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Skills Shortage or Requirement Overload?

Gartner recently published its “Leadership Vision for 2024: Chief HR Officer” article where it reported 26% of CEOs rank talent shortage as the most damaging factor to their business outlook. 

Chart from Gartner 's "Leadership Vision for 2024: Chief HR Officer" showing the Severity of Damage to Business Outlook, where CEO's ranked certain factors as most damaging. Shows % of CEO factors as follows: Talent Shortage at 26%, Inflation at 22%, Recession at 22%, Supply Chain Problems at 12%, Rising Interest Rates at 9%, and Energy Costs at 9%.
Source: Gartner "Leadership Vision for 2024: Chief HR Officer"

The report goes on to say “83% of HR Leaders [struggle] to find enough talent with the skills they need”.  Companies continue to fret about the talent/skills shortage, yet the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics cites there are 6.3 million people unemployed ranging from new college graduates, mid-career technical talent, and a myriad of corporate experts. 

We have all of these jobs open… are 6.3 million people really lacking skills? Probably not. 

Are the jobs on requirement overload? Hell, yes.

The last four years have been brutal on companies, and no, there is no political undertone here. We'll say it again: There. Is. NO. Political. Undertone. A global pandemic happened. People significantly reduced their spending, the economy took a hit, and in order for companies to keep the doors open, they had to reduce headcount while still trying to meet demand. Roles were consolidated, and in order to put food on the table, the remaining employees stretched themselves to the point of utter exhaustion to deliver.  This reshaping of roles led to an elongated list of responsibilities. As roles are vacated, companies seek a replacement without properly refining the job description. Jobs are open for months as companies search for the elusive perfect candidate; someone that is willing and capable of working multiple jobs while only being compensated for one.  Meanwhile the remaining employees are stretched even further and company goals aren’t being met.  

Why is this a problem? What does this have to do with the alleged skills shortage?  Well, when multiple roles are combined, and the job description has become a never-ending list of responsibilities and required skills, you end up with what can only be described as a Frankenstein-type of role.  Or, kindlier stated, you’ve inadvertently gone into requirement overload. Let’s be real - you aren’t finding that replacement, and if you do, you’ll be recruiting on that role in 9-12 months because one person working multiple positions is unsustainable.  

To fill roles quicker, and overcome the skills shortage, you, hiring manager, need to invest time up front.  Before posting that job, do a deep dive and refine the description.  De-Frankenstein it. 

  • Invite a team to help update the job description.  This group should include key stakeholders and peers that interact with the position.  

  • Discuss each of the bullet points and required skills. Ask the team - Is this accurate? Is this relevant? Does X belong in this job, or somewhere else? Challenge the group to explain why something should be kept in, tossed out, or reallocated.  

  • Once you’ve stripped the outdated, it’s time to start adding the new.  Have the group define what success looks for the role at 3, 6, and 12 months.  Once success is outlined, determine what technical skills and behavioral competencies are needed to meet those milestones. 

  • You’re probably sitting there thinking, great, I’ve added everything in and I’m ready for the recruiter to post the job. Nope! It’s time to test the candidate market. This is where your talent acquisition (TA) team are experts.  Sit with them to do searches for candidates on resume databases to determine how many candidates are out there that qualify for the revised job.

  • From this research, prioritize and continue refining the job description.  Be careful to not fall back into requirement overload, and take time to consider what type of experience you are willing to pay for v. what can you teach. 

Only after the team feels confident the required skills are available in the market place within the compensation range you are ready to post the job and get recruiting.  Now, we're not saying the aforementioned steps aren’t hard.  They are very hard. They challenge the organization to rethink how work is being done, redistribute, and prioritize.  What we're saying is that the juice is worth the squeeze.  By taking a couple hours up front to update the job description, we internally align on the role, the candidate talent pool increases, and the role fills quicker.

So, we leave you with this challenge, do we actually have a skills shortage, or do we have a requirements overload?  

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