate in our country today is a historically low 4.7%, meaning that 7.5 million of the labor force is unemployed, there are 5.8 million open positions that go wanting for talent. In addition, between 45 and 75% of the current workforce feel so dissatisfied with their jobs that they would like to pursue other job opportunities.
These conflicting statistics are the backdrop for a recent Fast Company article, The War for Talent Is Over, and Everyone Lost.
Why We’ve Lost
In the “Everyone Lost” article they indicate that the 3 key reasons for the current state of affairs, specifically the amount of dissatisfaction and the high percentage of folks that would jump at another opportunity, are:
- The rise of passive job seekers;
- The growing appeal of self-employment;
- The unwavering allure of entrepreneurship.
Given the prevalence of online job posting sites and the ease with which you can post a resume to those sites, it’s kind of like just tossing your fishing line out into the pond and seeing what happens. It doesn’t take much more work than that to at least look for nibbles and hope the right job comes up.
The second and third items reflect the determined interest in the maximum amount of flexibility one can have in making a living and being your own boss. The authors point out the failure rate for entrepreneurs and how the self-employed often work longer hours for less pay.
I have written about this “wanderlust” for that perfect job out there and have placed the blame more squarely on the shoulders of poorly led organizations and the impact on individuals. This goes right down to the level of anyone’s immediate supervisor; if you have not been trained in how to manage your work or lead others, chances are that dissatisfaction will occur.
I have also identified 4 other employment realities that I think add to this potential employment churn:
- Flatter organization structures: these exist because of more efficient communication technologies, conscious de-layering to get closer to the customer and considerable cost savings. This also means that there are fewer opportunities for folks to “move up”.
- A reluctance to relocate: they used to say that if you worked for IBM that most employees could say “I’ve Been Moved”. People are much more reluctant to pick up and relocate these days because of the uncertainty in the market and the fear of getting laid off in a different part of the country where they may have no family or social network.
- Fear of the unknown: while this has always been a reality, today the world seems more uncertain than ever. People do not have confidence about what could happen to them and will often hold tight.
- Boomers hanging on: economic uncertainties and good health are encouraging many to stay in the workforce longer than they historically might have. Very few people have pensions to help launch them into retirement. They hang around and make it harder for others to move up.
What To Do
The “Everyone Lost” authors have 3 very interesting remedies:
- Get better at measuring and understanding talent. They put the key cause of the problems at organizations either going on gut feeling or over complicating their hiring and review processes. If companies would spend more time developing structured job interviews and using pre-employment assessments effectively, that would solve half the problem. But companies are also seemingly incapable of providing consistent, constructive and candid feedback to employees for their growth and development. Attend to that as well.
- Stop developing people’s “leadership skills”: Although some who know me may think this is a slap in the face to my efforts, I wholeheartedly agree. The authors state that “there is a high negative correlation between the $14 billion spent each year on leadership development in the US and people’s confidence in their leaders.” I believe the issue is that you can’t have great leaders without good followers. Although you need an effective leader, I’m coming to believe that the time and money spent on developing the effectiveness of teams may have better outcomes.
- A little more self-awareness can go a long way: There’s an old saying that we do not have a good feel for the impact that we have on others; we all need feedback. Whether it’s in academics or the workplace, the grading curve is skewed terribly towards everyone being well above average. This helps no one. Developing a culture of effective feedback and support will really distinguish one organization from another.
I believe that the war for talent is still being waged between companies but also within organizations.
- How much time do I spend looking for that “better” job than trying to enhance my effectiveness in my current role?
- Do I know how to solicit candid feedback effectively and put it to good use?
- Do I engage in productive networking not just to look for that next job, but to help me enhance my knowledge and capabilities? Doing both at the same time is okay.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments.