Agility: The Success Skill for 2003

Can you conjure up a few dozen call-center reps, help some out placed (read “laid-off”) employees find new positions, do a search for a hard-to-find senior executive, and still have time for a cup of coffee? If you can, no need to read on. For most of us, though, the most useful skill of 2003 will be that of agility. Agility, simply defined, is the ability to do many different things with ease, to “go with the flow,” to accept the inevitable force of change and learn fast. If nothing else, this year brings more uncertainty than any recent year. Here are a few challenges that only the agile will be able to effectively conquer. Sourcing Is as Hard as Ever The unemployment numbers resist improvement, yet many recruiters I talk with say it is more difficult to find people with the skills they want than it was two years ago. There is a mismatch between the skills hiring managers and recruiters feel are (or should be) available in the marketplace and what they actually find when they start to look. And even though job boards teem with candidates and firms are inundated with resumes, not many get hired. Candidates report increasing frustration with the level of customer service they receive. Your ability to source quickly and well, while providing impeccable customer service, will be a hallmark of the best recruiting groups. Selling Your Company Is Really Tough We are a brand conscious society, and many candidates are attracted to the organizations with high public visibility. Firms with positive reputations and stirring name recognition seldom have much trouble selling themselves to candidates. Look at Microsoft, Starbucks, or Dell. They may have trouble finding great candidates, but they have much less trouble convincing great candidates to accept an offer once they do. Unfortunately, only 50 or so organizations fall into the positive reputation, strong-name-recognition category on a national basis. The rest of us have to get better and better at branding who we are and explaining why anyone would want to work for us. Have you had any downsizing in the past two or three years? It seems that most companies have had at least a small layoff or two, or even three, and these just make it even harder to convince a candidate that your company is a safe harbor. Are your sales and profits up? If not, why would anyone want to hook up with you? How’s the cash flow? Candidates are asking these questions and using your answers to make their decision. Having a flexible and dynamic branding strategy and message will be another way to separate the winning recruiting department from those that are third rate. Free Agency Whether forced upon a person or voluntarily entered into, free agency (consulting, working part-time, “temping”) is becoming a powerful force. Many people simply don’t want 40-hours-a-week jobs as regular employees. Some feel unfairly treated by companies that promised them the world when times were good and then ignored them when times were not so good. Some have just decided that the security of their job is always an illusion, and the only way to be really secure is to work for yourself. A few will, over time, re-enter the workforce. But the majority will make the transition to free agency permanent and force your company to decide if every job needs to be filled with a regular employee or not. The agile firm will find that a mix of regular, temporary, and contractual employees will serve it better, offering it the flexibility it needs to deal with good and bad economic situations. A great employment department will lead this agility movement. International Recruiting I get calls all the time from organizations that are “going global.” The recruiting group is asked to start ramping up hiring in China or India or New Zealand or Germany. And most recruiting departments haven’t got a clue how to start. Time is wasted as they struggle to figure out an approach and get things underway. Management may often see this slowness to respond as incompetence or a lack of motivation. So it is as important to figure out how to take on a new challenge, as it is to manage the perception of your function within the organization. Agile recruiters will learn fast and manage the communication process with skill. I could go on, but I think we all can see that flexibility, fast learning, adaptability and a positive attitude are critical success factors for this year ó and probably for all the rest we have. Happy New Year!

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Kevin Wheeler is a globally known speaker, author, futurist, and consultant in talent management, human capital acquisition and learning & development. He has founded a number of organizations including the Future of Talent Institute, Global Learning Resources, Inc. and the Australasian Talent Conference, Ltd. He hosts Future of Talent Retreats in the U.S., Europe, and Australia. He writes frequently on LinkedIn, is a columnist for, keynotes, and speaks at conferences and events globally, and advises firms on talent strategy. He has authored two books and hundreds of articles and white papers. He has a new book on recruiting that will be out in late summer of 2016. Prior to his current work, he had a 20+year corporate career in several San Francisco area tech and financial service firms. He has also been on the faculty of San Francisco State University and the University of San Francisco. He can be reached at


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