Last week, I had two very compelling sessions related to the ever-excruciating challenge that hiring ample talent poses to businesses across industries and across geographies. One was a session I led at the IFS Connect customer event in Itasca, IL. The other was a session with the Future of Field Service Advisory Forum where we were joined by Lauren Winans, CEO of Next Level Benefits, to do a working session on a real job description of an open role within one of the customers in the group. Both were enlightening and served as a reminder of how critically important this topic is in our space (and beyond). 

The IFS Connect session focused on the fact that while we must acknowledge that this challenge is indeed a very real and very frustrating one, the path to progress is to focus on what we can control versus what we can’t. I reviewed six controllables that I believe companies need to focus on:

  1. Let Go of “The Way It Was.” All too often, I see leaders allowing the frustration of the situation keep them focused on how things used to be, versus focusing on how to accept our current reality and adjust. Change is inevitable, and resistance is futile. Step number one is to accept that the labor market likely won’t go back to the way it was three, five, ten years ago – and allowing ourselves to be mired down in negative emotions about this prevents success. Letting go of the way it was requires us to examine our tendencies to hire based on experience, because as we all know, that experience is becoming impossible to find. I recommend the idea of an outcomes-based hiring approach instead, which Bonnie Anderson, Global Manager of Talent Acquisition and Future Talent at Tetra Pak describes in this podcast
  2. Take a Fresh Look at Your Hiring Mindset & Practices. Once you can clear your mind to focus on the present and the future, you can begin to more objectively examine the realities of your hiring practices and whether they stack up to today’s demands. This means really understanding your target audience and what’s important to them as they seek roles and evaluate opportunities. Are you speaking to these desires? When is the last time your job descriptions were updated? More modern language and a focus on what your target audience wants most may help. How you communicate the roles is also important, and more and more companies are getting creative with the sources they use to attract new talent – because they must. Are you leveraging social media? Is your application process mobile-friendly? Have you considered partnerships with local schools, community resources, or military? It’s time to get creative.
  3. Focus on Future-Proofing. With such an immense challenge, it’s easy to get lost in solving only the problems of the day – but we need to make sure we are taking a forward view as well, or we’ll only fall farther behind. For many organizations, the roles of the frontline are evolving. If this is the case, you need to be able to hire for your current needs – but also be building a strategy for how to hire for those evolving needs as well. A few key concepts here are re-skilling and upskilling, which we discussed a bit in relation to the work Orange is doing here. Another is the idea of “farming” your future talent – creating programs that help draw more resources into the industries and help you to build up some of the experience you’re accustomed to being able to hire directly.  
  4. Don’t Overlook the Criticality of Retention. New resources are more expensive to bring on than keeping your existing resources, plus they have less experience. We can’t focus so heavily on recruiting and hiring that we forget to put ample attention into retention. Especially as businesses evolve and roles change, communicating with and involving your current employees is more important than ever before. Understanding what they want out of their roles, what areas of opportunity there is to improve their engagement and satisfaction, and how to maximize their tenure is a key aspect of any talent strategy.
  5. Consider the Role of the Gig Economy. Outsourcing isn’t for everyone, but there are increasingly very diverse examples of how it’s being used. Foxtel, for instance, relies 100% on a third-party frontline workforce. Philips, on the other hand, has looked at how to leverage contract workers to eliminate some of the more basic tasks so that its W2 workforce can focus on mastering the role as they evolve to delivering outcomes-based service. 
  6. Leverage Technology to Your Advantage. In no way can tech solve this problem, but it can act as a great alleviator. From maximizing the utilization of your workforce to enabling greater self-service among customers to improving training and using tools like Remote Assistance to allow newer resources to become adept more quickly while receiving back-office support, there are many ways it can help you to bridge the gaps.

On our Advisory Forum session, Lauren walked us through her firsthand feedback on the open job description – what she’d add, what she’d change, and what she’d leave off. As she highlighted her edits, she explained the reasoning behind each suggestion and offered important tips and reminders for those in attendance. A few particular points of hers that I think are very important to recap are:

  • Create candidate personas so that you can tailor your wording and communications toward what will work best for the people you believe are your best targets
  • Consider what is a must versus what is a preference in your job descriptions, and list as such so as not to dissuade potential candidates unnecessarily 
  • Applicants prefer as much detail up front as possible, so she suggests sharing salary details if you can – not only does this help get the attention of applicants, but it also saves your organization a lot of valuable time weeding through candidates who aren’t in your range
  • If the idea of listing salary makes you concerned because you’re paying new hires more than your existing talent, reflect on this – as discussed earlier, retention is easier than recruiting, and you should ensure your incumbent talent is being properly compensated (and appreciated)
  • Get creative! Lauren pointed out that one of the top wants of talent today is flexibility – while this can be more challenging in service roles, it often isn’t impossible if you’re willing to examine how to make it an option
  • Lauren cautions that the labor trends are likely to be a longer lasting fact than some might like to think, so accept and adjust however you need to in order to find success in the current landscape

For more insights from Lauren, listen to her recent podcast here

Sarah Nicastro

Creator, Future of Field Service