Winning the Talent without Fighting the War

Dan Carusi HR, War for Talent

When I think of a war for talent, images come to mind of recruiters playing tug-o-war over top candidates. Hair is flying, shirt sleeves being ripped off, all the while the frazzled candidate has a huge smile on their face–knowing they can name the salary for their dream job. In actuality, the pending battle will be fought behind the scenes, eventually benefiting both employees and prospects because of the new programs, benefits and incentives used to attract and retain talent. Is it going to be an on-site daycare, gourmet cafeteria, or state-of-the-art exercise facility that is the deciding factor? Rather than getting into a war over who can provide the coolest vending machines or largest annual bonus based on the least amount of actual selling, I think the best way to win the war for talent is to stay out of it and concentrate on finding the next superstar amongst existing employees. By creating a killer corporate training program and placing an emphasis on promoting from within, employers will not only be able to groom and retain current talent, but also create an environment that makes prospects come knocking on the door.

You think – “Corporate training, that’s easy. We’ll just have some more guest speakers in to talk about new industry tools and the latest 12 step process on how to be successful….” Well think again. Today’s employees have undergone a huge shift in learning styles, and if you think the same old conference room with a sign-in sheet, check the box trick is going to work, you’re in for a surprise. Based on doing loads of research and talking with some very smart people – much smarter than myself – here are some ways I think corporate training can help keep your company out of the recruitment dogfight.

Today’s employees learn differently, and can you blame them? While classroom learning still has its place (primarily for more complex, technical training), most people don’t want to sit in a window-less classroom and listen to a colleague read to them from a PPT. Employees are used to multi-tasking between two or three sources of information at once while digesting information in short chunks, and if this is how they learn, then this is how they need to be taught. Enter just in time learning. If you need to learn how to make dinosaur cupcakes for your 4-year-olds birthday party tomorrow, you go to Pinterest. If your ballerina wants you to put a “sock bun” in her hair, there are hundreds of tutorials on YouTube. Learning for business should be the same, with concise, to-the-point information readily available and accessible when and where you need it. Whether you’re on the road traveling to a client meeting,

or at home on a Sunday night trying to deal with an urgent client request, the information needs to be at  your fingertips on your mobile device, tablet or home laptop. “Chunked up” just in time learning is what employees use when at home, so why not give it to them at work too?

I recently read that 1 in 2 US mobile subscribers use a smartphone.  With kick-butt technology as an extension of their bodies, can they really be expected to learn in a low-tech environment? No. In order to groom, teach and develop employees, learning technology needs to keep up with personal tech.  My daughter’s elementary school uses iPads, restaurants like Cozymels have an on-table device that allows diners to browse the menu, order and pay all without ever speaking to a human being, and live voting TV shows like American Idol allow viewers to text in votes or enter them online. As employees continue to become accustomed to advanced technology, training manuals and a print-out of company values will no longer cut the mustard. Online portals that offer everything from learning videos to peer-group book clubs and performance accountability are taking hold, and if used correctly, will  have a great impact on learning and development.

When I ask myself the question “do I learn better listening to a lecture from a podium or from a group discussion?” the answer is always going to be “group discussion.” Not because the speaker at the podium isn’t brilliant and presenting relevant information, but because I’m not engaged or accountable during the interaction. Peer-to-peer learning is a huge shift in the right way to develop and retain employees, because it gives another level of accountability and imparts the DESIRE to become knowledgeable regarding the topic at hand. I mean, no matter how humble you are, isn’t it nice to know more than the guy next to you? In addition, peer-to-peer learning can quickly and significantly change a company’s entire culture to be focused on personal growth, career development and knowledge enhancement. In creating a culture that is driven by peer-to-peer development, HR managers will be looking internally to fill top-spots, not poaching smart employees from a competitor.

I know you may be thinking – how is corporate training going to help me win the race for talent against the Usain Bolt’s of the recruitment world? Well, think about it this way. First: if you properly train, teach and develop your existing talent, the need to hire will be significantly less, which in turn will lower recruitment costs. Second: If your company has an awesome culture of self-learning and career development, who wouldn’t want to work there?