Talent scarcity is real: 3 ways to expand your talent pipeline in an employee-led market

Tammy Browning Tammy Browning President, KellyOCG

A widespread talent myth is influencing global organizations. I speak to leaders at all levels, from the C-suite to hiring managers and, right now, many believe there is an abundance of available talent. It’s an easy assumption to make – people see news about economic uncertainty, large-scale tech layoffs, and the decline of pandemic-fueled job hopping, and they presume that there is a whole crowd of talent out there just waiting to be hired. It’s not true. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported an unemployment rate of just 3.6% and many sectors continue to experience intense competition for all types of talent.

This disconnect is seeing a small group of leaders looking to recruit for less money, mandating full returns to the office, and rescinding some of the benefits and flexible working options they rolled out during the pandemic. With this approach, employers could quickly see their talent pipeline slow to a trickle. It’s a trend we saw reflected in our 2023 Kelly Global Re:work Report; 46% of the executives surveyed told us that difficulty sourcing the right talent is leading to missed business opportunities, while 48% say they struggle to understand how to attract the talent they need.

It’s crucial that leaders not only recognize the reality of talent marketplaces today but take steps to connect with and motivate the people who power their businesses. Let’s look at three practical and impactful ways organizations can expand their talent pipeline to unlock workforce fluidity.

1. Build curated talent pools

Nearly half (48%) of the executives we surveyed in our Re:work Report said that addressing skills gaps is a high priority for their leadership team, and creating curated talent pools through direct sourcing is one of the most meaningful, long-term ways organizations can improve access to talent. It provides a direct connection to a group of pre-vetted, enthusiastic candidates who have expressed a clear interest in being part of an organization. Direct sourcing (done right) takes energy and investment; a talent pool must be nurtured, kept warm, and developed to ensure a business can access the skills it needs when it needs them.

Direct sourcing also offers huge opportunities for upskilling; you may not be able to find someone with 100% of the skills you need or expect to need in the short term, but if you can find someone with 50 or 60% and mentor and develop them through a direct sourcing program – unlocking fast access to talent that is a great fit for your business. By investing in talent from the start, organizations can build loyalty that’s likely to translate into employees who do great work, raise their hand to take on new challenges, and are truly invested in the company’s culture.

2. Connect more effectively with contingent talent

Most organizations have a rational on how much labor they want in the contingent space – often thinking and talking about the nontraditional workforce very differently than they do their full-time community. But as the contingent workforce continues to expand, it’s becoming increasingly important to think about the wants and needs of flexible workers and for leaders to consider supplementing their labor force in areas where they have historically relied on full-time talent.

More than half (52%) of the leaders Kelly surveyed in our global workforce report said that recruiting contingent talent was important to strengthening resilience over the next two years, but only 46% are effectively recruiting in the contingent talent space right now. The boom in contingent work means that many temporary workers have greater choices than ever before. Rethinking contingent worker integration, benefits, and culture can help organizations access the most in-demand contingent talent more effectively. Leaders may also need to consider opening up temp-to-hire pathways to access known and vetted skills populations for the longer term.

3. Actively engage with non-traditional candidates

There are so many underrepresented and underserved talent communities that are overlooked by traditional recruitment processes. These might be veterans, candidates with different physical abilities, neurodiverse individuals, those with a non-violent criminal record or without a traditional education background. These diverse individuals can offer employers a lot but often face many closed doors. Even inside organizations, they face barriers – nearly half of the talent we surveyed said they had experienced non-inclusive behavior. While 41% of executives revealed that their DEI strategy only paid lip service to underrepresented groups. This is not only a diversity problem; in a talent-short market, it’s actively fueling skills shortages. By removing arbitrary job requirements, creating accessible roles and hiring processes, and connecting with institutions that support underserved groups, leaders can access a community of available talent that is too often overlooked. It’s a challenge we’re trying to tackle through our Equity@Work initiative.

Talent scarcity is a reality in many labor markets around the world, and those organizations that recognize this and adapt their workforce strategy to meet workers where they are will reap the rewards. These will be the businesses with the depth of talent to respond to economic uncertainty and the workforce agility to embrace new opportunities. While the minority expect workers to do more for much less could find themselves with a growing list of unfilled roles. Market competition remains fierce but a people-centric approach to engaging and retaining sought-after talent will continue to win out.


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