If you’re not preparing just how to add value to the talent that will, in turn, add value to your organisation, be prepared for the supply shock...


Just last week saw the culmination of a fascinating US-wide competition. It was a slightly confusing and anti-climactic ending, in that two winners, rather than the traditional one, emerged from the fray.

And they were?

New York City and North Virginia (with Nashville also bagging a consolation prize).

The competition?

A year-long decision as to where Jeff Bezos would break ground on Amazon’s second, or perhaps now, third headquarters, after Seattle. The competition has not been without its criticism. Bezos, in New York alone, has squeezed a handsome near $2Bn in tax breaks and concessions out of Mayor Bill de Blasio in return for his promise of bringing 25,000 new jobs to the city. The fact that more than 200 US cities initially threw their hats into the ring hints at the perceived value of being a destination location for such an employer.

If an employer’s destination is of considerable importance to the good burghers and town planners of New York City and 200 other US locations, does this mean that Amazon, and its equivalents, should be regarded as destination employers?

Perhaps, perhaps not.

Take the case of Facebook.

A year ago, it was hard to imagine a brighter, more successful, more alluring star, in terms of both corporate and employment perceptions. The fallout, however, from the Cambridge Analytica scandal continues to make its presence felt. A major employee survey carried out by Facebook themselves and concluding last month, suggests deep levels of internal disengagement. Whereas around half of their 29,000 employees surveyed were optimistic about the firm’s future, the comparable figure just 12 months previously was 32 percentage points higher. And 53% felt that their employer was making the world a better place, in comparison to the 72% who felt the same way a year ago. Given too that in 2015, the Pew Research Centre suggested that 71% of US teens were active users of the site, today that figure stands at 50%. So, if Facebook is struggling as a destination employer, its business model faces some pressing challenges too.

So, if an employer branding icon such as Facebook can fall from grace, is there such a thing as a destination employer?

Are all employers merely stops along an individual’s career journey – and particularly so given the current employee-driven labour market?

And isn’t the task of employers today to make it clear what spending 3-5 years with them might add to an individual’s CV, to better facilitate their subsequent career options?

The thing that is ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ has taken over our screens once again. It largely needs no introduction, other than it represents the stage upon which a range of media personalities hawk their talents or something similar. Undoubtedly, large amounts of money change hands in order to get some people on the plane to Australia – Noel Edmonds’ pockets will be particularly heavier if rumours are to be believed. However, neither Australia nor ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ are the destination. Nor indeed is the prospect of consuming large amounts of bugs, testicles and other usually off-menu delights. Appearing on the likes of ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ tends to have a generally positive effect on people’s subsequent careers. Again, it represents an opportunity for an individual to burnish and add value to their CVs and to subsequently move on.

My youngest is about to start weekend working at a large supermarket chain. It’s not, I think, his ultimate career choice right now, but it should serve to enhance his career journey. He’ll be taking in customer service, team working, accountability, shifting priorities, sustainability, profitability and more key skill sets. Quite rightly, he sees the value in what that particular organisation can offer him both today and for his subsequent career path. He can also buy his own beer from now on.

But I hope that his employer continues to communicate successfully to him the value they are adding in his direction and future opportunities. Not least because the number of 18 year olds in the UK is falling to its lowest number in nearly two decades. Which means the talent shortages we are facing are not about to be alleviated by large numbers of emerging university or school leavers.

It’s perhaps worth bearing in mind some of the key metrics likely to be influencing the labour market and organisations’ ability to hire right now. According to Alan Guarino, CEO of Korn Ferry,

‘The lack of skilled workers needed to drive business strategy could be the defining issue of the age’.

James Stewart, Vice Chair at KPMG,

‘Some of our clients tell us they are seeing the worst period of staff availability for 20 years’.

From research this month courtesy of Adecco and the CIPD, ‘The jobs market is in the throes of a “supply shock”, with 70% of employers having difficulties filling vacant positions and 40% feeling that recruitment has got harder in the last 12 months’.

This sense of a fast escalating problem was further exemplified by the Adecco/CIPD research. Firms with hard-to-fill vacancies suggest that 43% of their roles fit into such a category, compared to just 30% as recently as spring 2018. Similarly, 34% of employers reported that it has become more problematic to retain their people in the final quarter of 2018, compared to just 27% in the summer.

The alarming speed of decline in talent availability gives the impression of a labour market appearing to be spinning out of control – again, it is hard not to return to the recent words of the British Chamber of Commerce, which suggested that many firms in the service economy were effectively ‘giving up on hiring’.

If even the likes of Facebook can no longer be positioned as destination employers, how should organisations deliver their candidate messages? For me, this is increasingly about demonstrating value. Not so much the value that a candidate can bring to an organisation – but the other way around. How can an organisation add value over the next few years to an individual’s career journey and aspirations? There is always an inherent risk and inconvenience associated with changing jobs – it’s increasingly likely that people will be more than well looked after where they currently are, given the value that should be increasingly placed on talent.

What then can a hiring organisation promise in order to mitigate that risk?

Whether it rests on the training, learning and development it can offer, or the experiences it provides, or the contacts, or the progression, it’s increasingly important that an employer makes it very clear how spending time within their organisation will facilitate further career growth for an individual. There’s a very telling quote from a fascinating piece from Al Chiaradonna, entitled The Age of the Worker from earlier this month,

‘Smart employees have begun to adjust their thinking, taking on portfolio careers, investing in re-skilling, quickly realising that the employment game’s focus has moved from loyalty to value.’

The ONS suggested that candidate availability declined at its quickest rate in nine months during October, and posited that view that much of such disappearing candidates was the result of EU workers no longer viewing the UK as a place likely to add value to their own career journeys.

The talent acquisition industry spends a lot of time, effort and money analysing just how candidates might or might not add value to their organisation – often in a way that ironically adds little value to the candidate experience. It’s perhaps worth consideration that the market is turning on its head. How an employer articulates the value it can add to exceptional talent will be the difference between those organisations effectively having to ‘give up’ hiring and those who continue to be able to bring on board candidates who, in turn, can add value to their new employer.

Neil Harrison believes employer brands should be informed by authenticity. It's awfully hard to arrive at such authenticity without having a topical understanding of what your employer brand is challenged with, what it has to offer, how it's perceived and what it's up against.

Neil has been lucky enough to work alongside exceptional brands such as Sainsbury's, Transport for London, Pizza Hut, HS2, The AA, BA, Heathrow, Virgin Media, the University of Sheffield, Telefonica, Santander, Unilever, Prosafe and Subsea7.

Today, he works with both clients direct and via agencies and RPOs. Such work is increasingly used to drive both diversity and internal engagement initiatives. The ability of an organisation not only to retain but to get the most out of its people has never been so important. We are also doing some interesting work in the exit journey of potentially departing employees.

Neil is a key member of the DANGERFIELD team.