Does ‘Talent Acquisition’ Have a Dirty Little Secret?

Does ‘Talent Acquisition’ Have a Dirty Little Secret?

As a member of the HR Leadership Group of Northeast Ohio, I have enjoyed outstanding presentations from qualified, strategic HR leaders. This month’s meeting was no exception. Bob Danna, Managing Director of Deloitte Consulting discussed the Future of HR with an emphasis on digital transformation. Bob covered a wide range of trends stemming from research conducted by Bersin by Deloitte.


Though I read the Bersin by Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report in advance, Bob made one comment that surprised me. Bob pointed out that, for the first time five generations are in the workforce. That’s not what surprised me. He also said many baby boomers would work another twenty to thirty years. That surprised me. While I recognize the economic, social and personal reasons boomers may keep working, the statement caught me off guard. Once it sank in, my thoughts went in another direction. How will boomers compete in the job market?


My question is not just about skills, abilities, attitudes or energy levels of boomers. It’s also about age bias.


Diversity and inclusion is a topic near and dear to HR and talent acquisition professionals and provides focus on the benefits and importance of having a diverse workforce. Pay equality for women and breaking-the-glass-ceiling are also at the forefront of discussions among the HR and talent acquisition community. Yet age bias seems to be an (unofficially) accepted practice. Not everywhere, nor for every employer, but common.


An NPR.ORG article cites research conducted by a U.C. Irvine professor, David Neumark who sent 40,000 resumes for thousands of real jobs. The resumes were identical except for age. “The call-back rate — the rate by which employers contact us and say we’d like to interview you — drops from young applicants to middle-aged applicants and drops further from middle-aged applicants to older applicants,” Neumark says.


Another article, this one by Liz Ryan, CEO of Human Workplace, discusses The Ugly Truth About Age Discrimination. Liz describes a conversation with a person who experienced age discrimination, and why employers do themselves a disservice by avoiding more experienced workers. She also suggests steps boomers (and others) can take to minimize the impact of age bias.


In my executive search practice, I hear from seasoned professionals who say they experience age bias in their job search, but do not pursue claims for fear of being labeled a troublemaker. They just want to work. For many of these job seekers, frustration and a sense of hopelessness can set in, especially when they are rejected for multiple roles they feel qualified for.


While legitimate reasons exist for targeting and hiring early career candidates, many organizations may miss an opportunity to attract exceptional talent that is readily available. One McKinsey study showed that 40% of companies that plan to hire have had unfilled openings for 6 months or longer because they can’t find qualified applicants. In addition, many surveys of CEO’s point out the need for more and better leadership to reach strategic goals. So, while age bias may be a contentious topic, few would argue the need to attract more talent and leadership.


The challenge is how to attract the best talent while setting aside bias. One approach is to revamp talent acquisition practices, starting with the traditional job description (which frequently include desired years of experience). Lou Adler, author of The Essential Guide for Hiring suggests using a Performance Profile, which describes desired outcomes for a role instead of listing desired experiences for a candidate. For an example of a performance profile, click here.


Job seekers concerned about age bias should be proactive as well, starting by leveraging strengths in their job search-especially those that highlight leadership skills and experience. Instead of trying to fit every possible job opportunity, job seekers should embrace the differences that qualify them for the best roles. Also, when talking with decision makers, job seekers should try to focus on the needs of the hiring manager. Once those needs are understood, job seekers can describe how they are uniquely qualified to help.


While age bias may never disappear, rising demand for talent and leadership will create more opportunity for boomers to continue adding value, even for another twenty to thirty years. Improved processes by hiring managers and job seekers may also help.


To learn more about performance based hiring, please contact


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Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question – an Article by Karl Driggs

Thanks to Karl Driggs for this blog post, published with his permission. Please contact Karl with questions about succession planning and leadership.

Begin by Asking the “Right” Question

By Karl Driggs SBGSolutions

A long standing leadership philosophy was summarized by John C. Maxwell in his book Good Leaders Ask Great Questions in 2014. To quote him directly, “Good leaders ask great questions that inspire others to dream more, think more, learn more, do more, and become more.” This belief supports a critical need within middle market companies today who continue to struggle in attracting, recruiting, retaining and developing talent.

There is one key question that leaders should ask themselves as they form their strategic foundation for the business. The question is simple, succinct, understandable and relatable and should serve as the foundational inquiry for supporting who gets hired and ultimately who leads and manages key areas of the company – “What one belief do all employees share that the leadership team can attribute to the company’s growth and success?”

The great news is that more and more middle market companies are spending the time to develop a strategic plan to guide the business direction. The challenge remains that most jump right into the middle of the process by setting goals like “10% revenue growth” or “net profit of 27%”. Of course, these financial goals are important and create easily measurable results, but what they lack is the inspiration that guides the attainment of such goals.

Begin with this thought – As a leader, what core belief do you share and instill in employees that creates the success of your business? The answer to this one question will create clarity and serve as a foundation for the behaviors of all employees. Simon Sinek, in his highly regarded Ted Talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action 1 noted that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it”. The same argument can be made for why employees stay and thrive with a company….They already know what you do, what they want to know is why you do it and how they fit in.

Using a financial service firm as an example, a company may provide tax planning and savings services to middle income families. They approach the business through understanding their client’s needs and state that their superior service is the value: What this answers is the “how”, but not the “why”. What the client really wants to know is that you “believe that a person’s hard earned money should be protected through the minimization of tax impact balanced with a short term and long term income growth strategy for them to achieve their dreams”. This belief statement is much more inspiring, creates emotion and encourages action. It can also set a standard and vision for all employees of the firm.

As leaders, we should leverage our belief statements to hire, develop and retain employees. When interviewing, we should educate our candidates to our beliefs and ensure that they are clear that we expect them to share this belief. As we hold performance reviews, we should measure the existing employee’s actions in alignment with our beliefs. In addition, when we create development plans for key roles, we should make sure that those employees can explain and instill our belief’s in others.

2018 is right around the corner and strategic planning sessions will be held in the next few months. As you approach your plan, consider revisiting your beliefs as a leader of the company. Make sure that you take advantage of the time spent in creating your plans by inspiring your staff to see the value of these beliefs and how they can use them to drive their actions. Remember one “right” question can set the trajectory for your growth and success.


About Karl Driggs and SBGSolutions Karl has been working in succession planning for the past 18 years. As a partner in a small marketing consulting firm he prepared the business for the sale to a public company. He has spent his recent years working with mid market companies implementing high growth strategies and founder / key person succession plans. His hands on approach mixed with his true desire to see others succeed is a passion.

SBGSolutions was founded by Karl to bring his unique offering to the Northeast Ohio market. The goal of SBGSolutions is to “Inspire others to be the solution” through an engagement so that the solutions developed are sustainable over time. Visit SBGSolutions at and follow Karl on Twitter @sbgsolutions



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