Welcome to this week's issue of Talent Edge Weekly - the weekly newsletter for strategic human resources practitioners, bringing together talent insights from various sources.

This issue includes commentary and references on: talent shortages, employee engagement, talent planning, development of high-potential talent, upskilling, and employee wellness.

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Brian Heger leads Strategic Talent, Workforce Planning, and Analytics for a Fortune 150 organization. To connect with Brian on Linkedin, click here.



One factor contributing to the talent shortage that we continue to hear about and experience is: many organizations tend to favor hiring the top, job-ready talent rather than invest in developing their existing workforce. As organizations continue to “fish from the same external talent pool,” the talent shortage will only worsen. To address this challenge, this short HBR article reinforces the need for a talent strategy that is heavily driven by “Build” vs. “Buy” tactics where an organization intentionally addresses current and future talent gaps by developing its internal talent marketplace. It does this through upskilling, reskilling, internal mobility, etc. Such an approach also relies on hiring talent from overlooked communities (e.g., veterans, persons with disabilities, retirees, etc.) and providing them with training and apprenticeships to prepare them to meet talent needs. We need to think beyond just hiring and poaching talent to close talent gaps and, as stated by Josh Bersin in a recent article, “we have to shift to a world of creating candidates- not attracting candidates.” 

One finding of the PwC 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey is, that while the majority of CEOs agreed that significant retraining and upskilling was the most important way to close a potential skills gaps in their organization, fewer than 1 in 5 leaders (18%) believe their organization has made ‘significant progress’ in doing so. Upskilling was defined as “an organization’s clear intent to develop its employees’ capabilities and employability and to advance and progress their technical, soft and digital skills.” Four key forces are driving the upskilling imperative. 1) increased job automation, 2) decreased talent availability, 3) declining mobility of skilled labor, 4) a rapidly aging labor force in many markets. Similar to other articles, this report emphasizes how increases in automation, changes in demographics and new regulations will make it much harder for organizations to attract and retain the skilled talent they need. As a result, organizations need an increased focus on growing their own future workforce. Pages 24- 35 focuses on the upskilling component.


This is the first resource of a six-part series from Cielo and Josh Bersin on how organizations should assess and transform their talent acquisition strategies to better meet the talent demands of today's business context. This issue focuses on using market insights (i.e., research & data analysis, local market intelligence, and industry benchmarks) to guide hiring, sourcing, and recruitment as well as inform talent management and workforce planning. There are several useful components of this report, such as: 1) seventeen strategic talent planning questions that factor in location, skills availability, compensation, etc. One good question: “Does this location have nearby universities with relevant academic programs that we could source to develop this skill?” Questions like these can help to test talent assumptions and answer questions on whether to Buy, Build, Borrow, Bot. It also includes 2) roles and responsibilities for internal teams that gather and use talent info, 3) examples of available data sources in addition to notes on costs and expertise requirements, 4) 7 best practices for implementing data-driven insights into a TA process. A good resource that can help shape and inform components of an organization's talent strategy.


With the current skills shortage and emphasis on "Building" talent, most organizations see the value in identifying and developing high-potential (HiPo) talent within their firms. To realize this value, two things must happen. 1) accurate identification of HiPos 2) intentional development of HiPos so that their readiness to assume expanded work is accelerated. According to this ebook by Korn Ferry, only 14% of organizations surveyed feel very confident that the right people have been selected for their programs and only 11% are very satisfied with their return on development investment. This ebook focuses on issue #2 (development) and how to avoid some of the pitfalls. One potential pitfall I see is that there is sometimes a disproportionate emphasis on developing a HiPo for a very specific role. With roles and business models changing so quickly in today's environment, it is increasingly important to develop HiPos in skill areas that enable them to successfully meet broader leadership challenges associated with the future of work, regardless of the role they might assume. Integrating this broader, role-agnostic component into role-specific development efforts could enable greater ROI. 


Although the % of "engaged" employees (those who are highly involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace) in the U.S. is still far too low, employee engagement in the U.S. has reached a new high since Gallup began tracking the metric in 2000. In 2000, 26% of workers were engaged compared to 35% today. Simultaneously, the "actively disengaged" (those who have miserable work experiences and spread their unhappiness to their colleagues) has declined from 18% to 13% during the same time period. The remainder (52%) are in the middle. It is good to see that the primary drivers of improved engagement center on creating a "high-development culture," one where 1) people can see their impact on the organization and its customers through their work, 2) have opportunities to develop their strengths and purpose into a career. This article lists 4 themes associated with such a culture-two of which deal with one's manager- particularly moving from a culture of the manager as "boss" to "coach," and where managers are held accountable to develop their people. A good reminder of the disproportionate impact of one's manager on engagement as well as the opportunity to engage the 52% to in the middle.


This Conference Board report details how, in the span of just 10 years, “the US economy moved from having the weakest labor market since the Great Depression to one of the tightest in history." This is especially true for blue-collar and manual services employers who are experiencing much tighter labor markets than employers of highly educated white-collar workers — the exact opposite of prevailing trends in recent decades. Various factors have contributed to a decrease in labor supply including 1) slowing working-age population growth driven by massive retirements 2) a shrinking population of non-college-educated workers 3) lower labor force participation by especially young men, 4) large increase of the # of people not entering the labor force due to disability, 5) large drop of labor force participation in 16-24-year-olds. This 80+ page report is replete with insights, so it will take one some time to read through it. However, p.8 provides a snapshot of 31 tactics that organizations are using to address retention and recruiting challenges--with increased salaries and wages topping the list. Since no one "magic bullet" exists, organizations should use a combination of solutions to address this challenge. 

In the context of talent acquisition, workforce planning, and talent shortages, this is an interesting study that examines what happens to people’s careers after they take time out of work. The study found that gaps in employment can negatively affect future career prospects in multiple ways, particularly for those who left work for childcare responsibilities. In particular, 15.2% of employed applicants, 9.3% of unemployed applicants and just 5.1% of stay-at-home parents received a callback. In other words, both unemployed and stay-at-home parent applicants faced callback penalties compared with applicants with no employment gaps, but stay-at-home parents faced a much larger penalty. Similar effects were found for both mothers and fathers. As organizations continue to find ways to fill talent shortages, it will be important to not overlook this workforce segment, many of whom are motivated, eager to learn, and can bring value to organizations.


With employee wellness and wellbeing continuing to rise up the agenda as an organizational priority, this book by Jeffrey Pfeffer highlights how employee health and well-being is not only good for employees, but enables a firm's competitive advantage. Conversely, when wellbeing is diminished, it can lead to reduced employee engagement, increased turnover, and reduced job performance. As organizations attempt to address talent shortages by developing and engaging their internal workforce, the topic of wellbeing should become a more prominent component of an organization's overall talent strategy.


If you have an article, report, or resource that you recommend, please send me an email at [email protected]. I would love to review it and share it in a future newsletter.

And, if you have any ideas or suggestions for this newsletter, please feel free to send me a note.


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I look forward to sharing more ideas in next week's Edge!