Digesting Talent Concerns, Causes and Courses

‘Talent pipelines’, followed by ‘creative role marketing’, with a final course of ‘selective disengagement’, all appeared on the talent menu at Corrigan’s of Mayfair last week. As a group of senior business and HR leaders discussed the challenges of talent acquisition, retention and development over their hors d’oeuvres, it quickly became clear that a series of challenges beset today’s employers.

Firstly it was widely discussed that there is a fundamental disparity between what educators are turning out versus what employers need. This calls for a better alignment of organizations and education; and possibly developing national talent pipelines or supply chains that stretch back into primary schools.

There are still very low numbers of STEM talent emerging, and with it the associated gender disparity; significantly lower numbers of woman are participating in science and technology courses. Apparently, some 50% of UK schools don’t have female students taking A-level physics.

Interestingly, it was felt parental attitudes to certain careers, as well as job perception issues, may be contributing to this problem. For example, ‘systems engineering’ is perceived to be more suited as a career for males than females. But, if the same course or role is described as ‘systems design’, it’s automatically more appealing to woman.

This suggests there’s a need for a more imaginative marketing of roles to overcome some of these ingrained biased perceptions. More informed communication with parents who might not be in touch with changing subjects, disciplines, jobs, and careers may also be necessary.

Addressing the low percentage of woman in leadership roles, which is a well-known problem but hasn’t been effectively resolved, was also mentioned along with the challenges of improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

In younger members of the workforce it’s been noticed that there’s a declining standard of English, along with shorter attentions spans. It’s believed these trends are being fueled by mobile devices, video clips, text messaging and social media, where short form content dominates and writing grammatically correct long form is becoming a lesser used practice.

Attention was momentarily deflected here as the braised succulent Hereford Ox cheek main course was served. But discussion quickly resumed. The rising costs, and diminishing returns, of degree and post-graduate courses are raising the prospect of generation Z not bothering to go to University; because there’s little point in leaving with a degree certificate but a huge loan and no job prospects. Companies may need to fund or offer incentives for students to undertake the education necessary to gain the required knowledge and skills.

Meanwhile, multi-generations in the workforce are creating different concerns. As workforces age, companies are witnessing a mass exodus of experience and on-the-job know-how, and a reduction in loyalty. Conversely, some organizations are struggling to manage older workers who delay retirement, which in turn can block talent pipelines and limit career progression for younger workers.

An additional issue affecting generation X and Y workers, sandwiched between the baby boomers and the digital natives, is selective disengagement. This is where talent with potential doesn’t want to take on more because of work-life balance or is questioning whether advancement is worth all the extra work and responsibility.

Finally, as coffee and dessert were finally served, it became clear brand reputation and the ability to attract and retain quality talent is becoming more and more important. And, today’s organizations need to live and practice their brand values in local communities rather than just talking about them.

We’d like to thank all that contributed to our event. If you’re a HR Director and interested in participating in similar events, please do get in touch or join our Sage People Regatta group on LinkedIn.

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