Feb 11, 2013

Two Strategies That Help Small-To-Midsize Businesses Overcome the Talent Gap

Kevin Erickson

Kevin Erickson

Two Strategies That Help Small-To-Midsize Businesses Overcome the Talent Gap
working mom
working mom

A recent Manpower study revealed that only 73% of senior human resource managers believed their organizations had the talent necessary to implement its business strategies. American businesses struggle to find enough qualified resources to fulfill demand, particularly in STEM-related fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Over the next ten years baby boomers, who represent nearly 50% of the current workforce and hold 25% of the STEM jobs, will rapidly exit the traditional workforce. Organizations are facing an urgent need to source, develop, and retain talent. Organizations that fail at this process will become irrelevant and then extinct.

Small-to-midsize businesses are at greater risk than are larger multi-national organizations because they may not appear as attractive or stable to candidates, do not have the financial or human capital resources to complete in a global economy, or cannot offer specialized or diverse career paths. Moreover, the uncertainty around upcoming healthcare changes, increasing taxes, and economic uncertainty may discourage smaller businesses from investing in new resources, resulting in less growth and fewer opportunities to develop talent. Many applicants do not have the right education, experience, or backgrounds to adequately meet the needs of our rapidly changing work environments. To compete for talent in the emerging marketplace, small and midsize businesses need to seek alternative staffing models that offer greater flexibility and sourcing options than traditional channels.

Below are two strategies that help small-to-midsize businesses overcome the talent gap.

1.     Embrace Temporary and Virtual Workforce Mobility

According to the World Economic Forum, temporary mobility involves short-term work or study in another location, offering relatively easy opportunities to access required skills, while virtual mobility is made possible by a networked world, enabling individuals to carry out their profession regardless of their location. Smaller businesses can access, attract and source resources for temporary or permanent work assignments, and allow them to work at their convenience from anywhere. Moreover, flexible work arrangements and virtual offices support a performance-based work culture that values results rather than presence. At Best Buy, a results-only work environment (ROWE), a virtual mobility strategy that gives employees the freedom to accomplish their tasks under their own terms, increased productivity by 35%.

Implementing virtual workforce strategies enables firms to attract talent that is unable or unwilling to work full-time from the office. David Arkless, President of Corporate and Government Affairs at Manpower, has stated their research indicates that 30% of all tasks in corporations could be done virtually, and that virtual mobility strategies enable women who were previously excluded from the active workforce to participate.

There are many search firms or online job boards, such as FlexJobs, TasksEveryDay as well as traditional recruiting firms, that focus on flex jobs, freelancers, or individuals seeking full or part-time work from home. Small-to-midsize businesses should embrace temporary and virtual mobility strategies to add talented temporary and full-time employees that they would not normally be able to recruit and hire.


  • IDENTIFY TEMPORARY OR VIRTUAL JOBS CANDIDATES: The first step to implement temporary or virtual mobility strategy is to identify the jobs, business functions, departments, or 3rd party services in your organization that can be performed remotely with either a permanent or temporary workforce.

  • BE WILLLING TO MODIFY CULTURAL NORMS: Successful utilization of temporary or virtual mobility strategies often requires small-to-midsize organizations to change how it perceives employee impact from visible or actual hours worked to a results orientated framework. Moreover, firms may need to become more flexible on when work is performed while establishing clear expectations on resource availability or response time.

  • UTILIZE COLLABORATIVE TOOLS AND CLOUD-COMPUTING: A remote workforce requires instant access to business applications, workflow, and data files including the ability to roam seamlessly between multiple devices. Companies should explore cloud-based services and data to enable an effective temporary or virtual mobility workforce. Successful virtual environments are often paperless, utilize VOIP, and have made investments in mobile security and collaboration tools.

  • TRACK, MEASURE AND REFINE STRATEGY: Be flexible to adapt your virtual strategy to fit the particular needs of your organization. Ongoing analysis and refinement will ensure a successful long-term implementation that leads to lower costs, better retention, and increased assess to a skilled virtual workforce.

2. Extend the Talent Pool Utilizing the “Mommy Workforce” and Retired Executives

Large pools of developed talent exist that are under-utilized and are available to small and midmarket firms. Companies need to develop recruiting strategies and employment policies that incorporate the skills and capabilities of women, older professionals, and highly skilled immigrants. Firms that develop solutions to barriers that typically restrict women, older professionals, or immigrants from finding suitable jobs will have greater access to highly trained workforce. Easily available childcare, flexible work options, temporary and virtual mobility, advisory roles, and improved options for licensing are potential solutions to common problems restricting these talents pools.

  • “Mommy Workforce”

The Center for Work-life Policy indicates that 89% of women who voluntarily leave their jobs – for example to raise a child – want to go back to work but only 40% have been able to find full-time, mainstream jobs. In addition, many women desire to return to the workforce in either part-time or less demanding full-time jobs, but are unable to find meaningful work. A significant talent pool exists if your firm is willing to be flexible in its staffing or work arrangements. Options such as job sharing, project based initiatives, part-time professional roles, or operational roles are great places to utilize part-time resources. Search firms, such as MomCorps, help match companies and qualified candidates.

  • Retired Executives and Consultants

Talent is not defined by age, and many older employees or retires have significant technical, managerial and operational skills that can be utilized on a temporary or consulting basis. A 2011 survey by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies shows that 39% of workers are planning to work past age 70 without retiring; 54% of workers intend to keep working once they retire.  Over the next 20 years there will be a significant shift as the baby boomers leave the marketplace. Many retirees desire to continue to work for either the “love of the game” or for pure financial reasons and are looking for an organization to provide value. Firms like ExecBrainTrust and Senior Experten Service (SES) help match qualified retirees with corporate opportunities.

Small-to-midsize firms should take risks in seeking non-traditional solutions to solving its resource needs. By embracing virtual mobility and flexible work arrangements firms can hire great resources.


The worst talent shortages are yet to come, specifically in STEM-related fields. Small-to-midsize firms must take risks in seeking non-traditional solutions to solving its resource needs. A firm’s success or failure is often dependent on the caliber or cost of its people. Using workforce flexibility strategies as a competitive advantage to attract talented, diverse or specialized resources enables firms to compete in an evolving global economy.

Kevin Erickson is a Senior Manager in Credera’s Management Consulting group. Our Management Consulting group works with client leaders to drive their agenda and further their mission. We work side by side with clients to support the changes required in strategy, organization, process, analytics and technology to make transformation a reality. For additional information, you can reach us or follow us on Twitter at @Credera.

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