Top Risks: Winning the War for Talent

Paul McDonaldPaul McDonald, Senior Executive Director Robert Half
Jim DeLoachJim DeLoach, Managing Director Host, The Protiviti View

It should be no surprise that finding and keeping workers with digital skills is a top concern for executives and directors. The more digital companies become, the fiercer the competition for workers with a digital mindset: an aptitude to flourish in this new environment.

In the most recent Top Risks survey, conducted by Protiviti and North Carolina State University’s ERM Initiative in the latter half of last year, succession challenges and the ability to attract and retain top talent jumped from the No. 6 top risk in 2018 to No. 2 in 2019, driven by record low unemployment, especially in key technology positions. The number one concern, “inability to meet performance expectations related to quality, time to market, cost and innovation required to compete with ‘born digital’ competitors,” is closely related.

To thrive in the digital age, companies need to be able to think and act digitally and have the resources to enact digital plans. But cost-effectively addressing key talent gaps – especially in technology, accounting and finance, advertising and marketing, and legal – is becoming more difficult. The talent pool is simply not large enough to meet the demand. Consider these statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • More than 2.6 million jobs were created last year, reducing the pool of available talent and increasing the already high demand for top-notch professionals across the United States.
  • The unemployment rate for many key roles is just 1-2%.
  • Job openings remain at record-high levels.

Also consider these stats from Protiviti’s parent company, Robert Half:

  • 46% of workers feel underpaid.
  • 44% say they’d leave their current job for a bigger paycheck.

Increased competition has forced businesses to up their recruiting game. They are recognizing that, in addition to better pay, today’s top talent is looking for an employer that is a good organizational culture fit – including how the prospective employee is treated during the interview process. Popular perks include flexible work schedules, telecommuting and a compressed workweek.

Robert Half recommends that employers:

  • Relax job descriptions – Instead of insisting on specific prior experience, companies should consider hiring a promising prospect who has excellent interpersonal skills and is a good fit with the company culture; the company can then provide the training required to acquire a specific skillset.
  • Accelerate the hiring process – Today’s candidates won’t wait forever. When employers postpone interviews or take too long to follow up with applicants afterwards, they risk losing top candidates to companies with a more decisive hiring approach.
  • Onboard with care – Employees who are not properly prepared for their roles once they come on board may have a longer learning curve, and some may end up leaving the company as a result.
  • Use consultants and third-party professionals – Contingent staff can be quickly brought in to ramp up a project and kept on board only as long as peak demand continues.

Finding Talent Is Only Half the Battle

Top talent gravitates toward companies that have their best days ahead, and can demonstrate that they are fully committed to innovation and digital transformation, instead of just pretending by wrapping themselves in what Protiviti’s digital leader Jonathan Wyatt calls a “digital veneer.” Embracing the cloud, building customer-facing websites and emphasizing digital channels are great things to do, but they don’t, in and of themselves, alter the way the organization thinks and acts. True digitalization occurs at the core and transforms the organization from the inside out to maximize efficiency and resiliency.

Companies that want to appeal to candidates with high-demand skill sets need to invest the time required to get to know and understand the people they are trying to hire. Hint: those people want to work in a place where they know their skills will be appreciated and where they can see a path for success. This is the key to both successful recruitment and retention. To acquire and retain top talent, companies must be more focused on the opportunities of tomorrow than on their past success or reputation as venerable institutions. A desire to make full use of their skills may predispose some candidates to favor smaller, younger companies. But older, established companies that are willing to adopt new digital strategies and nurture and reward valuable employees may prove even more attractive because of the resources they can invest in innovation.

With advances in artificial intelligence and the prospect of doubling and tripling investment in advanced technologies, the talent battle will only intensify. Stay informed with our blog, where these topics are the subject of an ongoing discussion.

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