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Winning the war for talent has nothing to do with recruitment (or retention)

February 2, 2010

I’ve been noticing a theme in some opinions lately (here, here and here), that say there is pent up frustration in employees and as the economy recovers, these employees are looking to escape and find “greener pastures”.  This has recruiters all a-twitter, and some HR folks are putting a lot of emphasis on hiring practices (More Facebook.  More LinkedIn.  Video interviews) and retention plans. 

Recruitment and retention is the wrong focus.  Yes, there might be a flurry of job changers, but the longer term problem (shrinking labour pool) still remains.  What I think HR folks should be focusing on is:

  1. Finding ways to increase the participation rate from the labour pool.  Everyone is trying to hire full-time employees who trade their loyalty for security.  But, I think there are people out there who are interested in working in a different way (contractor, retainer, part-time, consultant) and it may actually be a smart business move, too (those FTE are expensive!). 
  2. A much greater use of technology to provide help, training, connection for employees.  This will help a contingent workforce contribute and provide… 
  3. Performance improvement – if organizations are duking it out for fewer people and we aren’t actively increasing the participation rate, then an emphasis on getting more out of your current workforce seems logical (although I think you should still increase participation rate).  Adopt a performance improvement culture, and become very good at diagnosing what performance problems are and what causes them.  Again, smart for business, as it weeds out bad expenditures in an organization (“they need training”) and increases the likelihood of a good organizational investment.
  4. Put a lot of emphasis on developing employees, especially those that you deem “high potential”.  Some organizations balk at investing in their employees, because, well, they might leave.  But, remember that the benefits from development are incremental, so even if they do leave, while they are with you, they are applying all that great stuff they are learning.  And, if you think development is all about training, again, I’d say “no”, it can be simple and cheap as chips (as they say in the UK).   Your emphasis is on development, not training.  Outcome, not process. 

What do you think?

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