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Talent spotting: the battle to attract the right people

In a tightening employment market and rapidly changing business environment, employers have to develop new strategies to attract and retain talent

“Organisations have to think about their brand and how they are perceived. People are thinking if it is the type of organisation they want to work for.” Photograph: iStock

“Organisations have to think about their brand and how they are perceived. People are thinking if it is the type of organisation they want to work for.” Photograph: iStock


Talent shortages are already being felt across many sectors of the economy and are forcing employers to rethink their hiring strategies. “Organisations are certainly already feeling the impact of talent shortages,” says Valarie Daunt, partner and head of human capital management at Deloitte. “They are going to have to expand their minds and thinking around how they hire and who they hire.

“People are making decisions around what type of organisation they want to work for,” she continues. “Organisations have to think about their brand and how they are perceived. People are thinking if it is the type of organisation they want to work for. Dome organisations struggle with that. Google and Facebook and others have a clear brand and millennials are used to using their products in any case. If you are an insurance company or a bank, that may not be the case. If you are selling roles, you have to have a brand. Organisations have to consider the experience they are selling. They need to offer well-being programmes, development opportunities, and so on. They have to sell the job they are offering.”

The other aspect is how organisations are looking for talent, which is increasingly on social media. “People are using digital platforms like Facebook, Glassdoor, LinkedIn and so on to find roles. This means that organisations have to think about how they appear on social media.”

Dr Maeve Houlihan, director of the UCD Quinn School of Business, believes employers are coping quite well with the changed environment. “Employers have really got it now,” she says. “They are bringing students in on internships to find out if they fit in with the organisation. I’ve much more ‘try before you buy’ now. In our BComm degree course, we have 150 third-year students out on one-year internships. Very often they come back with contracts already agreed for after they graduate. In a tight market, companies totally realise the benefits of the relationship way of recruiting.”

‘Shamrock model’

She also points to changes in how organisations are structuring themselves. “It’s much more along the Charles Handy shamrock model.”

The shamrock organisation has a core team of essential executives and workers supported by outside contractors and part-time help. This structure allows the organisations to buy in services as required with a consequent reduction in overhead costs. It also offers considerable benefits in relation to talent management, with organisations only having to retain certain skills and expertise as and when they are needed.

Skillnet Ireland chief executive Paul Healy says the talent organisations crave can often be available internally if only they’d care to look hard enough for it. “Talent is rare and hard to find,” he says. “The seminal article on the war for talent was published in 2001 and in the 18 years since we have seen a growth in the degree of sophistication in the methods deployed to attract it. We have seen the introduction of the concept of total reward. Employers are connecting employees to the purpose of the organisation. They are also offering development, career growth and progression opportunities. They are doing what’s necessary to keep employees engaged.”

Skillnet Ireland assists employers to keep talent in the workplace. “We help them upskill their employees,” he says. “It is often a question that the talent employers are looking for is already there in the organisation and is overlooked. Employers are not doing enough to uncover this talent. Very often it is about engaging with and upskilling staff. Employers need to look inside and see what talent can be grown from within instead of paying the premium to hire in the open market. We are working with employers to do this through training and upskilling.”