Top 4 tips on how to fight the talent war

Our CHRO community weighs in on how you can best manage the talent conundrum.

The issue of competing for a limited talent pool is one that faces every organisation and is one that will continue to exist by virtue of the need to find the perfect combination of people who you want to be in your organisation that also, at the same time, want to work there just as much, and who can do the job. 

Here are four tips based on previous conversations with HR directors and CHROs.

1 Think differently about succession planning  

Alexander Forbes CHRO Christian Schaub believes that the best way to deal with that is for companies to think differently in the way they approach succession planning and talent development as a whole. Because, if organisations only want to hire people or promote people who have done the job already, they will always be going to be looking at a limited pool, particularly in the financial services industry, which is small and highly specialised. 

Christian feels that it is therefore important to change the mentality when assessing whether a particular person is ready for a role and take more chances on people, allowing them to do jobs that they may have no experience in but are ready to learn more about. 

"If you look at me for example, I have never been a CHRO before the role that I'm currently in but I have knowledge and experiences that have prepared me for it," says Christian.

Discovery CHRO Tswelo Kodisang would agree because he believes that if the right people are given the opportunities and coached to succeed, then many of the other challenges faced by HR will sort themselves out. But how should one go about finding the right talent? The answer to that depends on the HR leader in question. In his view, it is much better to hire candidates based on their potential and mould them into the kinds of leaders that can solve real business problems.

“That is why I don’t believe in throwing money at a recruitment problem. You can’t achieve transformation or to retain your talent by simply focusing on money. Because if you’re going to make money the sole motivator, that person will leave as soon as a better package comes along,” says Tswelo.

2 Define your culture properly so as to attract the right people from the onset

Another thing to think about is how to make sure you attract the right people from the onset to reduce the need for heavy lifting when it comes to talent retention. At Alexander Forbes, for example, Christian says that comes down to being very clear about our people promise. That is, what does it mean to work at Alexander Forbes and why should people want to work there?

“We need to define our culture so that we attract people that will thrive here and will want to work with us even if they are not particularly interested in the financial services industry,” says Christian.

3 Digitise recruitment

Deloitte's Andre Vermeulen, who leads the human capital HR transformation practice for Africa, says having a digital recruiting strategy is particularly attractive for job seekers because it makes them feel like its fair because there is no nepotism or perceived subjectiveness to the recruitment process. They will go to an online assessment do a video interview and setting selection criteria through a digital platform will give you a much better quality of applicants. It is something Andre would definitely recommend for any business regardless of the industry.

Companies can also create a competitive process through digitisation. One such example came from Google, which once placed a complex mathematical question on a billboard of Silicon Valley posed that commuters on Highway 101 would need Google to crack in order to be given a job at the company. Mastering that equation would lead someone to a page on Google Labs, the company's research and development department, which read: "One thing we learned while building Google is that it's easier to find what you're looking for if it comes looking for you. What we're looking for are the best engineers in the world. And here you are."

4 Think outside the box 

One should always be trying to think outside the box. Andre says that, at Deloitte, they have future work sessions where they invite talent to come to talk to them about what their dream jobs would be based on their aptitude and thereafter create roles for them where it is possible. This contrasts with the traditional way of doing things where people simply recruit in order to fill existing vacancies. 

Says Andre: "In addition to finding people who are very likely to excel in their roles, using that method will invariably create more loyalty from the employee thus making retention easier... And you can have a situation where you end up employing a person that you never knew you needed. There are a lot of people thinking about the value that they could bring for companies, but those jobs don't exist yet.”