The Talent Shortage Myth

[Excerpt from The Ordinary Leader] 

It’s easy for an organization to blame bad hiring experiences on a shortage of talented people to draw from. In recent years, commentary has increased around the notion that talent is in short supply. I have always had a cynical view of this belief. I don’t think there is as much talent shortage as some would have us believe.

I have come to understand that the issue is not so much a talent shortage as it is a shortage of great places to work. Talented employees have choices, and all things considered, they will choose an organization that is great to work for over a lot of other benefits, sometimes including higher pay.

People want to work in organizations that are healthy, innovative, and inspiring. An employee who took part in our survey noted it this way: “With my qualifications and education, I could be making more money, but I stay here because I am valued, I enjoy the work, and I love the people I work with.” Talented individuals seek out great organizations – they won’t settle for less, and they don’t have to.

I have come to understand that the issue is not so much a talent shortage as it is a shortage of great places to work.

Employers are prone to complain that there is a talent shortage when they can’t find someone with the exact background they desire and who has the precise skills to do the specific task they want done. Employers who think this way need only shift their perspectives slightly and focus on aptitude instead.

I have experienced how one of our new employees with a natural aptitude and talent (but not an exact match) quickly developed the skill set to do what we needed. I had planned on it taking a year for her to be functioning at the level I desired, but in only a few months, she had the very skills and experience that were needed. Her natural aptitude for the role was so high that she quickly mastered the complexities of the job.

Specialized talent often costs more, and frankly, it deserves more money. Employers may complain of a talent shortage when they can’t find someone they desire at the price they would like to pay. If employers are not willing to pay for talent, that does not equate to a talent shortage.

Great talent is sometimes hidden, but the good news is that people with talent tend to know each other. The best talent is often found through referrals, networking, and building relationships. The kind of talent you need is not always looking for work, so job ads are often an insufficient way to find superior employees, and they should not be your only source. When looking to find hidden talent, look for it in non-traditional ways and be sure to tap into your networks.

The reality is that talent surrounds us. If you believe there is a shortage of talent, you are likely missing opportunities.


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Randy Grieser, Author, Speaker

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