Why Flexibility Could be Your #1 Hiring Tactic

Think you’re the only game in town? Think again. If you’re not flexible, the talent you need to fill essential roles will simply move on to other opportunities. Todays’ employees have options. You, however, have just two: get flexible, or get done.

Flexibility: Key to Winning the War for Talent

Within the decade, there’ll be nearly 55 million job openings in the oil and gas sector– and not nearly enough talent to fill them. This vital industry is learning to adapt, and quickly. They’re redefining their view of the ideal candidate, and by doing so, opening opportunities to people who otherwise don’t “look” like traditional oil industry employees. How?

For one, they’re ditching the idea that oil and gas men are, in fact, oil and gas men. Nearly half of new jobs in this sector went to women in 2013, an unprecedented statistic.

For another, the industry is focusing on transferrable skills. In days past, a coal-mining geologist, for example, wouldn’t have been able to land a job with an oil company. He knew coal, after all. Today, employers realize that much of that knowledge transfers, as do the specific skills and aptitudes, and that training can bridge the remaining gaps.

The keyword here is flexibility – a quality that oil and gas companies are filling up on. Too many organizations, though, cling to old-school thinking and lack the willingness to bend to meet the new talent reality.

Outdated Thinking

One company with which I’ve worked had a remarkably unique business model – 20 years ago. Started by healthcare industry executives who were tired of extensive traveling, the small firm tried to stay relatively local. When more extensive travel was required, they told their people, “Look, we know you didn’t’ sign up to travel, but if you take this assignment, we’ll give you $X.” It worked well then, but as they’ve grown, their model hasn’t.

Today, people don’t want to relocate. This company is having a difficult time finding people to fill roles – not just because there’s a shortage of talent, but because they’re being completely unrealistic. For instance, they want people to be physically onsite in healthcare offices. They won’t flex to accommodate alternate strategies, like telecommuting. So, prospective employees move on to a competitor who does.

Companies of the future have to be flexible now. They have to ask themselves, “How can we accommodate the talent?”

Think about pro athletes. Not all sports stars live year-round in the city for which they play. It would be unrealistic – and incredibly stupid! – for the Cavaliers to make LeBron James reside in Cleveland. What’s the point of this ultimately arbitrary requirement if he can do his job and live wherever he wants?

It boggles my mind that companies think they can make those ridiculous proclamations to prospective employees! If the talent is worth it, you accommodate them. It’s that simple.

Flexing on Age

Another area in which most companies show an absurd lack of flexibility is age. The only way that organizations are going to survive is by having people at all levels, from all generations, working together. Learning goes in both directions; older generations are capable of passing on knowledge to younger ones – and younger ones have equally vital skills to share. Together, they create an incredibly dynamic, rich, culture.

Sticking with a mindset of, “We need someone young in this role” is just as rigid and detrimental as thinking, “We need someone with 10-20 years of experience.” Companies are essentially cutting off their noses to spite their faces if they can’t get past what they think talent is supposed to “look” like.

In order to succeed, companies have to flex. The Apples, the Googles, the Zappos  – those are the organizations that lead and will continue to thrive. It’s not the innovative products or technology, or not just. It’s that they recognize that they have to flex as the market changes and as the needs of talent changes. If you don’t adapt and respond, you don’t survive.