Is It Time To Be Bold?

Unemployment is running at 5.8% nationally, but if you probe into Bureau of Labor Statistics data you’ll find that people with a college education have an unemployment rate of only 3.0%. That’s about as good as it gets. Most of the unemployed are from manufacturing, which has shed tens of thousands of jobs over the past three years. While there are certainly unemployed engineers, software experts, and programmers galore in Silicon Valley and in other pockets around the country, their long-term prospects for employment are very strong. In fact, those who are mobile could probably find employment easily by moving to areas like Washington, D.C., where the demand is high at the moment. Much of unemployment is a matter of location or distribution, not of too much or too little supply. There are still a number of areas where recruiters report significant growth in the demand for certain types of workers. There is a growing national need for teachers of all types. Many of today’s teachers are approaching retirement age, and both short- and long-term projections of need show growth. Likewise, librarians are in demand, as the weight of information grows exponentially and our ability to deal with it fails to keep pace. I was recently at a community college in Las Vegas where I learned that the casinos and resorts are finding it a stretch to fill all the positions for gaming experts. Most of the medical field is suffering from crisis level shortages of nurses, doctors and, most especially, pharmacists. The service industries, including mortgage brokerages, call centers, hotels and resorts, and the food industry, are all adding staff and upgrading the educational levels they desire. What has been happening is not necessarily an idling of the workforce but a sea change in needed skills and professions. For recruiters, this means that we need to be bold and make a case for expanding and for more aggressively preparing for the inevitable need for very scarce people. Here are a handful of ideas and suggestions about what you can do now to get ready.

  1. Be bold and decisive in your belief that there is a shortage of skilled people and a growing demand. There are many resources that you can tap to convince yourself and others that what I am saying is true. Roger Herman’s recently published book entitled “Impending Crisis” is a place to start. There are official statistics available at no cost from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Department of Labor, as well as from the Census Bureau. The Hudson Institute has published an very informative book called “Workforce 2002,” which I highly recommend.
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  3. Make a business case for recruiting. Once you are convinced of the numbers, lay out what that means for your organization. If you are in healthcare, for example, you can get good figures on how many students are studying nursing in the schools in your geographic area and how many might be needed by your hospital or clinic over the next two to three years given different scenarios of economic growth and aging. You can also determine how easy or difficult it has been to hire those nurses over the past six months to year, and then you can develop a quantitative (numbers-based) case. Your case will most likely show that both college and professional recruiting need to be beefed up, changed, or better focused to be competitive.
  4. Get in front of the right people. Perhaps the biggest challenges may be to get in front of the decision makers in your organization. Presenting to your own staff or to a group that already understands the issues will not be useful. Make sure that you get in front of the CEO, the management team, or whoever can make the decision to invest in the changes you are asking for. Once there, make a numbers-based presentation that, in the end, asks specifically for the resources and dollars you need. Over and over, management teams tell me that they rarely get strong arguments from the recruiting or HR staff. When they do, they are usually willing to make the necessary investments. Your job is to bring them a case that is impossible to dispute. If you have the metrics and data it should be a straightforward process.
  5. Focus on the development of talent as well as on recruiting it. The supply will not be adequate for many professions as we move into this decade. Your job will increasingly require you to encourage the development of talent, to entice high school students to enter professions you need, to offer scholarships and other financial help, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that your organization has an affordable talent supply when it is needed. That is, in my opinion, what your whole job is all about.

There will be no room for the timid, the conservative, or for those who cannot make a strong case for their beliefs. Go boldly, my friends, into tomorrow.

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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