Lack of Forecasting and Talent Shortages are the Same Problem

 By: Rosemary Gantz

Years ago, aka 1996, I began working on talent forecasting in business units and capacity planning for delivery in the recruiting function. While a seeming logical and practical quest, I learned quickly that no one really did this at the time. We borrowed from financial planning models and IT systems planning tools to create a tool for this purpose, and everyone applauded while later failing to remain seriously invested in the effort.  As I talk to recruiters and meet with clients today, it seems that this is still the case more than 15 years later. At the same time, we are all wrapped in the “talent shortage” dialogs at conferences and throughout the blogosphere. I find these two things directly related.

 While there are some trends and sudden events that may not be predictable, I’ve found that most mid-term hiring needs are highly predictable. In fact, I would argue that with good talent management practices, they can even be well-managed to meet a plan. This means that we should be able to calculate and craft a talent needs assessment and hiring plan for a significant portion of hiring in this country for the short-, mid- and some longer-term.

 I believe the most painful shortages we feel are self-induced, i.e., preventable. I’m not saying that we don’t need more engineers or scientists or skilled electricians…but I am saying that companies have the ability to forecast their specific situations and create a path, a plan, to prevent these shortages through re-training, job shadowing, job-stretch programs and good ol’ talent pipelining efforts.

 Strategic and systems-thinking leaders of talent management need center stage and the support of company executive leaders and budgets to put longer term programs in place to head off this problem at the pass. Stock-price-influencing critical vacancies and mass hiring crises should be rare events. Better planning will lead to better hiring decisions and less wasted time. The ultimate result is cost savings, better results and higher bottom-lines for business.