Talent: Build It or Buy It?

Remote or hybrid work options may be the tipping point in your favor if you can offer them to your existing and new talent.

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Here's what you need to know about talent: build it or buy it:

  • Talent shortages that were expected to wane show no signs of letting up.
  • Look for candidates with solid soft skills: good communication skills, work ethic, and flexibility.
  • You may be able to work with a school to develop a formal program for your industry or simply tap into their talent pool.

The war on qualified talent is taking no prisoners. Business leaders are in the difficult position of paying premium starting salaries, signing bonuses, and more to acquire even the most minimally qualified candidates. That’s only if they’re lucky enough to find those candidates and beat out the competition to hire and retain them.

Talent shortages that were expected to wane show no signs of letting up. Existing workers are overwhelmed trying to pick up the slack while hiring authorities desperately search for help.

Hiring requirements have shifted from want lists to wish lists, with few employers seeing their wishes come true.

Today’s talent search reality

A recent survey from Monster found recruiters are struggling to find talent across all industries. In the past, their concerns were:

  • Sourcing quality candidates
  • Quickly identifying potential candidates
  • Screening well during the interview process

Today’s hiring authorities are challenged with those tasks before they schedule a single interview. The majority of businesses, 80%, say they’re having difficulty filling spots due to an ongoing talent shortage.

If your company is in the same position as most American businesses, you need to fill slots. You may want to look at recruitment from a ‘buy it or build it’ point of view.

Should you buy talent?

With today’s prevailing wages, many companies are asking, ‘is it worth it’ to hire? During the height of the pandemic, we learned to do more with less. It may have challenged existing employees, but the work got done nonetheless.

Today, the employees who got you over the worst of it are worse for wear. They may be looking for more help to keep pace, but would more salary suffice?

Consider the cost of recruiting additional staff (probably at a higher starting rate), their salary, and benefits against the cost of raises all around. Talk to staff members about the challenges of hiring — they’re well aware of the difficulty — and ask if they could continue with the status quo at a higher rate.

You may be surprised to find they’ve adapted to the pace and would appreciate a bump in pay.

Be prepared to count the cost

If you simply can’t manage with existing headcounts, the talent market will be more costly than ever before. The pandemic caused many workers to opt-out of the market, at least temporarily. For others, staffing shortages offered opportunities to job-hop their way up the pay scale ladder. Be prepared to pay more, possibly for less, when you recruit.

You might need to rethink some of the requirements for the position you once believed were set in stone.

The perfect candidate probably doesn’t exist in today’s market. You might need to rethink some of the requirements for the position you once believed were set in stone:

  • Is a degree really necessary?
  • Does the listing you post tend to exclude more candidates than it includes?

Today’s market requires reaching out to talent pools you may have overlooked in the past. If you can expand your search, you may find more available candidates.

Consider enticing previous employees to return

Buying it back may be another option. The Great Resignation has been followed, for many workers, with the Great Regret. The grass, they found, wasn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence. Reach out to the qualified staffers you lost recently to see if you can entice them to return.

If you can afford to beat out the competition with wages and benefits, you may be able to buy the talent you need. You may also be able to score in the hiring game with more flexibility. Remote or hybrid work options may be the tipping point in your favor if you can offer them.

Don’t forget your existing talent. Staff members will notice new hires starting at higher wages. If you can, offer to increase your current employees’ salaries accordingly to avoid having to recruit even more workers if they jump ship.

What’s your biggest 2022 HR challenge that you’d like to resolve

Answer to see the results

Build your talent in house

The same Monster survey found that 63% of businesses would be willing to hire someone with soft skills they believe are transferrable, then train them to meet the job requirements. Building the perfect new hire means:

  • Investing in potential
  • Training at the onset
  • Reaping the benefits in the future

Consider what it would take to hire someone with zero experience — how long would it take to train them? Would training time be comparable to the time it’s taking to hire a qualified candidate in this market? You may be ahead of the game, depending on how tight the talent pool is in your area and how easily someone with soft skills can learn.

Look for candidates with solid soft skills: good communication skills, work ethic, and flexibility. Review your top performers’ qualities — and try to recognize or seek those qualities when you hire. You can train anyone to learn Excel. Teaching someone to be customer-centric may be more difficult.

Who within your organization is ready to step up?

Another option is to look internally for talent with potential. Promoting from within is good for business and good for workers. The chance to advance is a top retention tool for any organization – employees want a career with an upward trajectory.

If you need to fill any position that isn’t entry-level, your first option should always be an existing employee. There are many benefits to promoting from within.

Employees will see there’s value in tenure if there’s a chance to advance — even for those not immediately on the receiving end of current opportunities.

Review what training would be necessary to build an existing staff member’s skill set for the requirements of the vacant job. Workers may need specific training, like Excel, or may be able to navigate their way up the ladder with mentoring or job shadowing programs.

Online training might be appropriate for quick skill-building. If you’re planning long-term, tuition reimbursement may be the path to employee development.

However you choose to grow existing staff, the ripple effect will be felt.

With a continuous training mindset, you can keep staff continuously growing and developing for immediate vacancies and those that will come up in the future.

Employees will see there’s value in tenure if there’s a chance to advance — even for those not immediately on the receiving end of current opportunities. Whenever someone moves up, there’s almost always a slot available below.

Look for local resources

Building talent starts with raw materials, and there may be a trove right around the corner. For many businesses, entry-level staffing is the most difficult challenge. Depending on your industry, you may find help in unexpected places.

Trade schools, community, or 4-year colleges can be a valuable talent resource and may become a funnel for future hires. Work with career placement offices to find students interested in your industry or just looking for a part-time job.

Thinking outside of the traditional recruitment box

Culinary students may be interested in front-of-the-house jobs while they study. This is particularly true if they also have an opportunity to dip their toes in some of the back-of-the-house work. Can you let a student do some prep work for experience or even receive college credit for some of their shift(s)?

Students interested in fashion are a great resource for retailers. An excellent trade for some shifts that work the sales floor could involve allowing them to receive time training on how:

  • You buy
  • Inventory is managed
  • You assess your current stock

Internship programs may be an excellent way to build talent if your business relies on skilled trades. These students will be learning at school while you train them on the ins and outs of your particular business.

Many business leaders are going beyond what’s considered the norm for interns. They’re working to develop programs specific to their needs. The insurance industry has created internship programs with local educators over the past 10 years to build its talent pool.

Whatever jobs you need to fill, there’s an area of study that could provide your company with potential talent.

Students earn as they learn and are guaranteed a job when they graduate. With this approach, businesses have a continuous talent pool from which to hire.

Think about transferrable and developing skillsets

You may be able to work with a school to develop a formal program for your industry or simply tap into their talent pool.

Don’t be bogged down by exact experience. An HVAC student is learning about mechanical systems. If anything you hire for needs that type of skill, you may find a potential hire.

Whatever jobs you need to fill, there’s an area of study that could provide your company with potential talent. If the work requires computer literacy, work with the school to identify potential candidates. If you need accounting talent, you’re sure to find some on a campus nearby.

Career counselors are looking for ways to place students. They’ll be happy to talk to you and create pathways to employment for their students.

Talent is available if you’re willing to be inventive

A tough hiring market means being creative when it comes to sourcing, acquiring, and retaining talent. Your choices may seem limited — pay too much or do without — but you have more options available. If you can’t afford to buy it (or can’t find it at any price), consider building talent instead.

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