Talent Shortage? It’s Time to Get Creative

Jamie Livingston looks at the talent shortage facing businesses, and why creativity is key in solving the problem.

A recent survey conducted by the IOD in Scotland showed that 44% of its members didn’t believe they had the right number of skilled people for their current jobs and 35% of respondents did not feel confident they can recruit people with the right skills this year.

Shocking on the one hand, but we should not be surprised by the results.

We await the results of our most recent census, but assuming the shape of the population is similar to that of the last one (taken in 2011) our aging population is now starting to retire, and we simply have a smaller number of skilled professionals coming behind them.

This demographic talent shortage has been further compounded by European talent heading home in the lead up to, and following Brexit, and uncertainty about independence keeping a number of ex-pats from returning to Scotland.

The imbalance between supply and demand is seeing wage inflation bite and businesses are looking at how quickly they can build these increased staff costs into the costs their consumers are prepared to pay.

All these factors in conjunction with ‘the great resignation’ are making for head scratching times for business leaders.

So, what to do?

There is no simple solution, but one thing is for sure, we are going to have to learn to think more creatively.

As far back as 2002 the Partnership for 21st Century Learning (a US coalition including Apple, Cisco, Microsoft and experts from the US Department of Education) was charged with determining what skills children need to thrive in the twenty first century. The old answer was the three RS – reading, writing and arithmetic. The new answer? The four Cs: Creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and cooperation.

In 2010, researchers at IBM wanted a better understanding of the skills required to run a company. They asked over 1,500 corporate leaders in sixty different countries about the quality most important in a CEO. Once again, creativity came in first.

Perhaps most compelling, Adobe’s State of Create, a 2016 survey of over 5,000 adults across the UK, US, Japan, Germany and France, found that companies that invest in creativity surpass their rivals in revenue growth, market share, competitive leadership and customer satisfaction.

The skills gap will not simply be addressed by finding more talent, we are going to have make sure our creative thinkers have routes to the top of organisations and that developing creativity is given appropriate credence in our education and L&D programmes.

So how creative are our current and next generation leaders?

At Livingston James, we regularly support our clients when they are looking at internal and external CEO succession options and we use a mixture of assessment tools to look at a candidate’s ability to develop and implement creative strategies. Complimenting evidence-based assessment of what someone has actually done, we utilise tools such as Saville Wave to look at predictive indicators of someone’s ability to ‘create innovation’.  So the tools are there to make sure we are promoting talent with strong creative ability. It is when it comes to developing the competence, we need to look at doing things differently.

Traditional career paths see people becoming deep technical experts in their vertical, with improvement in efficiency, subject matter knowledge and ability to lead others in their area of competence being what are generally assessed for promotion. Developing creativity requires time for career development beyond someone’s core competence, space for creative thinking and the opportunity to ‘fail forward’ – three things that are hard to offer when resources are already stretched to the max.

Hard to offer perhaps, but these are experiences that organisations must offer if we are to develop leaders able to succeed in a fast evolving and talent short market.

Jamie Livingston is the Founder and CEO of Livingston James Group.  For a confidential discussion around your talent needs, contact [email protected] 

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