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What's Ahead: 21st Century Gold Rush: The Quest for Quality Talent

This is part of a special advertising section on What's Ahead for HR Leaders.

Friday, April 1, 2011
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If there's one thing every HR leader can agree on, it may be this: High-quality, skilled talent can be worth its weight in gold; but while every company wants it, not every organization can find it. Today, we're on the brink of a 21st Century Gold Rush, only this time, instead of precious metal, the payoff is people -- those prized employees who keep their value in good times and bad, and whose worth to organizations only increases over time.

While gold in the 19th century was abundant, today's high-quality, skilled talent is not. Although the nation's unemployment rate stands at around 9 percent, a closer look reveals that knowledge workers are still at a premium.

In fact, data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that the unemployment rate among knowledge workers in healthcare, legal, education and social sciences has remained steady, averaging 3.72 percent throughout the recession.

As hiring activity and the demand for skilled workers increases, competition among companies will only intensify. Adding fuel to the fire is the projection that baby-boomer retirements and lower population rates among younger generations will lead to an 8 percent decrease in the U.S. workforce growth rate between 2010 and 2020.

The growing educational lag also paints a grim picture of the future challenges of hiring and recruiting skilled workers.

How can HR leaders ensure their organizations are equipped to find high-quality talent that will drive the future of their businesses? Think ahead.

Early Education

With a heightened sense of urgency to tap into future talent, today's forward-thinking companies are piloting educational support and mentorship programs aimed at prospects from the master's and post-doctorate levels all the way down to high school. By aligning these potential high achievers with their organization up to five years before they graduate, businesses are gaining a significant head start on building employment branding, loyalty and a high-quality talent pipeline for the future.

Technology Investment

In the age of advanced technology and Web 2.0, talent-acquisition tools have evolved to provide a great depth and breadth of options to source, recruit, track, forecast and communicate faster than ever before, and they will continue to play a much greater role in how organizations go to market. Today, forward-thinking companies are not only investing in the right technology for their organizations, but are also aligning themselves with the right expertise, both internally and externally, to maximize these tools.

Global Agility

The lasting impact of the global recession has led many organizations to restructure in ways that were never considered before and the ongoing skilled-worker shortage will continue to push traditional boundaries. While, historically, businesses brought talent into their headquarters and hub locations, today, if the right fit is unable to relocate, organizations seriously committed to aligning themselves with the right fit are becoming increasingly open to having the work done from where that talent already is. Technology innovations have made this concept even more attainable and, in the future, there will be more of a premium on companies that are globally agile in that regard.

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Deeper Workforce Planning

With the cost of talent skyrocketing due to a lack of controls in today's environment, many talent-acquisition models that were successful in the past are no longer efficient. With high turnover becoming a common characteristic of younger generations entering the workforce, companies will struggle to keep up without a deeper understanding of workforce planning. It's imperative that organizations understand the different expectations and reward-triggers of future generations and strategize new ways to successfully target them. Leaders must also understand how to play in existing -- as well as emerging -- markets, and incorporate that into their current talent base.

As upcoming generations of skilled talent become scarcer, successful talent-acquisition strategies will be a major driver critical to maintaining a competitive edge and ultimately ensuring future success. Those who invest today in innovative programs and solutions to attract and retain high-quality, skilled workers will have the opportunity to discover a gold mine of talent for tomorrow.

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