War for talent never existed

Simple solution is to trade talent gap for effective training

The war for talent only exists in the minds of companies that want other people to develop talent for them.

The original thinking in this area — that global economies would compete for a diminishing supply of talent and empty the talent pool faster than it can be filled — was an oversimplification of changing labour and talent patterns.

“A labour force shortage translated means a short supply of cheap workers. There is no labour market shortage. There may be a skill shortage,” said David Foot, a demographer and economics professor at the University of Toronto, speaking at a Conference Board of Canada event last year that delved into the battle for talent

While gaps, skills deficiencies and pressing needs undoubtedly exist, the big fear surrounding talent shortages has not materialized. In fact, there was never really any war at all, just ongoing globalization, with employers discovering certain jobs could be outsourced cheaply to other economies.

Canada has endured persistent skills shortages in certain geographical areas. As a result, employers want to import ready-made mechanics, machinists and others who will fill the gaps while preventing wages from rising because these people will work more cheaply than homegrown talent.

Tell a young worker, or a displaced worker, there’s a war for talent. They’ll laugh at you. For them, it’s a war to find a good job.

Shortages are predictable and avoidable — with some good workforce planning. Training has evolved and changed and, as a result, people can learn more quickly and effectively. The simple solution is to trade the talent gap for effective training so no talent crisis exists now or in the future.

Skills can be fixed quickly, with a one- to three-year college training program or a fast-track learning path of several weeks’ or months’ duration. The learning-paths approach was defined and optimized by Stephen Rosenbaum in Learning Paths.

Here’s an example of how it works: Take a recent shortage of rail engineers in Minnesota. With a three-per-cent state unemployment rate and massive retirements looming, major rail companies such as Union Pacific and Canadian National couldn’t find people qualified to pilot trains.

Using a learning-path approach, Rosenbaum worked with industry representatives, the state government and college leaders to create a seven-week engineering school that successfully turned out qualified staff who could “hit the ground running” and keep the trains on track.

A learning path represents a complete rethink about how learning ought to happen. It is defined as the entire sequence of training, practice and experience (both formal and informal) that leads to proficiency. The process discipline involved with learning paths ensures the right things are taught the right way and in the shortest time.

The up front measure is “time to proficiency,” which means how long it takes to have an employee performing at an average level. Historically, curriculum approaches tend to fill classroom days with “stuff.” A learning path, on the other hand, covers the entire learning process both in and outside the classroom. The key to success with learning paths is being very direct with what really happens during the “mystery period” — that time between when training ends and proficiency is achieved.

“This is the precise interval where most gains in learning can be achieved,” says Rosenbaum.

Learning-path approaches don’t favour e-learning or any particular training mechanics — just what works best to reach the outcomes needed. Workers appreciate the learning-path style because it saves them from the bleary-eyed, too-much-information state they typically experience in the classroom. Instead they are working and appreciating the performance gains they can see for themselves, day by day.

Arupa Tesolin is a speaker, innovation trainer and author of Ting! A Surprising Way to Listen to Intuition and Do Business Better. She is also the Canadian partner for Learning Paths International. She can be reached at (905) 271-7272, [email protected] or visit www.intuita.com or learningpathsinternational.com for more information.

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