One of the biggest challenges we face in the whole human performance arena is our inability to quantify what potential really is. And, therefore, what talent really looks like. I firmly believe that there is no shortage of raw talent out there and that the “War for Talent” is largely an uninformed waste of time and resources. And most definitely a waste of talent. Contrary to popular opinion, there is actually an abundance of talent, everywhere you look. The problem is, we just cant see it.
Historically we have guided people’s careers in response to the function and industry structure that has evolved to form the bedrock of our industrialised society. As individual market favour waxes and wanes over time, so does the supply chain of that talent in response. Sometimes, these market forces outpace the response time of the labour supply, causing shortages in the supply of people with certain functional or industrial expertise. Cue much talk of the War for Talent.
These shortages only appear so acute because we are constantly looking at the supply of talent through the wrong lens – one of experience and education, two of the most common – but least reliable – criteria used in candidate selection. If we were to take experience out of the equation for a moment (We are not saying it is not important, just that it is the least reliable predictor of in job potential and performance) and dialled down expectations around education – ignoring what University they graduated from for example – we might find that looking through a different lens – one that highlights their values and motivations, their behaviours, how and how well they solve problems. etc. – opens up a whole new talent pool that would not have been considered before.
The trick of course is to know what great actually looks like for any given role, which on the face of it sounds like something that we should be able to determine quite easily. Unfortunately, many many large organisations still insist on hiring thousands of key roles on a global scale without using any solid, consistent framework against which to seek, attract, select and hire the people they need. This is so common, it is scary. It is somewhat ironic that conferences and magazines are chock full of business leaders talking about the financial impact on the business of the war for talent, yet they invest precious little in the process of attracting and hiring that talent properly. What they do spend, can often go completely to waste.
This war might seem very real for many but that’s only because of the way they are viewing the problem, not because there is an actual shortage of talented people able to do the work required. So time to break the habit. Starting today, whenever you find yourself sitting across the table from a potential hire, ask yourself the following question:
“Are you more interested in what they have achieved in the last 10 years with someone else, or what they could achieve in the next 10 years with you?”
No brainer right?! 😉