a recent article by Rick Spence (Skilled trades talent shortage is next crisis for Canadian businesses …) describes how Canadian businesses (24%) are finding that shortages of skilled trades is a serious problem. This article has two interesting insights on how to begin to solve this talent shortage problem.
- Some specific practical actions that businesses can begin to undertake, and
- A hidden gem of an idea that seems to be all too often overlooked.
The specific action ideas include:
- Fighting for experiential programs such as Co-ops which give young people opportunities to learn more about fields that they are interested in. This a strategy of dealing with the sourcing of talent (outside of the fence) as well as providing “within the organization” experience (inside the fence).
- Pushing back against an education establishment that assumes the best and the brightest must go to university. People should be pushed in the direction of work that provides them with what they enjoy and get pride and satisfaction out of. This is a sourcing outside the fence strategy.
- Leading skilled workers better. Achieve this and you will need fewer of them. Also the costs of replacement and retention issues will be moderated. This is an inside (utilization) the fence strategy.
It is this third action area that is the hidden gem in Rick’s article. The implications on leadership development and performance management are profound.
Let me ask you: “In your experience, has any leadership development program been effective in achieving the third action point above?” I would be astonished if very many of you said absolutely yes.
The third action item is a clear call for a coherent strategy around leadership effectiveness and any supporting development efforts. I have not come across very many leadership development programs that are clear in their aim (to meet business outcomes with fewer people, better retention rates, etc.) and competency building (how to interact with your people so you achieve these necessary outcomes).
One of the missing pieces to effective leadership “in practice” is the lack of effective performance management of the this practice. Most leaders performance management contracts that I have ever seen (or heard about) do not target this area.
Practical issues include:
- How would we even begin to do this better?
- How high a standard should we set?
- How would we know we are succeeding in the short, intermediate and longer terms?
- How should we best recognize and reinforce superior leadership that delivers on superior targeted workforce performance?
- Do we even have a practical, coherent, known to be effective concept of superior leadership in this area?
As a consultant who provides talent management support, I always try to get a sense of local leadership effectiveness in the areas where talent is or could become an issue. I always look for easily adaptable ways to improve the applicable leadership in a talent sensitive area.
At the end of the day, talent management is about productivity. Misuse your talent and you will need more talent (and replace it more often) than you would if you were more effective in your talents as a leader.
A clear business case can be developed here: if we were to improve our talent sensitive area’s productivity by X%; this would be worth Y$ in additional benefits; and we could justifiably Z$ portion of Y$ to invest in improving the applicable leadership practices.
With Z$ earmarked, we can now begin to discern how best to invest these funds into a practical, effective, demonstrable, competency building effort. Established this way we are clear what we are setting out to achieve and we know how to begin measuring outcome benefits from the investment.