· Insights

How HR can close the talent gap 

With the search for talent more competitive than ever, just what can HR do differently to stay ahead in 2022?

Crisis situations often accelerate changes which are already taking place. The COVID pandemic is one such crisis, and its impacts are continuing to be felt right across the global workplace. Even before it struck, the acquisition and retention of talent was an issue for many firms.

Now, as the economies of the world pick up speed again, this need to recruit has become even more serious. Other workplace trends have also added a new dimension to this challenging environment.

Employees now have different expectations about just how and where they work, with hybrid work patterns now the norm for many previously full-time, office-based positions. Many employees now expect to be offered far more flexibility, and businesses now have to factor this into their job offers. 

So HR now faces a double act of challenges: to still find the talent needed in a much tighter market, but also having to cope with changing expectations in just how and where we work.

This is unlikely to be solved any time soon, so just what actions can HR take right now to stay ahead of these emerging trends? Here are three ways in which businesses are rising to the challenge of a tighter job market for talent.


Look internally

The first place to seek out new talent should be within your own organisation. There, if you are willing to change the way you look, you will find candidates who, even if they have slightly different skills, could be redeployed internally to meet the new challenges you face.

According to research by LinkedIn, internal candidates who have moved role are three and a half times more likely to be engaged as employees who have not moved internally. This has the added bonus of bringing into the frame employees who are not only likely to be more committed, but who also have a far better organisational understanding of the business, its goals, objectives and culture than external candidates.

Of course it also requires you to be far better at identifying and understanding just who within your company has the aspirations required to benefit from an internal move – and that means developing the programmes to help you identify them. But given the benefits to you – and the employee – it is well worth the time investment.


Cast your net wider

We know that diversity is a clear goal for many organisations and one which brings huge potential benefits to any business which actively engages in efforts to deepen the pool of talent from which it seeks to draw its employees.

McKinsey’s Delivering Through Diversity report makes it clear that firms with gender equal executive teams outperform those who haven’t in terms of profitability. Those with executive teams which are ethnically and culturally diverse are 33% more likely to deliver industry leading profitability. 

It makes perfect sense, therefore, to look for ways to open up opportunities to the widest possible range of candidates. You might find internal candidates open to new experiences and who could be upskilled or reskilled to take on new responsibilities. Equally, you can actively find ways to reach out to those who are perhaps under-represented in your business.

In the USA, IBM has an extensive programme to address diversity issues. This includes apprenticeship schemes and a skills academy, together with ‘Executive Councils’ which meet with a range of groups, including black and minority ethnic, the LGBT+ community and ex-service personnel, to share career development insights and learning from its own executives, many of whom are themselves from diverse backgrounds.   

There is also an opportunity here to allow employees to quickly learn new skills and work in positions where they might not have previously been considered. Look at external schemes too like Kickstart which allows you to tap into new pools of potential talent, where you can give an individual the opportunity for six months to get a feel for the role and increasing their long-term employability, while injecting new ideas and points of view into your own organisation.

One bold consideration could be sharing talent or temporarily adopting talent from outside your own organisation. This gives employees a chance to widen their skills sets and to bring in talented individuals who might well have some new ideas to share from their own organisations, exposing your company to new techniques and shaking up what might otherwise be traditional ways of thinking.

During the pandemic, McDonald’s in Germany took the bold step to allow its restaurant workers to join the retailer Aldi. Aldi was experiencing a surge in demand for home delivery, while McDonald’s was having to close its branches, so both companies benefited, but also both sets of employees gained new skills and insights which could eventually be brought back to their own companies as the pandemic receded.


Unearth the hidden gems    

There is always a danger that the people hiring for your organisation look to find people who match their own expectations, and that the recruitment process reinforces this hidden bias. This makes for a shallow pool in which to seek out new talent. As well as potentially reinforcing the thought that new talent must come from outside an organisation, this means that you risk missing out on those internal candidates with excellent skills which they might one day take elsewhere.

As Deloitte has shown, in a 2018 report, it can cost six times as much to hire an external candidate than develop your internal talent. So you need to find ways to open up the process, which in turn allows you to seek the ‘hidden gems’ which the existing process, consciously or unconsciously, may well be shutting out of consideration.

Be aware too that all employees, wherever they are based, should be allowed access to those opportunities. Just because someone works remotely doesn’t mean they don’t have the same commitment as someone you see every day at the watercooler. Visibility shouldn’t lead to advantage.

This has been proved by J R Keller, assistant professor of HR Studies at Cornell University. He studied two ways of hiring: posting jobs on an internal marketplace, or via a sponsoring manager.

The hypothesis was that the better appointments would come via the sponsored route. That wasn’t the case. Analysis of 11,000 internal moves over a five-year period showed that the internal marketplace candidates outperformed the sponsored ones on every criteria the study measured. So beware the watercooler moment when looking to appoint internally.   


It’s time to re-charge your talent acquisition  

Talent will remain in short supply and the search to find the best will continue to be difficult. So looking further afield, assessing candidate strengths in new ways, and opening up the recruitment process to internal candidates and removing all biases, all are moves which make perfect sense as ways to supercharge your talent management and acquisition.

Your best new talent may well be right under your nose, but you need to ensure that the processes you employ can identify and encourage those candidates, not shut them out, or worse, encourage them to seek new opportunities elsewhere. Make the right changes, and not only will that talent stay, but it will thrive and your business will thrive alongside it.


To find out more about how you can employ new ways to supercharge your talent acquisition – click here.


Simon Lyle is managing director UK at Randstad RiseSmart