The Talent Drought

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The Challenge

In the past, as employers we could look for employees that had certain types of training.  When they came aboard, they could move quickly.  Today, most employees we hire do not have the training or experience.  If they have the experience, we have to unwind some of it since we may do it differently.  Some organizations get so desperate that they simply need bodies and hands to be able to even be able to handle work flow, not even considering quality of work.

There is an incredible drought of great new hires.  If we were all farmers, we would call it The 21st Century Talent Drought!

What Is Missing? (you already know this)

From new hires, most missing is self-awareness, maturity, communication skills, and basic management and leadership capabilities.  Without these capabilities, they are unable to learn technical skills and other skill sets. There is not a dialogue and interaction that they are able to initiate to help employers understand what they need to learn.

What They Do Have!  (the opportunity for us and them)

The right new hires do care about what they do, they want to make a difference and learn.  They also have natural affinity for technology and are smart people.  They want to connect but may be missing “how to connect”.  They are also looking to see the whole picture but can get mired in the small details, some of which do not matter and some that do.

There is a desire for a great environment with friendships where they can learn.  They want to see, feel and influence how they make a difference.  It is not all about pay.  In fact, they may take a lower paying job simply because they feel the lower paying job is one where they can make a bigger difference.  They want a future; they want structure and also flexibility to be able to adjust to things that happen in their personal life.

Why Are They Hard to Find?

Some of them are hard to find because they already have a job. They may use social media as a tool as opposed the more traditional job search arenas.  The most recent website may be where they camp out.  Some are simply free lancing many small jobs since they have not found a home yet and want to preserve their flexibility.  They are not as involved in associations and formal networking as many of us originally were in our work careers.

What We Must Do As Leaders of Organization

As leaders, we need to not complain about the current employee culture.  It is what it is.  We need to do something about it and learn how to develop and mold the culture to our organization (instead of complaining about texting, I learned how to text to have a relationship with my kids).

To attract, retain and mold them, we need to provide:

  1. Create a structure that has a clear path:

One leader of an organization knew he had a restless millennial.  His answer was to “be patient.  You need to learn some things and then we will promote you.”  We let this leader know that they were going to lose the millennial.   That advice might buy time in the old days, but the millennial needed clarity of what actions to take.  We suggested and built with the leader a checklist of 10 actions.  #1 was to read a book on selling and share the top 5 tools he learned with the team.  #2 was to interview 8 other leaders (names and phone numbers were listed) about success and do a 1 page summary of what he learned etc.  The leader was afraid to deliver the Action List because it would seem like too much work and that would drive his employee away.

When he delivered the list, the millennial quietly read the list and said “thank you” and left.  For a nervous three days, the leader waited for a response.  Finally, late on Friday the millennial asked to talk to the leader.  This is what he shared.

“I have been thinking about leaving and taking another job.  In fact, the day you gave me the list, I was going to commit to a job closer to home.  In looking at this list, I am excited and am going to stay.  I will get these 10 items completed by the end of the year.  Thank you!”

Not only was the list of actions completed early, the millennial asked for others actions to be added to the list.  The millennial got the promotion and he and his leader have built another checklist for the next phase of the millennial’s career.

All employees need a good structure with clarity to work within.  The current employee culture for all employees needs it even more than in the past.

  1. Show how they are making a difference in the Age of Meaning:

They need to see the context and why what they do is important.  Sharing stories of how they contributed to the end experience of the user of your product or experience will help them to see and feel this outcome.  One 28-year-old heating/air conditioning technician, I asked them why they liked their job.  His answer:  “people can come home at the end of a hard day and relax in a comfortable environment.”  His actual job title is Comfort Technician.

All of us at any age or experience level want to make a difference.  Having a hard day is one issue if we feel like we are not bringing value and are not valued.  Having a hard day is a different issue if we feel like we make a difference and are valued since it makes the day worthwhile regardless of the hardships.  In this day and age, we believe it is the Age of Meaning since success will belong to leaders that bring meaning to the workplace for each individual employee which allows the challenge to be worthwhile.

  1. Invest time teaching them what they want and need to learn:In a meeting with a very successful organization in North Carolina I asked them what was working for them and what was not working.  One item not working was a newly launched training program.  As we got deeper into why, it became apparent that the delivery mechanism was primarily reading and was all about topics that the company wanted employees to learn.Over a few months, we gently redesigned the course list to include courses the employees wanted, asked for volunteers from all employees to teach, and gave alternatives to the reading section.  It has now taken fire!  The volume, breadth of topics taken and the high percentage of employees doing it without prompting is dramatically beyond expectation.  Our concern at the moment is that we may burn people out or not be able to produce new material swiftly enough!  What a great problem to have!
  2. Make it Personal:

I have heard that business is about business and is not personal.  The older I get, the less that I believe that.  People are people.  Business is about people and relationship and love and care and becoming better and accomplishing great results.  Getting to know, understand and appreciate those around us and teaching them how to do the same is the life blood of business.  It gets people’s hearts in the game and it keeps them in the game, especially when it is challenging.

Self-awareness and maturity of ourselves and those around us are part of that challenge we must answer.  While being a good example is important, as leaders we must allow people to do, fail and learn and try again.  We must be there with them as it occurs so they can understand internally what needs to happen (which is not possible by them simply watching us do by example).

We also need to make sure we notice the success those around us have in interactions.  I am amazed how often there is a success; however they do not realize it and an opportunity to duplicate and teach that success to others disappears in the tyranny of the urgent!

If you and your team would like to find a better way for to recruit, retain and retire employees of all ages and at all levels, see The Recruiting and Retaining Scorecard, a list of 25 tactics that may assist you in your search for a better tomorrow with better people!  Call us at 800-786-4332, or email us at




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