"We cannot fill our vacancies", I heard it millions of times and once more on Friday when I talked to an HR Director. So I asked her to tell me more and explain her recruitment strategy or workforce planning related to the breakdown of the workforce profile.
And there it was. No strategy, no workforce planning based on needs, just the "Post & Pray" approach. Her department is inundated with low-quality CVs; all they do is go through them, hoping to find an acceptable one.
I probed further, but she didn't understand what I meant by workforce planning. She said, "Yes, we have a manning budget", to which I replied that it was not what I was looking for.
I was like, how am I going to explain this to her? I couldn't get into the nitty-gritty of recruitment or workforce planning strategy, and I had to simplify it.
We sat in a restaurant, so I gathered all the condiment bottles, salt & pepper cruets and glasses on the table and started. Look:
What are the roles within the company that are low in complexity and physical activity? Could those be filled with older generations, maybe those who are already retired? She said yes, so I put the ketchup bottle in the middle of the table to represent that 5% of the workforce.
What are the high-intensity seasonal roles that interns can fill? I put the water glass down to represent that population, maybe 2% of the workforce.
What are the high-complexity roles that require industry expertise? She mentioned a few, so I put the salt cruet down to represent 10% of the population.
What high-complexity roles would allow the organisation to bring fresh ideas from other industries (non-industry experts)? She had no answer to this. So I asked how they bring in different perspectives. No answer. I put the pepper cruet and said that it should maybe be 5% of the senior team who comes from different industry backgrounds to bring ideas and new ways of doing things.
What medium complexity roles can people fill with no industry background? She listed them, so I put the mustard bottle down, representing 50% of the workforce.
What roles can be done part-time or through other flexible work arrangements? She came up with 20% of the workforce, yet, they had no such arrangement. That population was the coffee cup on the table.
She looked at the items on the table I saw that she got it. Then I asked, where are you going to source those employees from? We brainstormed, and she came up with some pretty decent ideas.
Then I added, look, if you are willing to consider unusual talent pools, you might consider targeting:
Mothers who never worked due to family arrangements.
Mothers who want to return to work after raising children for years but aren't considered because of the gap in their CV.
The homeless population. I saw a documentary last week titled "What is causing England's rural homelessness crisis?" that featured a man who used to be our housekeeper. My heart broke and made me think that this is where our talents are.
Retirement population who are highly reliable; they don't want to climb the career ladder. They want to supplement their pension or to be amongst people.
People who are trying to get back on their feet, whatever their background is.
People who are just released from social care and have no social background or experience in the big world out there.
Looking at workforce planning differently allows us to see an immense opportunity to source talent. We cannot rely on AI to do the job for us. We cannot even rely on our recruitment teams if we don't give them directly because they will continue the "Post & Pray" approach and complain about the lack of talent.
Talents are everywhere. We need to learn to see them.