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How to Avoid the Talent Gap in Your Business

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Posted by Rick Lepsinger December 14, 2018

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It may sound like a cliched “truism,” but an organization really is only as good as its people. Without engaged and talented employees, companies often struggle to deliver quality business results. Unfortunately, research has indicated that only about 60 percent of employees are highly or moderately engaged. Companies experiencing low levels of engagement and employee satisfaction can expect to grapple with increased turnover, which may result in severe talent gaps, meaning that there aren’t enough people with the right skills to fill key positions. Talent gaps lead not only to reduced productivity, but can be quite costly to fill in terms of time, money, and resources.

Here are a few challenges organizations are working to overcome and the actions they are taking to avoid suffering a talent gap in their business:

Speed of Technological Change

While many technological changes have created countless new opportunities for organizations, they’ve also caused severe disruptions to operations and business models. Some of these changes have completely reshaped the landscape of existing markets and forced companies to adapt or perish in the face of newfound competition. Research has consistently shown that successful organizations have dealt with these rapid changes, in large part to a philosophy of agile leadership.

Far from caretakers committed to safeguarding the status quo, agile leaders exhibit flexibility and initiative that allows them to connect, adapt, and deliver in the face of change. They are capable of balancing many choices and challenges simultaneously, which allows them to keep a company running smoothly even in the face of tumultuous changes. Their ability to prioritize, understand organizational systems, and maintain self-awareness help them to build trust and consensus effectively.

With managing change and facilitating change readiness fast becoming a core competency for success, organizations are focusing more on identifying and developing agile leaders to guide them into future. These development efforts are critically important to building a healthy succession pipeline that can prepare high-potential candidates to step into leadership roles with minimal disruption. As technological change continues to accelerate, agile leaders will surely become an even more critical aspect of organizational success.

Turnover of Aging Workforce

The US workforce is in the midst of a massive generational shift, with an estimated 10,000 baby boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) retiring each day. As they transition out of the workforce, millennials are stepping into leadership roles. Millennials already make up a third of the labor force and will occupy about half of all leadership positions within a decade.

Organizations need to make a concerted effort to prepare high-potential employees for leadership roles if they want to encourage employee retention. Millennials are more likely than previous generations to leave a position that doesn’t offer opportunities for them to learn and grow in their career. By involving them in development early with diverse and engaging training as well as valuable mentorship programs, companies can ensure that they keep their next generation of leaders engaged and prepared to step into more important roles as baby boomers retire.

Fortunately, millennials are eager to receive feedback and prepare to take on greater responsibilities. This eagerness to improve their skills makes them particularly well-suited to self-directed forms of learning that encourages their creativity and fits with their work-life balance needs. Working closely with this new generation of leaders to engage them in the development process can not only help them unlock their potential, but also makes them less likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Shift in the Nature of Work

The traditional office is fast becoming a relic of the past. Developments in communications technology has led to an increase in remote workers and telecommuting across a wide range of industries. More than two-thirds of professionals around the world work remotely at least one day a week, making the way companies organize and manage virtual teams more important than ever. When implemented successfully, virtual teams can boost productivity and lead to better job satisfaction among employees.

The unique nature of remote work, however, introduces a number of challenges. Companies must provide the communication tools and structure to help these teams work effectively. With more and more employees working virtually, it’s vital that leaders find ways to keep them engaged and connected. When relationships and trust deteriorate, virtual employees will be quick to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Changing Customer Expectations

Today’s customers have more choices available to them than ever before. With technological innovations making it easier than ever for start-up companies to break into established markets, companies can no longer rely on their products and services alone to stay competitive. Increasingly, customer experience is becoming the key brand differentiator in the eyes of consumers.

In order to drive innovation and create better experiences, companies are promoting collaboration across their organizational structure. By bringing diverse talent together in cross-functional teams, they can leverage the broad array of skills and knowledge found throughout their departments. Cross-functional teams provide new avenues of engagement for employee retention and developing future agile leaders, both of which help to avoid a talent gap. They also help companies to embrace and promote diversity, which allows new ideas to emerge and creates the space to develop uniquely innovative solutions. As customer tastes become more varied, organizations need to adopt structures that allow employees to deliver the experiences customers have come to expect.

As companies position themselves to meet tomorrow’s business challenges, they can’t afford to lose sight of the importance of attracting and retaining their most talented employees. Although there are many factors threatening to increase turnover and leave them struggling to fill a talent gap, organizations can take deliberate steps to improve development and attract and retain high-potential employees.

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Topics: employee retention, succession planning

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