A recent report (Workforce shrinking as boomers retire: report – Canada.com) concerning Canada’s workforce participation rate decline due to continued retirement trends is an issue affecting both governments (in terms of taxation base revenues to support their programs) and organizations in terms of meeting talent access needs. This post will consider the talent management (TM) issues only.
These kinds of reports, including the ones that are more alarmist (hysterical “talent war” type claims) are of interest to governments at the the macro level (i.e., the over all phenomena) but for most organizations they are not.
Many organizations over the years have reported TM issues even though overall workforce participation rates were holding steady and general workforce numbers were even growing. These are situations where selective supply demand ratios for particular talent types were out of balance. This observation supplies evidence that TM issues are often asymmetrical in nature.
So even if general participation rates are deteriorating the implications specifically for any organization’s TM needs will often not match these trends. The micro (i.e., organization level) view can behave very differently than the macro view. We know this truth in so many ways:
- Statistics about population trends (e.g., fertility rates) will not give us any informative value about whether any one female is pregnant or not.
- What takes place at the quantum physics level does not easily show itself at the astrophysical level.
- On a sea shore in high winds and tides, the wave action on the shore can vary greatly due to topographical variations of the shoreline.
In considering an organization’s TM health, risks, uncertainties, etc. it is always critical to assess the organization’s talent asymmetries.
Talent supply demand issues are caused by many more factors than population level trends and patterns. It is always useful to consider the implications of the general on the specific. For example, if we learn that participation in post secondary schools is changing, what are the possible implications on our need to recruit for specific technical skills in the future? We can’t begin to answer this without understanding the cause and effect system concerning people entering and graduating in these specific fields. Also, it is not just supply that impacts us. It is the future demand for this talent too that can shift as well.
Also, remember, asymmetries are also sources of opportunity and bounty too. They don’t always have to be threats. Interestingly, this point gets rare mention by those who are peddling “chicken little” type concerns.
There is a third perspective to consider as well: how we choose to operate by its very implications creates “opportunities” (sic humour) for TM issues. Organize differently and you can shift your TM issues. We often do this by how we set up work processes, invest in capital including automation, improve the quality of management and leadership, etc. I have dealt with clients who had serious issues concerning high skilled talent retention. They could not do anything about the increased competition for this talent, but they could make “internal” use of it differently. This lead to significant better use of this talent and they could get by with less, pay more, and make the work far more interesting to those in this talent area. a triple win if there ever was one.
The use of critical talent internally is in my opinion the greatest untapped improvement opportunity available to those who suffer the TM issue.
There is tremendous practical value in looking at our TM issues in asymmetrical ways. We can look for useful specific solutions which are often quite easy and cheap to implement. We can often deal with local changes without investing in the costs and disruptions of broad scale changes.
The asymmetrical perspective is a remarkably powerful analytical and solution impacts mindset.