In this past Saturday's Burlington Free Press Art Woolf had a wonderful piece contemplating the future of Vermont's labor force. In it, he points out that Vermont's employers are going to be (or are) facing some serious problems filling open positions at all organizational levels and across for-profit, governmental, educational, and for-purpose/non-profit organizations.
While I commend Art for starting the conversation, I don't think he went far enough.
Rainer Strack's 2014 TED Talk takes Art's thoughts a few steps further. In Mr. Strack's talk, he highlights the coming challenge won't be centered on finding high-quality talent, but an outright "war for talent". Companies, governments, and organizations will need to compete to simply find enough warm bodies to fill the necessary positions to get required work done. This challenge gets far worse if you focus on highly-skilled, talented professionals.
Here is the scary part for Vermont...this will play out on an international level.
So what can a small state like Vermont do?
As Mr. Strack points out (at about the 10:00 minute mark) that out of 26 possible work factors, four of them are most likely to help you find or keep your employees over the long-run. Interestingly these focus on the person, not on their skill-sets.
Mr. Strack also points out that to succeed in this new labor market, we must develop a "people strategy" and we must rethink our attitudes that people are vibrant, resources and assets, and not just head counts.
Vermont already has a reputation for being a welcoming state where we focus on people. Democracy plays out at a local, personal level. For the most part, most businesses in the state would be considered small.
Vermont's small, personal nature should make it easier for us as a state to start transitioning from an HR environment that focuses on benefits, head counts, and legal matters to an approach that is far more holistic. We, of course, can't abandon the legal side of HR, but we can do more to attract talent (especially top-talent) from elsewhere by developing practices that celebrate the wholeness of the people who come to work in our Vermont workplaces.
This is how we will solve Vermont's talent shortage.
Search Google for "talent gap" and you'll find more than 24.4 million results; most espousing the dire situations of HR directors and recruitment professionals. They can't find the right people for the right positions...and it's only going to get worse.
This is a valid concern but there are two ideas missing from this conversation.
talent vs. Talent
In most of the articles on "talent" (lowercase "t") you'll find authors referring to some combination of having the right people with the right pre-taught skills, and appropriate book knowledge or experience in their field. Something that looks like this:
Skills + Knowledge + people or person = talent
The problem with this thinking is that it omits the natural innate abilities of people. Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman define all three - skills, knowledge, and Talent - a little differently in their book "First Break All the Rules". You'll find a similar approach in Tom Rath's acclaimed book "StrengthFinders 2.0":
Skills are the how-to's of a role....knowledge is simply "what you are aware of"...Talents are the four-lane highways in your mind, those that carve your recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior. Talents cannot be taught. -- Marcus Cunningham and Curt Coffman, "First Break All the Rules"
This distinction between "talent" and "Talent" is important because even when you do find the right "talent", they might not bring the best set of "Talents" to engage with your team, or stay motivated enough to bring long-term benefits to your company. Get it wrong and your back looking for new employees. It's also one thing to claim you cannot find or are willing to train the right talent (lower case "t"), it's another to not engage the full range of Talents you already have on your team.
Fixing the Real Gap
With this differentiation in mind, I contend that the real "Talent gap" isn't the lack of an available employee pool. The real Talent gap is the difference between the modest number of Talents your team utilizes every day and the total number of Talents innately held by your team.
So before we all go complain that we can't find the right people or post that next job listing, consider:
Need one more incentive? Re-evaluating where people utilize their Talents will minimize the chances your teammates are part of the 82% of American and Canadian workers (and 87% worldwide) disengaged from their work.
What have you done to find and capitalize on the unique Talents of your team?
Gallup®, CliftonStrengths®, and the 34 theme names of CliftonStrengths® are
trademarks of Gallup, Inc. All rights reserved.