Desolation Island or Paradise? You Have to Create Your Own Environment

We are fighting a war – a war for talent – and knowing the condition of the battlefield and the resources available is key to winning. Most recruiters I work with feel like they are on Desolation Island – alone and faced with impossible odds and no sympathy. They are always complaining that managers in their companies just don’t understand the labor market and how hard it is to find great talent. Yet, are you – the recruiters – educating them? Even though your managers may read the Wall Street Journal every day and even browse the Internet for business news, they are not focused on labor and the labor market. Most of what they read about the labor market doesn’t sink in as other business priorities take precedent. And, even though they may have a general understanding that there aren’t enough engineers and IT pros, they assume that if YOU were a decent recruiter, your company wouldn’t have any trouble finding great people. After all, your company is the best, greatest, biggest, whatever (you fill in the adjective). Why would anyone turn down a chance to work for your company? This is normal and understandable human nature, even if it is misguided and probably wrong. And, it IS a part of your job to educate your managers and make sure they really understand what the conditions are under which you work. If the procurement people in your firm had difficulty getting enough raw materials, they would make a clear business case and show exactly what the world supply was and who was getting it. They would have answers about why their company wasn’t getting enough and they would recommend solutions. Engineering would start to look for alternative materials or redesign the product to need less of that material. The company would mobilize around the problem. You as a recruiter have to make a similar case for your problem. Whining and complaining to fellow recruiters will not solve or even ease your situation one bit. Innovative ideas and new tools like job boards and a great web page are all necessary weapons in the war, but they can only win battles. To win the whole war, you need to get your management team focused and mobilized to help. Here are some very basic steps to take to get started. You should be doing every one of these things and enlisting whatever help you can get from the sales and marketing arms of your organization, as they are experts at persuasion and presentation. Step #1: Create a master communications plan or strategy. What do you want management to know about the labor situation you face? What do you want from them? Are you after sympathy and understanding or action and resources? Either can be okay, but you need to be very certain and clear. What are the assumptions they operate on when it comes to you and what you do? Are these assumptions correct, well founded, or just plain wrong? Why do they have these views? Step #2: Gather facts and information to support your case. There are resources all over the place with data about the job market, the number of open position, the estimated number looking for work and so on. The sources include the U.S. government agencies like the Bureau of Census, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Department of Education and others. There are reports in almost all newspapers but especially good ones for employment information include the Washington Post, the San Jose Mercury, and the Wall Street Journal. Publications like Information Week and other trade publications contain estimates and articles for specific professions. Columns like this one and many others also have useful and persuasive information for use in presentations. Of course, this data must be matched up against your own corporate data. How many open jobs does your company have? Where are they located? What are the skills needed to fill them? What is your success rate? How fast do you fill them? Is this acceptable or not? You have to know exactly what management thinks about your efforts and specifically what they do and don’t like. Step #3: Develop a WOW presentation. Make sure you put together a persuasive and honest case. Show how you are taking steps to win the war you are fighting, but that you need resources and help to be victorious. Lay out the steps you have already taken against this backdrop of facts and information about the size of the problem and your success to date. Be absolutely honest about your capabilities and about the capabilities of the staffing organization. Don’t say anything you cannot support with a fact. If you don’t have the right people or the right skills, say so. Step #4: Create a forum for presenting your facts and for making your case. This can take a variety of forms. You can ask for a formal meeting with key decision makers, which is best if this is the first effort and if it is critical to getting what you need. You can also set up a series of management briefings held during lunch – short and simple presentations that cover a point or two – to provide a wide range of managers with basic information. You can ask for a one-on-one with the CEO or some other person central to the success of your recruiting effort. And, best of all you can do all of these things. Step #5: Do this persuading and presenting on a regular basis. Send out email updates on progress and issues. Ask for support from the entire company. Create a newsletter – “news from the front lines” or something like that to stress the fact that you are fighting a tough war and need help and support on a continuous basis. Step #6: Adopt innovative weapons to help you win. Use the Internet and the tools it provides including job boards, search engines, and your own web site. Keep scanning for new ideas and new products and use them. Experiment and adopt what works and discard what doesn’t work – quickly. Relatively new and useful sites include some things that are on the fringe – things that are stretching how we are used to doing things and some that are stretching the Internet itself in terms of bandwidth and browser capability. Some of these new weapons include CareerTV which merges broadcast television and the Internet and features companies and jobs in streaming video. You can advertise yourself or a job on Kforce which can help you manage you whole recruiting process. CareerBuilder is also a powerful tool for interactively helping to meet your recruiting needs. This site offers advice, articles, job listings -in fact it allows you to do a mega job search across a lot of territory – and much more. Other tools let you promote your jobs AND screen candidates. Others are expert at testing and screening candidates. These include Discoverme which does personality testing online, and well as Predictor Systems Corporation which helps in the executive search process by using behavioral science techniques. The bottom line in to take systematic and fact-driven approach to educating management and to keeping them informed. Making them allies, not adversaries, is the only way to be successful at this war. And, trying innovative tools on a continuous basis can give you an edge – an edge that could prove decisive. So, stop any complaining or whining and get out there and convince “them” to join you on the battlefield. Rather than accept Desolation Island as a destination, insist on Paradise.

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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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