What’s at Stake in the War for Talent



Talent WarBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Director of Industry Communications — 

Your company posts a job advertisement. The position offers good pay, solid benefits, and opportunities for development and advancement. The work is fulfilling, and it is neither dark, dirty, or dangerous.

And yet, every single day, millions of people decide to show up at jobs way worse than the one your organization just made available. So, why aren’t they coming?

“Nobody is ever taught where they should go to work,” said Chris Czarnik, author, coach, trainer, and talent recruitment expert, who presented at the 2023 AEM Annual Conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “Employers need to start by exchanging the word ‘jobseeker’ with ‘customer’ and they’re halfway home. Because no one just sits and waits for customers to find them.”

Competing in the War for Talent

For decades, organizations posted job openings and watched people compete for the positions. But the reality of the current employment situation in the United States suggests winning the war for talent is a numbers game – one which no longer favors employers.

As of late 2023, 8.87 million jobs were available in the U.S. and only 4.41 million unemployed people. With two unfilled positions for every potential candidate, finding the right person for the right role is a task much easier said than done right now. And, according to Czarnik, it’s about to get much more difficult in the years to come.

For the next decade, there simply aren’t enough available workers to fill all the job positions being vacated at a rate of 13,000 per year. The labor force requires three generations to comprise it, because each is 17 years and people are in the workforce for about 50 years.

“The total available workforce for the last 30 years is 218 million people,” explained. “The Baby Boomer generation is 79% out of the workforce. In two-and-a-half years, they will be 93% out of the workforce. All you have to do is take out the top number that’s retiring and replace it with the bottom number, Generation Z. We no longer have 218 million people in the available workforce. We have 210 million in available workforce… so, we are 8 million people short.”

In the war for talent, some organizations will win. Others will lose. “And there’s not enough to go around for everyone, so choose your lane,” said Czarnik.

Winning the War for Talent

Most companies take pride in competing against industry peers. So, it only makes sense for those who want to win the talent war to compete for employees. And according to Czarnik, doing so means consistently investing time, effort, and resources into “selling” open positions to qualified candidates.

“As a business, we have never once complained about competing for customers. Are you working as hard to find your next employee as you are your next customer?” asked Czarnik. “If you want your organization to take this problem seriously, now that you know what’s coming, the first exercise is to identify the cost of doing nothing.”

The cost of losing out on talent is simply too great for most organizations to bear, more often than not, it leads to:

  • Lost sales
  • Upset customers
  • Overtime for current employees
  • Opportunity cost for product or service development

The Bottom Line

Sitting idly by and waiting for talent to show up isn’t going to be enough anymore. Tried and true recruitment tactics aren’t going to find the right people for the right jobs. Whether it’s being more thoughtful and intentional about posting positions, marketing to different audiences more effectively, leveraging a desire to build a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce to pull from overlooked talent pools, employers need to uncover and implement well-conceived strategies and tactics… and fast.

“You know coming to work for you is a great choice, but jobseekers don’t know that,” said Czarnik. “All they know is they’re ready to leave everything behind and go work with a bunch of strangers. But you’re good at selling, remember? You’re exceptionally good at selling products in a competitive market. Now, go out and sell your wonderful, fantastic job.”

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