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Keeping the Talent Bucket Full

talent_bucket_overflow_300Many companies’ talent recruiting strategy is like using a teaspoon to fill a bucket full of holes. They want prospective workers to be job ready, without giving them development help or ramp-up time. To get a job, you have to already have done it, which creates a shallower pool from which to hire. The result, says human resources and management expert Peter Capelli in a Wall Street Journal article, is a “teaspoon size” dribble of job candidates.

A better strategy is to fill the talent bucket quickly while maintaining it in a way that minimizes leakage.

Filling the Bucket

Companies should stop searching for perfect job candidates and instead look for people with skills, and an eagerness to learn, advises Peter, a professor at the Wharton School of Business. Fill in the gaps with training and on-the-job development. That’s great advice, but it requires managers who are able, willing and take the time to develop people on-the-job.   We know that it can be done because we researched managers who operate this way. They are exceptional at developing people while they get results. We captured what they do to make everyday a development day in our book, Make Talent Your Business   Create the conditions for your managers to be exceptional at developing people on-the-job and hold them accountable. It will make your company results better while ensuring a vibrant workforce of people committed to stay and contribute.

Patch the Holes

It’s not enough to fill the bucket with good candidates. Companies need to plug holes created by talented employees who leave. According to many surveys, many are planning to leave as soon as they can. While numbers vary, estimates from KNOWLEDGE @ WHARTON indicate 3 out of 4 people would leave their jobs if something better came up. Lack of advancement is the number 1 reason for leaving according to a recent global LinkedIn survey. Other research from Manpower shows that 2 out 3 employees are dissatisfied with their jobs. What would keep them? According to Career Systems International the top reason people stay is for exciting, challenging work where they continue to grow.

To deal with a leaky talent bucket takes the very same solution as hiring good, but not yet fully experienced candidates: put people in challenging jobs or assignments with room to grow with managers who are good at developing people from experience on the job.

Fill and Patch Your Talent Bucket simultaneously

By hiring people into jobs with room to grow, and supporting ongoing development, you create a fill-and-patch strategy that keeps the talent bucket full. “I don’t hire to the job. I want critical thinkers, life-long learners,” says Danielle Forsyth, CEO of Thetus, a firm in Portland that builds semantic knowledge modeling software. This logic has opened Thetus’ doors to talented people such as a former Starbucks Barista who had never developed software but is wowing the company with her ideas and performance as well as bike builders, musicians and home-brewers. Thetus lets people know, starting withtheir career web page, that they work hard to foster a culture where people “enjoy a workplace that embraces individual quirks and encourages growth.”

Expect a surge of energy when talented people — whether new hires or long-time employees —get to learn their ways into jobs. If you can create a learning-centered culture open to new ideas, you’ll find yourself with a bucket consistently full of sparkling water.