Recruit, Retain…Reskill. The Three Rs of Talent Management

A young shoe salesman I know recently impressed a patron with his exceptional customer-service smarts. Said customer turned out to be a tech recruiter with a training program for a critical job opportunity. Let’s just say that young man is no longer selling shoes.

Welcome to recruiting in 2019.

At a time when there aren’t enough readily available skills to fill new jobs, employers are aggressively scouting people with the right stuff to learn new skills.

The Modern Triad of Talent: Recruit, Retain, Reskill

It’s an unquestionable side effect of single-digit unemployment. But such reskilling shouldn’t be viewed as a temporary act of desperation. Times are changing for good. And there are important reasons (beyond just finding able bodies) to make it a permanent part of your talent management strategy.

Upping the supply of soft skills:

Harvard Business Review recently asked the question on everybody’s lips – Does College Education Still Prepare People for Jobs? Good question. While higher-ed indeed bestows critical knowledge, it’s increasingly clear that skilled performances require interpretation, not just the facts. Yet in this age where tech rules, such soft skills are increasingly in short supply. “Despite the rise of AI-related jobs,” wrote HRDive recently, “the largest skills gaps surround soft skills such as leadership, oral communication and time management.” The excitement over a shoe salesman’s personal skills should be a sign of the times – that employers value seasoned people with not just the ability to regurgitate information, but to use it.

Tapping all available sources:

Reskilling isn’t just for kids. At a time when employee pools are shrinking, the population of over 50s and workforce returnees is ready and willing and to step in. Manufacturing, for example, is experiencing a crisis in skilled labor. Deloitte’s steps for tackling it include two ( tapping into and retraining retirees) aimed squarely at under-used older employers. “The booming job market and the evolving nature of work are altering the skills,” says an HBR article on retraining. “We should not ignore the tremendous value that older workers can bring.”

Engaging the workforce

Today’s employees are future focused. Staying in place is simply not an option. Study after study shows that education and growth opportunities rank at the top of job wish lists. It means that reskilling not only retains the employees you have; it’s also an attractive recruitment carrot for job seekers looking for career paths rather than just jobs.

The above requires more than mere outreach. Training needs to adapt to the targeted population. Older workers, as HBR points out, prefer not only shorter programs, but those based in a work setting rather than in a classroom. Specific gaps will require targeted and carefully created pathways, such as the tech program that lured away that shoe salesman. And all around, we’ll have to reduce our singular reliance on four-year degrees, and include certificates and non-degree programs that can bestow skills in shorter time.

And while the current talent crunch might be temporary, that third “R” should be looked at as a permanent fixture. It’s true – single-digit unemployment won’t last forever. But the desire to learn (and the need to keep up with evolving skills) never goes away.

That means that as a talent strategy, recruitment and retention (without that third R of reskilling) is only going get you two-thirds of the way there.

Written by: Alan Robins

About the Author

Alan Robins at Bright Horizons

As Director of Product Marketing, Alan drives original research and thought leadership for Bright Horizons education benefits programs, drawing on his extensive experience helping companies optimize education programs to support their Talent and HR objectives. Prior to Bright Horizons, Alan was at Gartner, a global leader in providing advisory services to technology and business executives, where he led new product teams in Europe and the US.