Restructure work to manage talent gaps

Many businesses are stuck in a holding pattern; they’ve frozen hiring or laid off workers. Despite this widespread reaction, now is the best time to acquire and develop talent that is typically difficult to find. At the very least, it is an opportunity to evaluate how your organization allocates job responsibilities and resolve potential bottlenecks in advance.

No matter what circumstances are influencing the workforce more broadly, most companies consistently compete to hire for specific skill sets. This can lead to roles remaining empty for months, particularly during periods of high turnover. Traditional hiring methodologies are unable to close the talent gaps at pace. 

Talent gaps expand when organizations reflexively allocate an increasing number of vital competencies to a limited number of employees. Over time, this process creates weaknesses that can derail productivity when unforeseen circumstances shake up the workforce.

The problem begins with the instinct to hire a single expert who is capable of covering every aspect of a role… and a little extra. Over time, these superstars are given more and more responsibility, until they become impossible to replace because no new hire could shoulder the list of competencies that the organization now requires. 

For example, the tendency is to hunt for an engineer with excellent soft communication skills. Those people exist, but they are rare and the communication requirements are not required for their role. A better approach would be to break down the role’s requirements and restructure the tasks to rely on competencies from other employees. 

Breaking down and restructuring improves allocation of employee competencies and diminishes the threat of potential skill bottlenecks. This could be accomplished by outsourcing to contractors, borrowing skill sets from within different departments, or hiring additional employees with overlapping competencies.

Rather than sinking enormous time, money and responsibility into an irreplaceable employee, consider the benefits of distributing the required tasks among a larger team. This approach has the potential to increase consistency and long-term stability even during periods of uncertainty. It also has the benefit of creating opportunities for hiring employees of greater diversity (as tasks are decoupled from rigid role requirements), and for remote hiring (as tasks are evaluated to determine whether staff are required to be physically present).

Restructuring your organization’s work processes is not something that can be done quickly, nor should it be. Instead, look for areas where excessive responsibility on key individuals could cause problems. Then, consider how their responsibilities could be unpacked and reallocated, so these high value team members are free to do their best work with appropriate support and there is less danger of suddenly needing to hire a unicorn in their absence.