A lot of people are talking about the current labor shortages around the world. Some baby boomers are retiring earlier than planned as the result of a pandemic-induced “perspective check” on their work habits. Many Gen Z and Millennials are experiencing workplace burnout during the pandemic, causing them to also reassess what matters in their lives.  These dynamics have led me to believe that the future of organizations will run on talent, not labor. Yes, labor shortages will continue because of these shifts, but organizations are also going to evolve. Now and in the future, organizations will depend more and more on the ability to attract talented people. 

Traditional recruiting vs. the future

Traditionally, the power to hire has always been with the organization. Organizations are looking for specific requirements – education, skills, experience, etc. The organization makes an offer and the candidate (who has been anxiously waiting for the decision) accepts.

I don’t think this is going to work in the future. We are already seeing that the commitment to follow through on a job application has softened, and search firms are struggling to populate 8-10 finalists. Instead, organizations are settling for 4-6 finalists who increasingly may withdraw at the end of the process. All of these signs are feedback from the larger system to organizations and their hiring assumptions. 

I believe the future of recruitment is that “talent” will be making the decision on where someone wants to go. The company (instead of the applicant) will be anxiously waiting to see if their offer is accepted. This is a major rule change! The decision-making power rests more with the prospective employee and less with the organization. Another wrinkle in this new rule is that people are making their employment decisions on different factors, and not based solely on money. They are using less traditional criteria to decide on whether or not to take an offer, something that our workplaces may not be thinking about. 

The problem with defaults and decision-making based on unexamined assumptions is that when the external environment shifts, workplaces may not notice what is changing. If the criteria are shifting from money to money plus culture, belonging, purpose, and good fit, many organizations may not be prepared to attract the talent they need.

Reframing workplace habitats 

Shimrit Janes, co-author of the book Nature of Work: The new story of work for a living age (Miller & Janes, 2021)  presented at one of my monthly regenerative leadership calls. The book shares 12 elements of nature and invites us to ponder on the questions that arise when we bring nature into our workplaces, leadership, and organizational thinking. On this call, one aspect she talked about was habitats. In Nature, species are attracted to habitats that have the resources they need to thrive. It may be shelter, water, food, diverse species, etc., but ultimately, species recognize that a habitat allows them to remain healthy

If attracting talent to our organization is essential to its ability to thrive, then we might want to be thinking about the kinds of places that create a sense of fit and belonging and are designed to create conditions where the talent we seek can thrive. 

Using this habitat framework, here are two questions written by Shimrit Janes and Paul Miller that relate to this blog: 

  • How do decision-makers in your organization or work community approach physical and virtual habitats at the moment? Does the approach treat people like machines or like living beings who are impacted by their environment?
  • How could an understanding of “habitats” be applied to your organization or work community to better support people in their work?

Listen to Shimrit and co-author Paul Miller discuss The Nature of Work on the World of Work podcast here.

Here’s some happy pondering: If the future of your organization depended on creating workplaces (virtual or physical) that attracted and retained the talent the organization needs to thrive – what might change in the way you think, design, and lead?