the great talent shortage awakening - Manpower tHE LoominG taLEnt SHortaGE the talent...
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the great talent shortage
awakening: actions to take for a sustainable workforce
2013 THE GREAT TALENT SHORTAGE AWAKENING2
ExEcutivE Summary manpowerGroup’s eighth annual talent Shortage Survey found that
35 percent of employers on average report having difficulty filling jobs due to a lack of available
talent. this is the highest shortage since the start of the global recession.
in the world of 2013, the only certainty is uncertainty. changing demographics, technological
evolution and a world prone to political, economic and social shocks have created a global
environment in which talent shortages are the rule rather than the exception. as business cycles
have become compressed, so too have skills cycles.
Last year, we reported that employers had become so accustomed to talent shortages that
complacency had set in. a majority did not expect such shortages to impact their businesses,
largely because they assumed that this universal challenge was something their competitors were
also faced with.
in 2013, there has been a collective awakening. Globally, the number of employers who believe
talent shortages will negatively impact their business has increased by nearly a third. in countries
where the problem is particularly acute, many employers express even greater levels of concern.
as employers increasingly recognize that the talent shortage threatens their ability to compete, they are
still frustrated by the lack of a straightforward solution. they realize that expanding their workforces,
increasing compensation or looking to competitors to poach talent are unsustainable solutions.
Fortunately, solutions do exist. By asking the right questions, companies can understand how talent
shortages affect them specifically and identify how to address the issue. uncertain economic times
have cast a light on the need for employer agility, and that agility must be driven by a company’s
human resources (Hr) leaders.
this paper examines several strategies Hr leaders can pursue to ensure a sustainable talent pipeline
for the future. By operating as a strategic partner, rather than solely as a functional leader, Hr leaders
can design workforce solutions to fuel their organizations’ competitiveness for years to come.
These include: • Developing and supporting a framework for teachable Fit™
• creating a culture of talent development
• achieving the right cultural profile
• tapping into new sources of talent
• Driving agility from the outside
• Driving collaboration
tHE taLEnt SHortaGE tHrouGH tHE yEarS When manpowerGroup first conducted its annual talent Shortage Survey in 2006, we were driven
by a common refrain echoed by businesses around the world: there simply weren’t enough qualified
people to fill available jobs and this was hampering productivity. Because it is our business to
unleash human talent as a key driver of organizational success, we wanted to understand just
how acute this shortage actually was and where in the world its impact was most significant.
the original survey showed 40 percent of employers were struggling to fill positions. this came as no
surprise based on our daily conversations with companies all over the world. in fact, we anticipated
this would happen due to unique global world of work insight into the direction and health of
By 2009, at the height of the global recession, the figure had understandably dropped by a quarter.
However, with millions of people unemployed, it was certainly noteworthy that 30 percent of
companies still reported difficulty filling jobs. although employment opportunities existed, employers
felt those candidates lacked the specific skills they were looking for. as economies have recovered,
this trend has accelerated and talent shortages are now at their highest level since before
alarmingly, by 2012 employers had become so acclimatized to talent shortages that complacency
had started to set in, and the majority of employers believed talent shortages would not negatively
impact their business. With their competitors facing similar challenges, there seemed to be a belief
that having a shared problem somehow minimized its impact.
31% 30% 31% 34% 34% 35%
global: % Having DiFFicutly Filling Jobs
2013 THE GREAT TALENT SHORTAGE AWAKENING4
GroWinG concErn aBout tHE taLEnt SHortaGE’S impact on BuSinESS twelve months later, the percentage of companies experiencing talent shortages has risen slightly
again, and the proportion of employers who expect their talent shortages to have a medium-to-high
impact on their business has increased dramatically—to 54 percent of employers.
in many cases, employers in countries with higher-than-average talent shortages are also more
likely to expect the problem to impact their business. For example, in the country with the
highest reported shortages (Japan), 85 percent of employers expect a medium-to-high impact
on their ability to meet client needs. virtually all Japanese employers expect it to have some
degree of impact. in Brazil, where the problem is almost as acute, 78 percent believe the talent-
shortage will have a medium-to-high impact.
While employers increasingly recognize that the talent shortage poses a serious threat to their
business competitiveness, many appear to be at a loss for answers with more than one fifth
reporting they are doing nothing at all to address the problem. merely expanding their workforces is
not necessarily the solution—and is likely not a viable option anyway when demand is uncertain and
subject to economic shocks. in the midst of certain uncertainty, employers must learn how to adapt
in real time. to fully succeed in the Human age, an entirely new brand of workforce flexibility and
agility is required.
tHe greater tHe talent sHortage, tHe greater
tHe PerceiveD iMPact
90 85 85
GLOBAL JAPAN BRAZIL
TALENT SHORTAGE RATE
EXPECT MED/HI IMPACT
EXPECT SOME IMPACT
the good news is that solutions do exist. those who are already deeply affected by the talent
shortage can take action to turn the tide, and those who currently experience minimal impact can
put systems into place to prevent intensifying problems in the future. First, however, it is important
to understand how the problem became so dire.
tHE LoominG taLEnt SHortaGE the talent shortage—the disparity between what employers need and what available employees
have to offer—has a variety of causes. Some are interconnected, while others are isolated. taken
together, they create a “perfect storm” that shows no sign of subsiding.
The demographics of the global talent shortage are both old and young.
in the 2012 Survey, we reported that the talent shortage is “an old problem” in Japan. indeed
it is. Japan’s population is shrinking due to a record-low birthrate and its proportion of citizens
over age 65 is higher than any other country in the world. at the 2009 low-point, 55 percent of
employers in Japan reported difficulty filling jobs. By the time of the 2013 survey, the figure had
spiked to 85 percent. Dwindling numbers of workers cannot possibly support what was once a
fast-growing economy. in Japan, its skills—both the “hard” technical competencies and “soft”
workplace skills—are far and away the most commonly cited cause of the talent shortage.
Japan might be an extreme example, but it is not the only country to face such a problem. this
year, retirees in canada will outnumber youth for the first time. and, by 2050, it’s expected that the
elderly in china will equal the number of nearly 40 percent of its labor force, while the global share
is expected to double, to more than 25 percent.ii
While some wealthy countries are experiencing declining fertility rates and a growing elderly
population, many countries are seeing the exact opposite. they’re going through what’s known
as a “youth bulge”—a demographic phenomenon in which the share of 15-24 year-olds increases
significantly faster than other age groups. in 2012, this trend was especially prevalent in countries
in sub-Saharan africa, Latin america and the middle East.iii
in terms of the talent shortage, the youth bulge impacts labor markets on multiple levels. First, it
increases the supply of labor, albeit a segment of the population often considered by employers to
be inadequately prepared for employment. Second, the added pressure on labor markets naturally
depresses wages, which impacts the entire working age population. Finally, there’s the vexing issue
that presents itself when a company’s workforce doesn’t reflect the varying levels of experience