A lot of employers are blaming a seeming lack of talent on a “shortage of critical skills in the U.S.” Many employers in the North Bay have felt they have been unable to find local talent readily available for their job openings.

"We can’t find the talent locally and are forced to reach outside of the North Bay,”a vice president of human resources from a local food manufacturer said.

In an era of high unemployment, many employers expect immediate plug-and-play candidates -- new employees who come prepared with the skills and training to be productive immediately upon entering the workplace. Some employers blame the school systems for not educating students with the critical skills employers need.

Based on conversations with local employers, the job shortage concern appears to be mostly centered on executive-level jobs requiring related industry expertise and highly skills workers, such as engineers and scientists.  

The employers that blame the lack of resources on the “talent shortage” need to analyze their talent acquisition strategies and ask themselves: "What have I done lately to create a strategic talent pool for my organization"

Employers need to utilize creative talent strategies to grow their own talent pools. It is up to employers to build a creative talent pipeline.Ways to create strategic talent strategiesRedesign jobs and job descriptions

Be open to bringing in talent from different industries and be willing to train the candidates on the skills they don’t have.Internal training programs

Develop in-house training programs to train candidates to your specifications. Outcome: loyal, committed, trained employees. An HR colleague from the construction industry told me she was tired of the constant lack of qualified candidates. As a result, she started an internal volunteer training program, which provided valuable skills to the employees to grow into higher-level roles within the company.Internships

Develop partnerships with schools and programs. Collaborate with schools to develop curriculum and experiences for students that will inspire and teach students about the jobs you want to fill in the future. Invite students into your company and/or send your employees into the classroom to teach or speak.  

Employers should reach out to their local career center as part of their overall recruitment strategy. 

"Most employers aren’t aware of the services offered by Sonoma State University and/or fail to tap into the available resources," said Sarah Dove, career center director of the School of Business and Economics at SSU. "We have win-win partnerships with multiple North Bay employers who have built their brand successfully in the School of Business and Economics over the years. These employers speak to clubs and classes, engage as mentors in our formal mentor program, sponsor interns for the 15-week semester, participate in job fairs, tap into our alumni network, and utilize our job board and marketing channels to recruit for career positions. Arguably the best result for an employer and student is when the internship converts to a full-time position. Both parties get a long look at the other and are able to make the right choice after a semester-long 'interview.'" Recruit creatively

If you are only running Craigslist ads to find talent, then you are reaching less than 1 percent of your overall talent market. Reach out to associations to which your ideal candidate may belong. Source from LinkedIn to find candidates within your desired industry. For hard-to-fill or recurring positions, employers should consider attending or creating job fairs.  An HR colleague from a large winery coordinated her own job fair and had over 500 applicants show up, 100 of which were hired.  Build a brand

Become an employer of choice. Market internally and externally the benefits of working at your company. Create a branding campaign to market your company. Building a brand needs to start internally to ensure you are creating a work environment that your employees will rave about – you can’t be an employer of choice if you don’t have an engaged workforce.

When I asked Kristina Derkos, VP of HR at Redwood Credit Union, what she found to be the most effective method of recruiting top-tier talent to the North Bay, she had this to say:

“The single most affective recruitment tool that Redwood Credit Union utilizes in attracting top talent is being voted the North Bay Business Journal's Best Places To Work for six consecutive years in a row.  We have applicants calling us every week asking if we have openings because they heard or read about Redwood Credit Union being recognized and honored for the way in which we treat our employees.  Top-tier talent is naturally driven to seek out organizations that set the bar very high for success and NBBJ's award lets them know that we are focused not just on our members' financial well being but our employees' as well.”Support the community

People want to work for companies that support a good cause and give back to the community. A great example of this is how Exchange Bank created a branding campaign around its philanthropic efforts, such as the Doyle Scholarship.

 One of my most rewarding talent strategies was when I worked in health care. During the time, as still is the case today, we had a nursing shortage. To remain competitive and provide quality care, I partnered with the director of nursing to create our own licensed vocational nurse (LVN) training program. It was an 18-month program, during which the LVNs worked onsite, while learning on the job in a lower level capacity. Upon graduation, the LVN staff were promoted. We noticed that turnover was lower for the trainee staff we hired compared to the other staff. Instead of blaming the talent shortage, we created our own talent pipeline....

Brenda Gilchrist is the cofounder of The HR Matrix, a full spectrum human resources, organization development and search firm. She has extensive talent acquisition experience in start-up to mature companies. Contact Brenda Gilchrist at 707-526-0877 x11 to help you assess your talent acquisition strategy.