The Brain-drain: Even developed markets are suffering

Global talent shortages are rendering today’s organisations leaner than ever before.The consequence of this is that if just a few vital positions are vacant, entire organisations may find it hard to operate efficiently and effectively. The situation is set to worsen over the next 10 years as social and demographic changes such as falling birthrates, aging populations and increased migration take hold. This leaves employers not only with a requirement to increase the flow of workers across the entire talent spectrum, but also with the need to find the right candidates with the right skills to fit the demands of their companies.

Governments around the world are taking initial steps to counter the effects of these talent shortages. While many government initiatives are in place to educate and train the global workforce in ways that are needed by the world economy and employers, results will take time to come to fruition. In the interim, employers can work to fill the skills gap and attract the right talent themselves by increasing their investment in training and development schemes. This includes company-wide initiatives that provide training to encourage the re-skilling and up-skilling of existing employees, allowing them to be migrated across an organisation from, for example, a role that has become redundant, to a much-needed newly created position.

Employers must also ensure the provision of education and training programs for potential new employees. Combined with other benefits, from flexible working hours to generous maternity/paternity leave, these programmes are an attractive proposition for many jobseekers and may prove essential in becoming an “employer of choice” in the changing world of work. While these training offerings may prove to be a costly initial investment, they will pay dividends by ensuring a pool of qualified talent is attracted and maintained.

Employers should consider attracting students into their workplace by inducting them during work-placement activities, forming part of their school education. Moving from a situation where students simply undertake passive job shadowing to a true introduction to the realities of the workplace and necessary attitudes to work, will help to prepare the younger generation for entry into the world of work and benefit employers in the long run.

Employers should also remember that many economies have a wealth of unemployed or under-employed individuals who have both the potential and the desire to acquire new vocational skills and provide a resource pool that can be effectively tapped into.The challenge is that these individuals are from diverse backgrounds, and all have different job requirements and motivations for work. This group would include the disaffected jobless young; single mothers and people with disabilities; part-timers who would prefer full-time employment; and older workers needing to work longer to subsidise their shrinking pensions.

Employers must adapt and be prepared to provide training in basic work skills and an introduction to the organisation’s work ethic to successfully embed these people into new careers. They will have to create an environment that is attractive to these workers in order to draw them into the workforce.

For example, employers should think about how they can embrace the older workforce within their company culture and prevent this valuable resource from leaving employment.With impending talent crunches lying ahead, employers cannot afford to lose aging, talented employees. Offering flexible and less stressful roles to would-be retirees who can add considerable value by sharing institutional knowledge and training new generations in the skills they have acquired is a smart move for employers to make.

Managing and planning talent is not only relevant among the older generations. By embracing labour flexibility and planning for talent requirements, employers can create a potential pool of reserves which will provide their organisation with added flexibility in maintaining the skills it needs. Employers may also consider introducing contingent talent to their workforce (temporary, contract, consultant and outsourced workers) who can accommodate variability in demand. Establishing a partnership with a specialist provider of employment services can help companies navigate the talent crunch, allowing them to adopt a strategic approach to “global” talent management and providing employers with the tools they need to anticipate the kinds of talent they will require and when. T

he trusted employment services partner will be aware of the client organisation’s likely future needs, in terms of numbers, skills and culture, and will be able to develop plans to source, train, and prepare the required talent for delivery as and when needed.

Another way that employers can combat the talent shortage is by investing in high-demand job re-design, determining which aspects of these jobs could be re-designed or automated. By analysing high-demand positions and reducing the amount of non-essential work involved, employers will see productivity enhanced and the total demand for the number of people needed in these positions reduced.

At the same time, new lower-skilled jobs from off-loaded elements will be developed, for which more people could be qualified and available, creating an opportunity for other qualified individuals. A final strategy that employers can implement to fill the skills gap is to embrace cross-border recruiting opportunities. Cross-border recruiting to lower wage or more abundantly supplied labour locations – either through wholly-owned foreign subsidiaries or by outsourcing to cross-border suppliers – will continue to be a possibility for many business operations.

However, only certain jobs lend themselves to this approach, and cross-border recruiting will only remain possible in locations where outsourced labour is cost-effective. The global talent crunch is already leading to severe shortages of talent in many parts of the world, and these trends are only set to worsen over the next decade – and beyond. It is therefore in the interest of employers to continue to look for new ways of training, recruiting, managing and retaining employees so that they can anticipate and prevent any problems encountered as the talent crunch becomes more pronounced. (c) The Workplace, The Star

Jan Coetzee is the managing director of Manpower South Africa

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