May Job Numbers Jump Start War for Talent

The latest May 2010 job numbers have just been released showing an increase of 25,000 new jobs, the fifth consecutive month of increases, particularly in the full time work category. The private sector appears to be driving the rebound while the public sector is not far behind. While I view this information as “good news,” I can guarantee that this increase in job numbers will greatly heat up the war for talent, especially at the senior level.

This is because the economic upswing is already bringing many baby boomers closer to a retirement decision. As one of Manitoba’s leading executive search professionals, over the past six months I have already seen the impact of senior executives finally taking the leap into retirement. They have been waiting in the wings during the recession and riding out the stock market volatility, but now is the time. However, their departure is leaving significant holes in many organizations’ leadership teams.

The whole concept of the “war for talent”, already ten years old, is an even more critical challenge today than it was during its early stages. The challenge partly results from three factors. First, senior executives are already beginning to exit the workforce in greater numbers. Secondly, as a result of belt-tightening during the recession, many organizations have not been able to effectively develop internal talent to move forward in a succession situation. And thirdly, the labour pool for young up and coming professionals in the ages of 35-45 is also shrinking.

So, what does this mean? It means that companies and not for profit organizations alike are going to be forced to go to the outside candidate market, which at the senior and experienced executive levels will continue shrinking at a more rapid pace. It also means that organizations will have to widen their search efforts and dig deeper into a smaller talent pool to find the right candidates. Finally, executive search efforts will need to be more creative, intense, and focused using multiple channels of communication.

Most organizations do not have the time or capability to conduct such intense or focused search activities and are turning to executive search professionals for help. An executive search professional can assist in a number of ways, but most notably the following:

Defining the opportunity – most senior leaders who have been with a firm for a long time take themselves for granted and have difficulty viewing their organization from an external point of view. Search professionals can help to define the employee value proposition, or in other words, what will attract a smart, ambitious and talented candidate to the opportunity? What are the challenges a new professional would face and what level of sophistication is required to be successful. Once the list of skills and competencies is identified, search professionals can begin their work.

Broadening the scope – talented candidates with the right skills and experience are no longer lining up at the door. Therefore, organizations must broaden the scope of their search beyond the local talent pool and this requires significant time and extensive research. Search professionals are tapped into both online and traditional resources to conduct these searches. In addition, over the years they have developed in-depth candidate databases and have developed relationships with professionals who are open to new opportunities and are just waiting to be tapped on the shoulder with the right job.

Matching challenge and compensation – getting a candidate to the door is one thing, while creating an attractive compensation package is another. Yet, at the same time, it is well known that money is not a long-term motivator and therefore organizations must offer other alternatives. Typically, candidates are attracted by the organizational brand and its inspiring vision, as well as the challenge of making a difference.

There are a number of routes that can be taken to conduct the search for new candidates. However, partnering with an executive search professional provides the best value proposition for today’s war for talent.

Paul Croteau, managing partner, is known as one of Manitoba’s leading executive search professionals. His more than 25 years of experience in the recruitment of senior management and executive leadership professionals are the foundation to his solid reputation for developing a deep understanding of his clients’ needs, enabling him to provide exceptional service and successfully meet the complex challenge of matching the right leader to his clients’ business needs.