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Negotiating Labor Shortages: 4 Ways To Attract And Keep Talent by Leslie Juvin-Acker

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Katie Ferraro

“Good help is hard to find,” they say. The truth is, good employers are harder to find. The quality of labor is directly correlated to the quality of environment that fosters it. Talent lies hidden within all who toil and it’s the spark of gainful employment that controls its expression.

Who are we to say what motivates people? Do we know for sure that what inspires one man to do a good job is the same for another? Labor shortage reflects the standards held by the collective unit of either an organization or an industry, or even a country. Environments that are unhabitable and unsustainable chase away the “good ones” and bring out the worst in the “bad ones”.

Industry Standards: Setting The Foundation For Free Market Competition

When faced with a talent shortage, we (amongst an industry) must ask ourselves, “How are we individually and systematically responsible?” Are the wages comparable to other industries (where talent requirements are similar); are the conditions unsuitable; are the relations amongst competitors so unbearable that transferring from one company to another is unrealistic? Even amongst industry competitors, standards for employment must be met. Doing so assures that talent doesn’t just go where the wages are tolerable and benefits are essential for living, but where innovation and the spirit of free competition takes place.

Noticing Market Trends: Lifestyle Changes Reflect Changes In Wage Standards

With this said, companies who are doing the best work are not always the most hospitable, either. They can rule with an iron fist simply because their industry is essential and they’ve created a successful monopoly in the market. Think of a company like this and you will begin to understand these principles. Fortunately, monopolies are definite constructs of an emerging market; there will always be a market disruptor and the cycle of generational professional standards will begin anew.

Those who are observant and clever enough to recognize this will always go “where the grass is greener”. Any manager or employer who fails to see that employment standards change in the benefit of workers at a rate equal or greater to employer demands is failing to see the shifts in his or her market. And, as a whole, the economy.

Attracting The Best And Brightest Minds, As Long As They Don’t Think For Themselves

In essence, it’s one thing to demand the best and brightest minds - it’s another to demand that they don’t think for themselves! It is safe to say that most people know what they need to do the excellent work that rests within their potential. The concept that a one size fits all benefits and employment package can meet the needs of the individual contributor undermines the creative capacity inherent in compensation. Frankly, what might attract one person could very well cost differently than what it would take to attract another. Should their outputs match the conditions negotiated for their contract, then what should the difference matter if the employee’s perceived value is the same?

For example, one employee might value paid childcare. One might require continuing education credits. Both feel intrinsically good and yet cost the same (or not). The only constant that matters in this equation is that the employer gets their money’s worth from the bargain that pleases their employee.

Fostering A Competitive Hiring Environment

Once bargaining has been completed, it is up to the leaders and collective groups to carry forward the spirit of growth, innovation, and progress. As aforementioned, while basic needs and incentives can attract and even keep talent, there is no guarantee that, without excellent leadership, the talent will positively evolve; and, as a result, technical innovation.

Conscious that people have an inherent need to change, leadership must adapt their styles to encourage it before it changes on its own and goes somewhere else that will embrace it. Looking around to our peers and then back to ourselves, we know that there is no shortage of talent. It’s the shorting of talent that costs us more in the end.

Coach Leslie’s Questions To Ask Ourselves:

1.    Is my industry experiencing a “brain drain”? What conditions are driving people to leave? Where are they going and why?

2.    Do I truly understand the lifestyle shifts in my market and as a result, my employees? Does my company/leadership strive to meet these changing employee lifestyles?

3.    Does my company claim to hire “the best and brightest” and at the same time requires them keep their opinions about working conditions to themselves? If so, what attitudes and behaviors influence this cultural paradigm?

4.    Does my company offer competitive benefits? If so, what do we do in addition to offer a competitive and innovative professional environment that fosters creativity?

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