How data can help to solve talent shortages

This article was originally published on CHRO. 

It is bizarre that employers use data optimally to attract new customers but not to attract new employees, writes Irma Doze.

You can hear and read it everywhere: the tension on the labour market is increasing. There is labour scarcity! Yet, since there is still unemployment, in theory, there should be enough people to fill the vacancies, but clearly there is a mismatch.

It makes quite a difference whether you are looking for the ‘almost-sold-out’ type of employee or for the ‘limited-edition’ type.

Nine out of ten employers say that they are currently experiencing staff shortages, and no less than 94% of employers expect these shortages to persist or increase in the coming year, according to recent research by AWVN. Data can help employers to reduce these shortages!

When customers are scarce, data & analytics prove to be very helpful. Data helps to find promising prospects in the market and convert them into customers through optimised and personalised communication. At the same time, data also helps to retain existing customers.

Outperforming the competition

By really listening to their customers (the ‘voice of the customer’), calculating their value and by (daring to) segment(ing) them, suppliers succeed in optimising the lifetime value. As a result, organisations that use data & analytics are slightly more successful than their competitors. This can amount to a difference of a few percentage points in market share, which may well translate to several millions in additional turnover.

We can also learn from supply-side marketing. In marketing, a distinction is made between scarcity due to little supply versus scarcity due to great demand. At first sight, the two seem very similar, in that they both lead to product shortages.

In Marketing Communication, it makes a lot of difference, however, whether something is almost sold out (‘only 1 room left’) or whether it is such a unique product that it is hard to obtain, a so-called ‘limited edition’. It is a good idea to transfer this perspective to the search for new employees, asking yourself which of both applies to the employees that the organisation needs and which applies to the work that the organisation has to offer?

The Great Resignation

According to the most recent figures from the Intelligence Group, there is a decrease in the number of people actively looking for a job, along with a decline in the number of job changes. The Great Resignation that is underway in the United States does not seem to be happening here, with the exception of a few sectors.

However, more than one in three people in the Dutch labour force is approached at least once every quarter by an employer or an agency for a new job, which means that there is considerable competition among employers.

What data can do in the search for new employees

When competition is high, it is important to find and reach potential employees. A thorough data analysis can lay bare the characteristics and motivations of your best new employees. Who are they, where did they come from and what characteristics do they share? By identifying the variables that consistently recur among the best of your new hires, you will know who to look for in future and where to find them.

However, successful recruitment requires not only the proper channels, but also an optimal recruitment message. It is not enough to reach the ideal candidates; you will also have to make them apply. As such, it is very important to optimise and, where possible, personalise the entire communication during the recruitment and selection process.

This starts with the company’s own ‘working at’ website – where future applicants are likely to take a look anyway – and its own vacancy texts. It is actually bizarre that, while Marketing optimises every text and every button on the website through research and testing, this is so scarcely done when marketing the own organisation as an employer. This should include, for example, the relevant keywords for the website and the vacancies, as well as their frequencies in the text, so as to end up high in the search results.

Which keywords are relevant for the website and the vacancy texts?

Another question is: ‘What Unique Selling Points (USP) of the organisation are important to mention?’ This can vary per job category. Setting up a database with USPs based on internal and external research is no luxury as it allows you to tailor each vacancy text to your needs. 

Through relatively simple research, you can find out what makes the organisation attractive for the specific target group of a particular vacancy. Ask your staff the same question: what makes the organisation an attractive employer? The aspects that turn out to be decisive for both groups are your strongest selling points. This also ensures that existing employees become ambassadors of the organisation and help to sell it as an employer.

Candidate experience 

Additionally, it is important to take a close look at communication throughout the candidate journey, starting with the first contact with the potential new hire, up to and including their onboarding. This can be done through a combination of candidate-experience research and process mining. The latter method allows you to map the extent to which the actual process corresponds to the process on paper and to analyse how the routes taken by successful candidates differ from those taken by candidates who dropped out along the way.

If you want to take the use of data one step further, you might consider using a chatbot to simplify the online process for candidates or using VR technology, so that candidates can meet someone in the office on the other side of the country and get a taste of the corporate culture.

Using data to retain employees

Investing in the use of data in recruitment is one thing, but it only makes sense if the organisation also knows how to keep the back door shut. Data can help with this too. On the one hand, data can be used to set priorities, based on the calculated value of each employee and the risk of leaving. 

Many organisations simply do not have the budget to give every employee the proper support. This means that they need (the courage) to make choices, in the same way that they choose their clients based on customer value.

Next, it is important to listen actively. Especially in our times, with changes occurring almost daily, an annual survey won’t do when monitoring employee wellbeing. Even a quarterly pulse measurement may not always be sufficient.

Developments follow each other in rapid succession; the sentiment among employees can change in no time

Developments follow each other in rapid succession, so work and working conditions are constantly changing, and employee sentiment can change in no time. It is therefore important to look for as many methods as possible to passively and actively collect feedback, precisely during the normal work activities, without bothering the employees (too) much with ‘side activities’.

Also, listening alone is not enough. Make sure that you not only listen to the (passive) feedback, but also register it. That is the source of your insights. While you should obviously start by solving the problem for the person who provided the feedback, you should then combine the collected data on an organisation-wide basis. If certain issues recur, you can look for the underlying cause and solve it structurally.

The outlook

The good news is that the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) expects unemployment to rise again slightly in 2022 because the number of hours worked per person will increase somewhat (i.e. fewer people will be needed for the same amount of work) and there will also be more labour migrants next year (i.e. more supply of labour). Thus, unemployment seems to be returning to its pre-COVID level. While this may be unimportant if you are looking for that one ‘limited-edition’ employee, it may be the light at the end of the tunnel for other organisations.

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This article was written by

Irma Doze

Irma Doze

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