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People’s Potential: Unlocking the Skills Gap

At a recent Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce event, Grow your Businesses through People, the common thread that ran through the day was the lack of skills available. Most of the companies at the event were SMEs with an average of four - ten employees. The skills crisis they said was impacting on their ability to grow, profit margins and productivity.

Do you remember when we started seeing the first alarming signs that a massive talent crunch was going to hit us in the early 2000s? The talent crunch is a result of globalisation, demographics (by 2020 large economies like USA, UK, Russia, Canada, South Korea and China will have more people at retirement age than entering the workforce) and companies not properly investing in their talent pipelines (especially over 7 years of recession).

Now that we are in the midst of the skills deficit and talent crisis, how should we confront this challenge?

Listening to business owners at the Chamber of Commerce event hotly debating how they couldn’t find trained chefs / IT staff / carpenters / managers it struck me that the “three Ps” are missing from their recruitment puzzle.

What they don’t realise and we all need to come to terms with, is that we are in a new era of talent selection. Instead of focusing so much on skills which we know are scarce, we need to home in on the three Ps of talent selection: potential, performance and fit for purpose.

In the 1980 and 1990s when I was a headhunter, we focused on performance. The mantra was “the best predictor of future success is past success.”

That worked well until jobs and industries became more dynamic. We then started assessing competencies, breaking down jobs into their essential parts and assessing candidates on each one to see if they were fit for purpose.

Today identifying potential should be our first priority as the ready-made, skilled people we were able to hold out for last decade are scarce. The good news is that potential can be found in many places. People who have thrived in non-linear careers and exposed themselves to new experiences and challenges are an excellent candidate pool (and adaptable which is great asset in our rapidly changing workplaces).

Once we’ve found people with potential, how do we assess them?

When evaluating candidates don’t stop checking their past experience, competencies and performance because they matter.

When we assess what is going on at a sub-conscious level inside a candidate we can harness their potential. Tools using cognitive scientific techniques like the Language and Behaviour (LAB) profile will reveal what type of work, stress levels and culture they will thrive in. Motivational maps uncover a person’s values and working preferences.

As I am sure you are aware, skills can be learnt but attitude and behaviour is ingrained in people. They are harder to change which is why we tend to hire for skills and fire for attitude!

Is the skills gap an opportunity to start tapping into a wealth of resources we have previously dismissed and the real key to lasting success in our fast changing globalised world?

Katherine Wiid, founder of Recrion, is a Language and Behavioural (LAB) profile expert who helps organisations to ensure that they hire – and retain – the best talent. HR teams and hiring managers she works with have been amazed just how easily an individual’s motivations and attitude to work can be understood, simply by knowing what to write, ask and listen for.

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