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by Jeff Schwartz

The challenges facing HR pros who specialize in talent, compensation and benefits are dramatically different today than they were just a year ago. There has been significant movement in business priorities—and talent priorities.

At Deloitte Consulting, we call it “the talent paradox.” Quite simply, this is the apparent contradiction that occurs when unemployment is still relatively high, yet companies still are seeing significant shortages in critical talent areas. That trend will continue.

Yes, lots of people are looking for jobs. But there’s a mismatch between the hard-to-find skills employers need and the talent the marketplace can offer.

People with in-demand skills are exploring the job market. Just a year ago, organizations were laying off workers by the dozen. Now, critical talent is on the move, by choice. Some of that talent might even live in your own shop.

You’re probably seeing more voluntary turnover these days. If it’s affecting critical departments or job categories, watch out. You may be losing the very employees you need for success in a recovering—but still tenuous—business environment.

Top priorities, slim pickings

When we surveyed executives worldwide, we asked where they expect to see talent shortages over the next year. The response: 72% expect moderate or severe shortages in research-and-development staff. And 66% expect moderate or severe shortages in executive leadership.

What’s interesting is when we look at companies’ priorities going forward. For many, innovation, new-product development, penetrating new markets and managing global operations are the highest growth priorities. Yet those same areas are where they’re expecting the worst shortages of staff. When we dug a little deeper, we found specific R&D shortages looming for technology, media and telecommunications companies. The consumer, industrial, life sciences and health care sectors will all be affected.

How ‘world class’ retains

Can you head it off? It’s possible, if you adjust your organization’s priorities when it comes to talent.

One in five of the executives we surveyed described their companies as having “world class” talent. Those companies appear to have a different set of priorities and a stronger focus on long-term talent investment than their competitors. Take your talent-management cues from them:

  • Have a clear retention plan.
  • Align business goals with talent goals.
  • Establish clear metrics and key performance indicators.
  • Respond to generational issues in the workforce.
  • Focus on gender and global diversity.
  • Push global and new-market expansion.
  • Actively recruit employees with critical and hard-to-find skills.
  • Heavily emphasize training.
  • Create career paths and challenging job opportunities for existing employees.
  • Deliver high-quality employee communication.
  • Develop future leaders through succession planning and leadership development.
  • Land top talent. Firms that describe themselves as “world class” say they’re excellent at attracting talent.

A trend you need to watch

Voluntary turnover often spikes after a recession. In fact, we often see a “résumé tsunami” once employees with a pent-up desire to change jobs start to feel confident enough to leave the safety of the jobs they have.

What’s going on now is different; we’re not seeing a résumé tsunami. We’re seeing something subtler, a slow tide of candidates that are in high demand because they possess the top skills employers need.

Pay attention to this trend if you worry that your best employees might leave. Pay attention, too, if you’re looking to add talent that will position you for growth right now.

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Author: Jeff Schwartz is global and U.S. talent services leader at Deloitte Consulting. Contact him at JeffSchwartz@deloitte.com. The survey he refers to, Talent Edge 2020: Blueprints for the New Normal, is available at www.deloitte.com.

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