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How to Fill the Evaporating Talent Pool? Expand it.

This fall we observe the 125th anniversary of Labor Day in the U.S., a national holiday that came about in the 1830s to call attention to the predicament of workers (primarily in manufacturing), who were laboring an average of 70 hours per week.

A century-and-a-quarter later, and well into the fourth industrial revolution, many of us are still putting in those kinds of hours. And with the accelerating talent shortage, the numbers may be going up.

At the start of 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that the economy had 7.6 million unfilled jobs, but only 6.5 million people were looking for work—the 11th consecutive month that the number of open jobs was higher than the number of job seekers. That gap is continuing to widen.

What’s ahead when it comes to the shrinking talent pool? If you’re in the market for fresh data to contemplate over the long holiday weekend, you’ve come to the right place.

i4cp fielded a survey the last week of August to gauge how HR leaders and other talent professionals are feeling about their organizations’ talent pools now and in the next couple of years.

Of the nearly 550 respondents, only 14% overall reported that their companies currently have the talent needed to achieve their objectives both now and looking three years ahead to a “high” or “very high extent.”

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When we looked at larger (those employing >1,000 people) high-performance organizations, we found that while they were 9x more likely to say they have the talent they need to achieve their objectives both now and looking three years ahead to a “high” or “very high extent,” the number for all respondents is ominously low—just 11%.

The majority of all survey respondents (55%) had a lukewarm take on their current situation, reporting that to a “moderate extent” they have the talent they need now and looking out three years.  

But a combined (and stark) 30% said the same to a “small extent” or “not at all.” Taken together, these findings reinforce the reality HR leaders live every day:

  • The talent shortage is very real and it’s getting worse.
  • There’s not a lot of confidence about being positioned to attract the talent needed in the future. 

What steps are organizations taking to help address this?

For starters, they are looking at the who.

How organizations define the ready talent pool is definitely evolving, and in meaningful ways. This includes looking more closely at groups they previously might not have focused resources on, such as former employees, older workers, people with disabilities, and candidates who were not hired the first time they applied.

We asked about the talent pools organizations are tapping specifically to help meet growing (and pressing) needs and found that overwhelmingly (61%), cited military veterans as the number-one cohort.

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Many organizations are trying to attract members of this group by giving preference to job candidates with military experience, devoting resources to myriad outreach and recruiting activities, and providing a variety of supportive opportunities to help military members transition into both civilization life and new careers.

Examples of such initiatives among i4cp’s member network abound, for example, Starbucks sponsors the Armed Forces Network (AFN), which is a community of Starbucks employees dedicated to supporting veterans, military partners, and transitioning military members and their families.

Other i4cp members with dedicated veterans hiring programs include Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin, USAA, Amazon, BAE, Boeing, T-Mobile, Wells Fargo, and many more.

Up next: the biggest challenges for organizations in attracting talent, and what they are doing about it. 

Lorrie Lykins
Lorrie is i4cp's Vice President of Research. A thought leader, speaker, and researcher on the topic of gender equity, Lorrie has decades of experience in human capital research. Lorrie’s work has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and other renowned publications.