RPO & StaffingTalent Acquisition

Coming Up (Skills) Short

Build your talent pipeline now during the calm before the hiring storm.

By Doug Lubin

Recovery from the Great Recession has been sluggish—to say the least. Unemployment across the country is still high, as evidenced by recent reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet in October, we still saw more than 3 million job openings waiting to be filled.
What’s causing the discrepancy? Much of the disconnect can be attributed to the fact that many of the open positions require highly educated, specialized workers in fields such as aerospace, biotech, energy, healthcare, and technology. The result is a skills shortage that presents a major problem for recovery.
Some industries, like IT or healthcare for example, are experiencing increasing demand for services, and the only way to meet this need is through hiring specialized talent. Sourcing and building a talent pipeline can be a lengthy process, especially when your needs are so narrow. The time to identify this specialized talent was yesterday, before the need arises.
Identifying potential talent prior to open positions is easier said than done for a number of reasons. As new platforms emerge and the popularity of others shift, in-demand skill sets can also fluctuate. This is especially true in the technology industry. As a result, there’s often a lag between emerging industries and the education and development of professionals with the expertise needed to fill these specialized openings.
For example, demand for mobile platforms has taken off in recent years. In fact, it’s grown so quickly that professionals haven’t had the time to become trained in this field. The majority of new talent entering the marketplace is well educated in IT or computer science, but are there enough .NET or Java developers? The answer appears to be no. Until the workforce has had time to ramp up in this area, there will continue to be some discrepancy.
Another area experiencing a serious skills gap is in nuclear energy. Very few nuclear power plants were built in the U.S. for an extended period of time—which limited the need for skilled workers in this field. Now, interest in rebuilding these types of plants for nuclear technologies has reemerged, but there isn’t enough talent to staff these projects. Plus the gap here will likely deepen, as many workers qualified to address this growing need are nearing retirement.
Companies typically approach recruiting and hiring for specialized positions in two ways: first qualified versus best qualified. First qualified is just as it sounds. Companies that deploy this model hire the first qualified candidate they find.
Other companies opt not to fill a vacant position until they find the most qualified candidate possible. These organizations will not lower their standards or simply hire a candidate who is “qualified enough” for the position. This method, while ensuring strong employees, often lengthens the recruitment cycle.
Planning Ahead to Meet Talent Needs
Combating the talent shortage must begin with an organization’s workforce planning and recruiting resources. One option is to rebuild internal recruiting staff. Companies should hire recruiters who have experience filling specialized positions, possess deep industry knowledge and have the ability to leverage an extensive network of professional relationships. Another option is to develop a talent pipeline through a recruitment process outsourcing (RPO) program. An RPO firm can help companies find, recruit, and retain the highly skilled talent necessary for business success.
RPO services provide organizations with talent mapping, specialized sourcing, social media recruiting expertise, talent community building, and overall program coordination. Plus, an RPO program can easily scale up or down to help meet cyclical needs.
But remember: The time to implement an RPO is not when your company already has a number of open positions to fill. For example, let’s say that an engineering firm anticipates that projects will increase six to eight months from now. To accommodate this demand, the company will need additional employees with specific wireless and design engineering talent. The process to identify and hire candidates to fill these specialized positions can take six months. If the organization postpones the talent identification and recruiting process until the anticipated projects begin, it will be shorthanded and at a serious service—and revenue—disadvantage as it plays catch-up.
In industries in which there is a high volume of recruitment, it’s important to find a partner that has the platforms, processes, and people in place to manage transaction volumes and candidate care. To vet potential RPO partners, consider these questions:
• Does the partner have experience placing specialized, exempt
talent within your industry? Can they offer case studies or
success stories?
• Do they have a sound and mature program
management methodology?
• Is there someone at the top who can manage all the moving parts,
such as the onboarding, technology, and recruiting?
RPO Programs Provide More Than Specialized Talent
Working with an RPO provider is one approach identifying specialized talent before it is needed. Many RPO providers develop and maintain talent communities that allow them to continually identify and connect with talented candidates. By inviting potential targets to opt-in to these communities, RPO providers ensure an accessible and qualified population of candidates that is already familiar with a company’s brand, and that can be encouraged to apply when opportunities arise.
Building talent communities that leverage candidate relationship management (CRM) applications and platforms has become a leading practice for RPO service providers. In addition to the CRM, a RPO partner can typically implement and integrate other sourcing and social media practices as well.
The companies that are making inroads into filling the 3 million job openings are hiring highly specialized candidates through active planning and talent community building. And they’re doing so either through an RPO provider or by leveraging and training their own internal recruiters. Regardless of the methodology, every organization should look to implement a talent contingency plan for specialized skill sets before an imminent need arises. After all, do you want to be looking for a bucket when your boat’s already half under water?

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