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HR Roundtable: Bridging the Talent Gap

Recruiters and HR consultants see utilities taking an increasingly comprehensive approach to addressing tomorrow’s personnel challenges.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 2006

of dollars in equity built up in unvested options. But the fact is, companies that are recruiting senior leadership are accustomed to dealing with that, and it is less of a retention issue than it was in the past.

Fortnightly: How do companies develop a good strategy for closing the talent gap?

Mulvaney (ICF Caliber): Really examine your organization. Who are the people in key positions? Are they planning to retire in five or 10 years? What skills will be leaving when they retire? Is there already a strategy in place to deal with this?

Any organization taking a future-oriented look should consider not just who is retiring but also what will be needed down the road. What skills will be needed five or 15 years from now? The industry has gone through a lot of change, and changes are continuing. That affects the skills you need.

Talkington (Heidrick & Struggles): It’s a bit of blocking and tackling, and doing it with a lot of discipline. You have to create an attractive career path with a set of opportunities to come in at all levels. You have to offer a very competitive compensation package, which in some cases can be a challenge to the equity of existing employees.

Fust (Korn/Ferry): Companies should view this the same way they would any other strategic process or supply-chain issue. It’s not just an HR problem, but an issue that affects shareholder value and needs to be top of mind for senior executives. From a long-term planning standpoint, it should be elevated beyond HR and into key leadership.

Fortnightly: What is the appropriate role for senior executives and directors? How should they be involved?

Shields (Spencer Stuart): It’s one of the most important things the top management and board members can focus on, because it ensures the lifeblood of the company.

Crowell (Mercer Management Consulting): Senior people need to approve of a strategic plan and monitor it carefully to make sure it gets implemented across the whole breadth of the organization. And they need to make sure there really is a strategy, and all the elements fit into it. There’s a tendency to try to do everything, and if you do that you will find that nothing becomes important. You go nowhere, even though you are overworking your staff.

Fortnightly: What priorities should companies focus on?

Lazor (The Hay Group): Attention needs to be paid to the group that remains. We are working with clients to focus on that group, with training programs, knowledge-retention and efforts to sift potential leaders. It’s important to keep developing technical talent, because it’s what it takes to run the ship, and because you need to pull leaders from that group. These folks are increasingly at risk in the organization, because you don’t know their intentions.

Crowell (Mercer Management Consulting): Knowledge management and knowledge transfer are big issues in the aging workforce. How do you retain the knowledge these people have? Some people are doing a good job using IT systems to help retain that information. Other efforts like mentoring and