“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”

                                                                                    -Abraham Lincoln

At JERA we have been saying for years that a war for talent is coming. Well, guess what? It’s here…and talent is winning. This means that organizations are being forced to rethink how they get the right people in the right jobs because the old way is no longer working.

Fear not, all this is doing is challenging us all to look at how we match opportunity to talent vs. matching talent to opportunity. Historically, we have matched talent to opportunity; meaning we had an opening so we went out and found the person we thought would best fit the job. Sometimes that worked which was wonderful. Sometimes it didn’t, though, and that cost our organizations time and money. In fact, according to the U.S Department of Labor, the average cost of a bad hire can equal at least 30% of the individual’s annual earnings, and Inc. Magazine says only one in five new hires are successful. Regardless of the war for talent, it’s time for all of us to reimagine this part of the ‘people practice’ in our organizations.

Let’s consider what it means to match opportunity to talent. Studies show that lack of organizational alignment on expectations for success in a given job is just one reason that one-third of new hires quit their job after about six months. That means when you have a position to fill, take the time to plan who you need to fill that position. Be honest and crystal clear about what the job entails and the kind of person you need to fill it before you even start looking. What do they need to be good at to perform well? How do you need them to behave to effectively do the job? What interests them? This is an oft-underutilized or ignored piece of the equation, but it helps increase the likelihood that they’ll like the job so please don’t forget it.

Once you have the details about the job and ideal candidate defined, it’s time to start looking! In this tight job market, your best candidate may be hidden in plain sight. Look at the performance model you have created for the open position and think about who is already on your team that might fit. Ask the managers of departments if they have anyone on their team who might be a match and open the position up for internal candidates to apply; you could very well be pleasantly surprised. According to research done by LinkedIn, 48% of workers believe their skills are underutilized. Giving internal candidates the chance to stretch beyond what they are doing today provides a great opportunity for the employee and is good for you as a leader because you found the right fit for the job internally plus professional development always has a positive impact on company culture.

Let’s say you did not find your ideal candidate internally, so it’s time to start looking outside the walls of your organization. There are three different ways matching opportunity to talent can play out:

  1. You find your ideal candidate – HOORAY!
  2. Ideal candidates are nowhere to be found, but you find a pretty good one.
  3. You find an amazing person who is not a great fit for this position, but you must have them on your team.

First, because you took the time to thoughtfully define the position and create a performance model for your ideal candidate, you were able to find them and make a great hire. Congratulations!

Second, in this market, we all know that ideal candidates are few and far between. This might mean that the person you decide to hire may be the best you could find, but not quite your ideal candidate. In order to ensure that this hire is not one of the one-third of new hires that quits within six months, you need to have a plan in place to set this person up for success. Make sure your onboarding is meaningful and effective; many companies struggle with this, so please make a concerted effort. Also, take the time to understand how and why this person was not your ideal candidate and provide the coaching and learning they need to help them develop into your ideal or better.

Third, you found someone who knocked your socks off but is not a great fit for the position you have available. Find a place for them in your organization! If you don’t, someone else will. Be transparent with the candidate about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and the vision you have for them with the organization. If they accept, stay true to the plan you laid out for them because people like this are critical to retain.

In closing, the hiring crisis is actually not a crisis; trying to do it like we’ve always done it is the crisis. Take your first step in successfully shifting to matching opportunity to talent by clearly defining the positions for which you’re hiring and the make-up of your ideal candidates. This will provide a start on a strong foundation to hire successfully well into the future. If you’re interested in exploring how to implement matching opportunity to talent in your organization, please reach out because JERA Partnerships is always happy to help.