3. Workforce Strategy – U.S. Domestic Labor Pool and developing tomorrow’s leaders
The theoretical “shrinking talent pool” doesn’t have to have a huge effect on your organization. We’re all anticipating it (we’ve heard enough about it and even I’ve written more than I care to admit), but I don’t think we’re actually scared of it quite enough. At this point, many of us are resigned to being reactionary for a while. This isn’t going to happen for 5-10 years or more, we have bigger problems right now!
There are at least two predecessor strategies that feed into the workforce strategy, and then there’s the development of future leadership. The predecessor strategies have excellent foundations in practice. First, engage your workforce. An engaged workforce is one in which employees have vested interests in their body of work and see opportunities to contribute to the organization. More often than not, that ability to contribute also means they see themselves as having growth opportunities as well. There are engagement results that pertain to the overall productivity and satisfaction of your workforce. One of the parallel results however, is increased retention (which means that when the workforce shortages hit, you’ll be in a better position compared to other employers).
Second, create a solid employer brand. Employer brand is not only about solid communications, but also acting out the stated values of the organization. Employees should believe that their employer has a brand that reflects the type of organization they want to be a part of. Employees who like who they work for are also very unlikely to leave the organization.
Now onto leadership. The problem with leadership and developing leaders is that they are difficult to pinpoint. Great leaders are very different than great managers. Managers will manage tasks. Leaders will direct employees, all the while exemplifying both internal (employer) and external brands. Future leaders are the ones who people naturally follow even when they are in non-management positions.
Unfortunately, many natural leaders are people who have had bad experiences managing in prior experiences, and these two functions often coexist in the same job. Leaders who have had to play traffic cop, baby sitter, bill collector or any number of other negative managerial duties are often turned off by the whole experience and don’t want to give it another chance. Understanding who these people are and giving them broad opportunities in project based experiences rather than more permanent managerial roles might just be the way to bring them along.
Having clear paths to development are also critical. Not only must your potential leaders understand that they have a path (and you are clearly anticipating their participation on that path), but they need to know what the path is and how fast or slowly they’ll be moving along it. They’ll also be interested in understanding what they can do to increase the speed at which they progress, and where forks are so they can modify their direction if need.
Whenever we talk about a future “talent drain” most people are not really talking about a shortage in overall talent, although that may prove to be the case. Most people are talking about a shortage of senior leadership, and what we can do to develop leaders now will prove to be important in the years to come.