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Meeting Talent in a New Way

By Peter Weddle, CEO TAtech

Back in the days before traffic arbitrage, job boards were only as viable as the flow of job seekers they could attract on their own. Today, surveys indicate that the active job seeker population hovers at just 27 percent of the workforce, so it may be time to dust off and apply those old talent attraction skills. But what worked in 2003 is unlikely to be effective in 2023, which begs the question, just what should job boards do to sustain and, even better, increase their flow of applicants?

Now, let’s be clear. Traffic arbitrage will continue to be the way many job boards generate applicants for their job postings. What I’m suggesting is that there is now an opportunity to add a new stream of talent that can help those sites that are struggling to meet employers’ expectations for their ads. To put it another way, it could be a solution for those job boards who are now unable to deliver enough “qualified applicants” to their customers.

I’m not talking about job seekers or candidates, however. I’m talking about prospects – individuals who are not in the job market, who do not consider themselves job seekers and who are already employed and, in many cases, handsomely compensated. They are a significant segment of the 73 percent of the workforce who do not currently visit job boards or do so only rarely.

They are fairly easy to spot. For example, a recent survey by Workhuman found that 36 percent of U.S. employees plan to leave their current jobs within the next year. A LinkedIn survey was even more telling. It found that 61 percent of American workers expect to make a change in their employment. And who can blame them? Over the past two plus decades, far too many have been treated as the proverbial cog in a greed-soaked enterprise.

Moreover, the conventional wisdom is that this is a generational thing. It’s not. Similar surveys since the early 2000s have found a huge population of workers who have a job, a boss and an employer and find one or more dissatisfying or downright unbearable. They will often not take the first step, but if they’re shown a roadmap, many will in fact act on their unhappiness and consider a change in employment.

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So, what will bring such workers to a job board?

Making a voluntary employment change is a time fraught with uncertainty, even for the most successful talent. They want to know is the timing right, are their goals appropriate, what kind of employer should they look for and how can they keep their career moving in the right direction. And, those questions barely scratch the surface of what they need or would like to know and don’t.

And, here’s the rub: Regardless of their profession, craft or trade, they have no reliable source to help them answer those questions. Indeed, there is only one very small cohort of the workforce that has such a support partner – professional athletes – and they pay dearly for the agents who serve that function. What all the rest of those prospects need, therefore, is their own agent or at least a place that can provide the support an agent typically delivers. And job boards are perfectly situated to do just that.

Taking on such a role, however, doesn’t mean simply repurposing the traditional support job boards have provided to job seekers. I’m not, for example, talking about help with writing resumes and providing interview tips. That assistance is certainly important, but it’s not genuine career support. Helping prospects manage their careers encompasses everything from teaching them the fundamental skills of career self-management (so they can take care of themselves) to sound counsel on the issues that arise in any career – how to deal with a lousy boss, when to ask for a raise, finding and appropriately relying on a mentor and, of course, when and how to transition to another job.

This is not a new idea, of course. What makes this point in time different is that prospects now recognize their need. Historically, many maybe even most workers thought their employers would help with the management of their careers. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they believed in the “benevolent boss.” Now, they don’t. Whether they’re Millennials or Boomers, they recognize they’re on their own when it comes to plotting a course for their career.

Those job boards that step up to help them with that challenge and build that capability into their branding will likely see a significant new stream of talent to their sites and that stream will yield numerous high caliber prospects for their customers.

Food for Thought,

Peter Weddle has authored or edited over two dozen books and been a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions.