According to a 2018 survey by Manpower Group Talent Shortage, more employers than ever are struggling to fill open jobs – 45% globally say they can’t find the skills they need, compared to 40% in 2017, the highest for a decade.

So how can employers stay one step ahead of the rest and be victorious in this war for talent?

Although many line managers are eager to recruit externally when a vacancy appears, in this increasingly competitive talent market, identifying and growing your talent internally may be the solution.

Here’s why it’s time to help managers embrace internal recruitment, and start thinking inside the box.

Faster results and better ROI

As the talent market becomes fiercer, the recruitment process will take longer and be more expensive. And, even when you’ve had a job offer accepted, there is no guarantee your new recruit will show up on the first day. In a survey of 1000 office workers, 37.5% told us that at one point in their career they’d accepted a role then changed their minds.

The process for recruiting internally on the other hand is more cost and time effective – usually, managers talk to their employees directly about a vacancy, or maybe send out a mass email or post an announcement in communal areas. No going through external recruitment agencies, no sifting through hundreds of CVs, and far less time spent conducting lengthy interviews trying to get to know the candidate.

What’s more, because they already know the company, its culture and its people, internal recruits are more likely to hit the ground running, and get settled into the new role quicker than an external hire.

Boosts employee engagement and performance

To keep employees engaged and productive, businesses need to create an environment where staff feel valued, encouraged and sought after by internal leaders. That means that if your company has a culture where managers consistently look for opportunities to let their team members take on new roles and responsibilities and rise through the ranks to leadership positions, it will motivate everyone to work hard.

Workplace and technology strategist Jessica Miller Merrell takes it further by suggesting that companies should create an ‘internal war for talent’, in which employees healthily compete against one another for promotions in order to drive productivity for the business. While this approach may not work for every role, or every organisation, ensuring employees are encouraged to apply for vacancies – and providing appropriate feedback if they aren’t selected – will help employees focus on what they can do to make a difference for themselves, and for your organisation.

Of course, external recruiting still has its benefits, but failing to even consider existing employees in favour of external candidates is guaranteed to work against you.

Employees are more likely to stay

The war for talent isn’t just about sourcing new employees with the right skills, but also holding onto the ones that you currently have. Research by Linkedin showed that 73% of employees are ‘passive job seekers’ and that 33% of employees rate career growth as their number one motivation to explore job opportunities outside their current employers.

It’s therefore essential that, to keep your best employees, you foster career advancement and provide opportunities for employees to grow and enhance their knowledge, skills and experience.

Helps to build your employer brand

If you are genuinely focused on helping employees grow and develop with you, you’ll find they’ll be happy to share their experiences with others – either through the careers pages on your own website, on sites like Glassdoor or by acting as an ambassador for you at recruitment-led events.

Spreading the word about your company in this way, ensures you’ll become more appealing as a potential employer, which will help your company attract the best external talent in the future.

Of course, there will be occasions when hiring internally is not the appropriate solution, and you’ll have to set your sights elsewhere. But, if you’re looking to gain an advantage in the war for talent, then it’s time to ensure you really are nurturing the resources you already have.

Why not start by meeting with the management team to explore the pros and cons of your external recruitment activities? If you can, equip yourself with key stats – such as your historic recruitment costs, the time it takes to fill vacancies and retention rates, plus and availability of key skills in the external market – to help inform the conversation. For example, if skills gaps are identified, you can argue the case for investing in training or mentoring programs as an alternative to recruitment. If time to fill is an issue (after all, you do need to replace those that are progressing through the company), then maybe it’s worth buddying up with a local University or college to help you find your future stars.

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Chris Wells