How to Deal With Tomorrow: Develop a Talent Strategy

  • “I have way too many unqualified applicants.”
  • “We are swamped with people applying for positions that require special skills or expertise they don’t have.”
  • “We have more and more difficulty finding people that exactly fit our requirements.”
  • “Our requirements have become much tighter during this recession.”
  • “Managers don’t want to interview 10 or 12 candidates, but they are rarely happy with the ones we send them.”
  • “No one wants to authorize the use of an agency for this level position, and we just don’t have the recruiters to meet the need.”
  • “Our budget is so tight that we can’t upgrade our applicant tracking system or install any new software.”
  • “We track all sorts of things, but I’m not sure anyone pays attention.”

These are phrases I have heard from recruiting managers and directors over the past few months. I am quite certain we will be hearing more as we inch our way toward more open positions. Most of us don’t realize that this recession has changed recruitment for good. Some recent news from the Bureau of Labor Statistics sheds light on what is happening. Released just a few days ago, here are two telling statements:

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Manufacturing employment decreased by 56,000 in June, in line with the average job loss over the prior 12 months. Losses occurred across most of the component industries. Since its most recent peak in July 2000, manufacturing employment has fallen by more than 2.6 million. Employment in health care and social assistance rose by 35,000 over the month and has increased by 306,000 over the year. In June, ambulatory health care services (including offices of physicians, outpatient care centers, and home health care services) added 24,000 jobs; hospital employment increased by 9,000.

The patterns of employment are changing. We are most definitely moving from a nation that makes things in factories to a nation that supplies services and produces intellectual capital. All of these activities require more skills and more education than the activities in the manufacturing sector. But many of the unemployed either have skills more suited for manufacturing environments or are seeking jobs in locations where manufacturing was the primary employer. People skilled in service or in knowledge work are far less likely to be unemployed for long, especially if they are willing to move to locations where work is more plentiful. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall unemployment rate for the nation is 6.4%, while it is only 3.1% for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Manufacturing has moved offshore or has been automated, and this trend will continue. As recruiters, we are in the midst of this sea change in attitude and approach towards people and recruitment. Managers will look for the experienced and the educated first, but will accept those who need some development as the supplies tighten. This means organizations will need development services to help the newly unemployed make the transition to the service or knowledge industries. Organizations that realize how important a partnership between recruiting and development is will benefit by having a more available source of talent. The available pool of skilled and experienced service and knowledge workers will dry up quickly once we readjust to a changed economy. Indeed, in many areas there are already shortages of these skilled people. A New Approach You will need a new approach ó one that is based on workforce planning and market knowledge. You will have to understand and educate your management that the kinds of people you really want, who have the requisite skills, are going to be scarce and hard to find. You will need to put together a strategy around talent, understanding and articulating a philosophy about people and what kinds of people are needed to make your organization successful. Part of this strategy will need to focus on determining what both the likely demand for certain key skills will be and what the local and national supply looks like. This is the first time in my experience that supply and demand knowledge of talent will be a competitive factor in your success as a recruiter. You will have to decide where to spend the time and budget you have. It will not be possible to recruit all the employment levels in your organization at the same level of service. Someone will have to drive decision making around what skills are most critical for your organization’s success. And then you will have to focus your time on sourcing and recruiting those people only. This may mean outsourcing some recruiting or offloading it to hiring managers themselves. It will also mean the gradual use of technology in a more efficient way. This strategy will have to intimately understand the supply of talent and the supply chain for your industry and organization. You may be asked whether there are enough students graduating to supply your entry-level needs and what the experienced marketplace looks like. How many people are available to you at any given time and what kind of recruitment supply time can you guarantee? You will need to do market research and stay very focused externally while still meeting the internal service levels you have committed to. You will have to adopt technology as your only way to get your work done. Most organizations will be reluctant to hire more recruiters to solve what is basically a supply problem, not a recruiting problem. You will need to use technology to attract candidates to your organizations and to explain to them why your organization is one they should consider. You will have to use the technology to screen them, run background checks, schedule their interviews and meetings, and track their movement through your process When you have done all this you will be a very different kind of recruiter than you probably are today. The semi-skilled, reactionary recruiters who dealt with volume will be replaced with those who are strategists and technologists ó who proactively set the stage for both their own and their organization’s success.

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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