5-Open Secrets Driving the Talent Shortage

By Chris Lee on December, 5 2018
Chris Lee

Chris is a co-founder at Carv and resident blogger. Chris also leads new partnerships, market development, and sales.


It’s China! Not only did they take our jobs, but they also impeded our ability to train the next generation of talent. Of course, I’m just kidding on both accounts as I have no idea if they are accurate and have no intention of spreading alternative facts!  This whole paragraph is cute but I’m not sure it will play well with your audience...


Is there a physical talent shortage or a misuse existing human capital?


But through my experience I would strike: “as an independent contributor,” building skills and interviewing business owners, I’ve observed five factors driving our talent shortage that seem to be open-secrets in the sense they are all hidden in plain sight. They have huge implications for resource management, and an even more significant impact on the US economy, jobs, “the and” strike the  future of work.

So what are the open-secrets driving the U.S. talent shortage in tech and knowledge workers? The biggest overarching secret is that we don’t have a talent shortage. The talent shortage is a symptom of collective failure in managing the talent we have. The issue extends from unseen, excess resource capacity and bad incentive/pay structures, which has created a glass ceiling for our talent’s output and productivity growth in the United States.

Here’s are the Five Secrets:


1. Boredom or Burnout:


Individual resources are often not allocated an optimal workload. Resources (people) are either bored or overwhelmed because scheduling tools don’t take into account the rate at which different roles contribute to a project. For example, assigning a developer and product manager to a project typically results in a linear portion of their calendar being blocked off for the project's duration, which is not reflective of their involvement in the project.  

What does a product manager often do while the developer is coding their requirements?”  David Graeber’s new work suggests they pretend to work OR do menial, nonproductive tasks. The worst part is that the product manager is bored to death, begins to hate the company, drags down those around them and is less effective when they have an optimal workload due to their lousy attitude that was cultivated during the downtime.


2. Talent Hoarding & Empire Building

Talent hoarding, not sharing your team even if they have free time, and empire building, growing a team without a genuine business need are HUGE problems. Due to human nature, talent hoarding and empire building are all too common in mid to large size companies. When a manager behaves in this manner, they hoard the company’s best talent regardless of their availability and create redundancies as they needlessly expand their resource count.


3. Bad Pay Structure

Salary should be decoupled from the classical 40-hour work week. This relationship fosters poor productivity in the workplace. Paying employees for an expected set of deliverables increases productivity  AND employees are incentivized to find additional project roles [or even second jobs]. New research is revealing that employees are only productive for half of their workday! (Check out the book “Rest” or this study). As an employee, can you imagine having the opportunity to finish work for your current company [in 3 hours/day] and then work on your side hustle in the open rather than hiding it on a secondary browser/monitor at the office?

Of course, many people would take more leisure time rather than doubling down on a side hustle, but a considerable portion would take on additional paid work to supplement incomes and probably still work less the 40 hours per week! Not only would this single-handedly fix the talent shortage, but it would result in enormous, record-breaking economic growth from productivity gains.


4. Copy & Pasting

Why are millennials labeled as “lazy” employees? It's because they get stuff done quickly and don't see any reason to hide their resulting boredom. They leverage technology to complete their jobs, and FAST. Often this is in stark comparison to more experienced employees that allocate more time to automatable tasks, which typically includes moving vast amounts of data between apps (hence Copy & Pasting).

Millennials are experts at find  an online tool or writing scripts to do all that work for them and finish their task in half the time. For example, Zapier automates email clean up, dropbox eliminates searching for a thumb drive, and Trello eliminates duplicate team memos/updates. This search for tools and then setting them up create a steep ramp up/down for project work. Managers often overlook this when allocate work, especially to tech savvy employees. This is why we [Carv] built the customization ramp-up/down curves for project modeling.


5. Participation Trophies


“Participation trophy mentality”  has an adverse effect on work ethic and grit by reducing the barrier to praise. Someone may argue that giving small tokens of appreciation are fun, good for self-esteem, and increase participation in activities for kids. However, when was the last time you got paid or got a promotion for showing up? [NEVER] And are these rewards encouraging people to pursue activities that don’t match their skills or passion? [YES].  This mentality is showing up in the workplace as people expect quick raises, constant accolades, and often don’t realize they should constantly seek ways to improve their skills. These items are factors in people spending too much time in the wrong career and minimizes the amount of time and effort people think is required to excel.

It’s important to admit that this behavior exists in order to address the problem. Once it’s in the open, we can look for tools that help identify periods of downtime that employees can use to learn new skills. For example, a project’s ramp-down period is the perfect time to encourage your designer to learn HTML and CSS.  Employers with the best retention rates and employee satisfaction even find way to fund the course!

So what now?

Think about how these 5 items manifest in your workplace. All managers and individual contributors know they exist at some level, but few are willing to take the necessary steps to change them (well Carv is...). Take the next step and begin fixing one of these items in your organization. The first step is converting it from an open-secret, to open conversation.


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