Matching Supply with Demand

13 05 2011

A large part of talent management comes down to understanding an organization’s demand for talent and then identifying and or building a supply of internal and external candidates to fill that demand.  Demand can be described by answering a set of questions like the following:

  • What are the goals of the business?
  • What are the types of work required to meet those goals?
  • What are the exact jobs that need to be filled to accomplish that work?
  • How many of those positions (holding each of those jobs) need to be filled?  And by when?

These questions and others like that can be used by Talent Managers to best understand the demand for talent (i.e. work capacity) in their organization.  Constantly layered on top of that is the same ambiguity that senior managers are facing, namely: conditions change, markets change, the tactical and strategic goals of the business change – which all constantly affects the underlying demand for talent.

Demand may be a moving target, but it can certainly be better managed with the proper attention.   By segmenting jobs according to their importance to the business, HR professionals have direction on where to focus their integrated talent management lens first.  When looking at a particular job, an integrated approach can help better characterize the demand for that type of work.  By collecting metrics on a per job basis it can help forecast supply needs or prioritize work.  What is the turnover for a particular job?  What is the typical time for a job of that type to remain unfilled?  Does it change by geography or organization? Is demand for this job seasonal?  Is demand for this job affected by growth in demand for another job (e.g. when I hire three software engineers does that open a need for new quality engineer and a technical writer)?

When an organization better understands the changing demand for talent inside its organization it can more proactively manage its supply.  Supply of talent can come from inside or outside the organization.  Each solution has its own costs.  External talent may require advertising and or agency fees.  Internal moves open up new positions in the organization that may need to be filled. Wherever a candidate comes from, the likelihood that the position is filled in the way an organization would prefer, can be influenced by managing supply.

For instance, a company that wishes to increase its internal promotions rate may take normal measures of posting an open position internally for some amount of time before advertising it to the outside world.  An organization with an integrated approach to talent management would be able to extend that effort further by having full knowledge of everyone in the organization that currently aspires to that type of job (“demand”).  In addition, an integrated system would give both external recruiters and internal succession planners a full listing of those employees who had been assessed as being a good fit for that type of job or who were ready for that type of job rotation.  In this case, information about the “supply” has been generated by various talent assessment and career planning processes to give the organization a “day-one” list of suspects to fill a particular role.

An integrated talent management approach mingles data produced from all of the different talent management processes to better prepare and inform the organization.  In the military, various forces working across air, land and sea endeavor to work off what is called a Common Operational Picture or “COP.”  The idea is for all of your combatants to have the same understanding of the battlefield—the location of objectives, where your forces are, and where the enemy is.  An integrated approach to talent is the same way.  You want your Recruiters, your Compensation professionals, your Organizational development team, your trainers, and your field HR professionals to all have a common view.   The view that they share combines a shared understanding of what the organization needs to achieve its goals, along with the current skills of its available workforce (internal and external), combined with the actual aspirations of that workforce.  Where those three realms of information intersect is useful information that can be used by all of the HR domains.

Mike Ditson




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