An Optimist’s Guide to Staffing in Today’s Market
As predictions of the insurance talent shortage continue to actualize, it’s easy to become pessimistic about the prospects of meeting the increasingly complex demands of staffing in such an unpredictable landscape. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of negativity, because that very pessimism often plays into the hiring process, creating obstacles where we should be finding opportunities. Granted, there are a lot of variables at play regarding the shortage in highly qualified talent, but as it stands today, many of those variables are beyond our control. What we can control is how we approach the search for the next generation of our organizations. A lot has been said regarding the evolving talent landscape as it pertains to millennials, but we’re going to focus on how we can adjust the way we can approach the hiring process regardless of which generation is being considered.
The linguistic approach to staffing is reflective of the problems that originate from the start of the process. The terms used to illustrate the goals and objectives of hiring are far too often transactional, reducing the human factor. For example, a term perhaps too freely thrown around that aptly illustrates this transactional tone is “talent acquisition.” There is nothing inherently wrong with wishing to increase and maximize the talent of one’s organization; however, the word “acquisition” bears with it connotations that can leave a negative impression. The root word, “acquire,” is largely equated with gaining possession or ownership of an object. Therein lies the problem. A term like “talent acquisition” dehumanizes and objectifies people who are being acquired, marginalizing them as nothing more than possessions with no value other than the specific skillset for which they were targeted.
One damaging artifact of the days of hiring in a bull market is the procedure of screening out applicants. This is not to suggest that a certain level of screening out should not occur, but we are no longer in a time where applicants can be screened out until only those that completely and comprehensively meet the required and preferred qualifications still comprise a healthy field of possibilities. The ramifications of approaching the screening process with the mindset of filtering only for candidates that check all boxes can be both immediate and compounding. It can initially cost an organization a great deal of time and money as they continue to search for that “perfect” candidate that, in today’s market, most likely does not exist. Additionally, the screening-out mentality can also lead to the dismissal of great young talent that will most likely go to more proactive companies with their eyes on the future.
Often, the worst thing we can do is nothing. Unfortunately, as true as this may be, it doesn’t prevent hiring managers from hesitating and not only losing talented professionals in the moment but also in the future. Paralysis by analysis is not a new concept, but in regards to hiring within the insurance industry, it is becoming exceptionally fatal. Too many talented candidates are being lost because the gauntlet of the interviewing process is lasting too long and allowing too much time for prospective candidates to rethink or, again, be intercepted by companies who understand that in an evaporating talent pool, time is of the essence.
In the end, it comes back to optimism. As easy as it may be to allow the prospect of a dwindling market to bring your spirits down, there is also a bevy of opportunity awaiting companies that are able to approach the hiring process with a more positive outlook. It begins with the words we use and the connotations they create around the hiring process. Optimism is vital throughout the screening process, as well. Are we looking to dismiss candidates or are we focused on finding candidates that could grow into exceptional long-term players? And finally, once a candidate or small group of candidates has been selected, is the process leading up to an offer streamlined to keep them optimistic about the opportunity, or is it a bureaucratic snail’s crawl that offers candidates several occasions to back out or be lured away? Output will always be reflective of input; therefore, it is vital that if we want to attract excited and dynamic individuals, we approach the search and hiring process with a level of optimism and excitement that encourages the results we want to see.