How to ensure your company has qualified talent over the long term

When you ask business owners what keeps them up at night, that list likely includes how to ensure their company continues to have qualified talent for the next five, 10 and 20 years.

This is a global issue that must be addressed because talent is both the most costly and most valuable need across all industry sectors. And even with the growth of automation, IT and technology, right now in the U.S. about one-third of companies have a talent need.

“It’s always one of the first things we hear from companies when they are looking to move into an area or expand their operations — they want to know about the workforce,” says Alicia Booker, vice president of operations, Workforce, Community and Economic Development, Cuyahoga Community College.

“There are no easy answers, and that’s why this is an issue,” she says. “We do need more investment and company engagement, but the reality is that this isn’t just a company problem. We all have to invest in, commit to and work together to find a solution.”

Smart Business spoke with Booker about developing a long-term organization strategy that will help keep your talent pipeline topped off.

What are you seeing with the workforce environment today?

There’s been some growth, even though it’s not at prerecession levels. Jobs are returning from overseas, but the job creation doesn’t mimic what was previously here. And wages haven’t come up to where they were. Companies are constantly trying to balance their need to grow and take on more projects against managing costs.

Right now is one of those times where we have three or four generations in the workforce. Over the next five years, about 30 percent of Northeast Ohio’s workforce is projected to decline as many who kept working during the recession retire.

The 10th annual Talent Shortage Survey, by ManpowerGroup, looked at the top reasons employers find it difficult to fill jobs: lack of available applicants (33 percent), lack of experience (19 percent) and a lack of technical competencies (17 percent). Only 10 percent of employers said the lack was because individuals wanted more money.

How can organizations better use strategy to address their talent pipeline?

Use all opportunities to combine training with work. Work with area community colleges and higher education institutions to develop curriculum, internships and apprenticeships. If this is too much to take on yourself, take an industry sector approach. Not only does this help you get candidates with the right core competencies, it gives your company more access to people to help make sure you have the right fit. The on-boarding process is smoother, which helps you avoid getting qualified people who just end up across town.

Don’t wait until you have need. It’s probably too late at that point. It takes time to find the right people or train them up, so you need to be intentional and strategic. Analyze your resources to see what you don’t have, and then seek help where you need it. Also, look within your organization for opportunities to upscale your existing workforce. With developmental training, you’ll have talent replacement so you can promote from within and then backfill entry-level employees.

Look for alternative ways to source people, so you can expand your recruiting tool chest. Everyone has gotten so database driven, where candidates apply online and are sorted in or out through analytics. If you’re not producing quality or quantity candidates, either look at alternative pathways to get more people in or do a better job of on-boarding and screening.

Once people come on board, you can’t leave them alone. On-boarding programs at all levels should accumulate them to your company and its culture. You also need someone in HR who keeps talent as a focus.

There’s been an increase of employees looking to other countries to find the skilled people they need, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get them here in Northeast Ohio by taking a long-term approach that develops the right core competencies. However, just like market changes, you have to stick with it through the ups and downs. Don’t give up on talent development, even if your business needs to change a bit.

Insights Education is brought to you by Cuyahoga Community College