How the New Economy Is Changing Your Talent Pool

What I learned last week from 40 other HR leaders

I attended the CLO Forum last week in Scottsdale. In addition to the staying in one of the more spectacular resorts in the country, it was a great opportunity for me to discover first hand from more than 40 talent acquisition and learning professionals  their current and projected state of recruitment.

When I go to top tier events like this, I always try to conduct a straw poll to gather feedback on a hot recruiting topic. To build on the pulse survey from this month’s Talent Acquisition Today report, this time I asked my peers the following open-ended question:

Q: What does your candidate talent pool look like?

The answers were essentially the same:

A: There are plenty of people out there.

When I clarified the question to specifically ask about the “talent” of the talent pool, the discussions varied greatly. It seems that in this new economy:

  • “People” does not necessarily equal “talent”
  • There are fewer talented people available for hire
  • It’s tougher to find them

By combining the CLO discussions with additional research, here are some thoughts on how the new economy has changed the talent pool.

  • The Talent is staying put
    Per the US Department of Labor, worker productivity grew by over 6% in 2009, but it seems to have peaked in 2010 as companies maxed out their reduced workforces. Workers are not happy as they are continually expected to do more for less, but they are staying put. Estimates show that up to 65% of workers are considering a job change after the economy picks up – but not necessarily right now.  Why take a risk when at least you’ve got a job?
  • The Talent is holding out
    Americans have trimmed their budgets. They are spending less after shifting from the spend-now-worry-later mindset of a few years ago to pure survival mode. One example of that, arguably, is credit card debt, which the Federal Reserve reports is down about 13% over the last two years. With lower expenses, the need for higher paying jobs is diminished. We all have a story about a friend who took a lower level job because he/she was forced to, and is now much happier due to the unexpected improvement to work-life balance.
  • The Talent is leaving the job market altogether
    450,000 Americans file first time unemployment claims each week (50,000 above what is normal for a robust economy), meaning that workers are dropping out of the job market in record numbers. One reason is the extension of unemployment benefits, now enjoyed by 5.2 million people according to September Labor Department statistics. Another reason is simple disillusionment, where the talent pool has figured out ways to stay afloat and wait out the tough times.
  • The Talent is self-employing
    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 10% of the US workforce is self-employed. This peaked during the most recent recession, and has actually started to decline over the last few months as some of those “newpreneurs” discover the difficulties associated with operating their own business. But the strong survive, and I continue to read the success stories of those who are thriving with their new businesses. They are also starting to hire more talent.
  • The Talent is going underground
    published a special report with 10 year predictions about noteworthy world events. The report mentioned that more than half of today’s global workforce (3.6 billion total) worked underground, or in businesses that for one reason or another aren’t included in official employment statistics. The prediction was that this number would increase to two-thirds of the global workforce by 2020. Now this doesn’t mean that the best candidates will shift to illegal businesses and become drug dealers, but they may move to more informal business opportunities such as freelancers, moonlighters, and other do-it-yourself businesses.

What does this mean to you and your talent acquisition strategy? As you search for candidates, you will have to be more efficient at finding the needle in the haystack. You will have to be more creative in pursuit of talent.  You will have to be better at marketing your message, extending it well beyond traditional channels to reach qualified candidates not necessarily looking for you. Finally, we must all realize that self-employment and no employment are now real competitors in our search for the ideal hire.

You are what you measure.

Contact me with any questions! -Christine



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