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Finding Skilled Talent

David P. Lind BenchmarkSurvey findings were recently published by Deloitte Consulting LLP revealing the top five priorities in 2012 for U.S. employers relating to ‘Total Rewards’. Studies like this are helpful because it provides a glimpse into the national psyche of the corporate “mind” regarding compensation, benefits, perks and other direct/indirect payments to employees. This particular study is the 18th year of the Top Five Total Rewards Priorities series.

We all know that unemployment in this country is much too high (especially for those who are currently seeking employment). From this study, when 330 respondents ranked the most significant challenge facing their organization in the next three years, I was surprised to learn that TALENT SHORTAGE is the top challenge! We have high unemployment, but shortage of talent? This sounds a little counterintuitive to me.

What gives?

Deloittes’ explanation is that HR professionals “believe today’s surplus of job seekers has not translated to a talent surplus. Rather, employers are facing heightened competition for highly skilled talent that is not necessarily present in the large pool of unemployed.” About one quarter of the study respondents pointed to the shortage, motivation and retention of qualified talent, which is up from 16 percent in 2011.

According to the Deloitte study, here’s the list of the most significant challenges in the next three years:

  1. Shortage, motivation, and retention of qualified talent (25%)
  2. Rising cost of Total Rewards (21%)
  3. Health care reform complexity (18%)
  4. Uncertain economic conditions (10%)
  5. Total Rewards administration that meets or exceeds expectations (7%)

Having shortages in skilled positions is nothing new to employers. A labor surplus (due to high unemployment) does little to resolve labor shortage issues for key positions in some organizations (i.e. skilled production, engineering technologists, scientists, etc.). To fill these positions, employers will need to find new approaches to develop these skilled positions, regardless of the unemployment rate. Developing thoughtful training and recruitment initiatives, coupled with partnering with community colleges (and other vocational entities) will most likely help employers fill these skilled positions in the future. Vermeer Manufacturing in Pella has done just that by developing smart programs to fill these vital positions.

Without a doubt, Iowa’s workforce is our precious resource. We must continue to reinvest (and retool) in this resource to maintain competitive advantages here, nationally, and of course, internationally. We also must find ways to attract new people to Iowa and retain our existing residents…especially in rural areas. David Swenson, an economist at Iowa State University, recently wrote a piece in the Des Moines Register addressing precisely this issue.

It just makes good sense.