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Why There is an Abundance of Human Capital

The title of this article may be contrary to what most believe about the availability of human resources. When I talk to leaders from nearly every industry across multiple geographies, I get a common response when asked “what’s your biggest challenge?” They say, “We can’t find enough skilled people to get the work done!”

The economic engine in most of the industrialized countries and many developing nations is humming along right now. Unemployment levels are low and the demand for labor is growing. Yet here I am suggesting that we have an abundant supply of people. How can this be?

There’s no doubt that a scarcity mentality toward human capital exists. Note, I didn’t say scarcity, but instead scarcity mentality. Scarcity is based on a physical state of demand outstripping supply. A scarcity mentality, on the other hand, is a state of mind.

A scarcity mentality (or mindset) is based on two factors. You perceive that there are simply not enough resources to go around for everyone, and of the resources that you do have, you’re unable to effectively utilize their output. This latter point creates as much of a scarcity mentality as the mere perception of limited resources. When the two occur in tandem, it becomes increasingly more challenging to shift away from the scarcity mindset.

There are noticeable gaps that exist in today’s labor market which make the case for a scarcity mindset. Recent surveys suggest that 92% of American employers believe that workers are not as skilled as they need to be, while 61% of employees agree that a skills gap exists. Furthermore, the gap between the attention employees are paying to non-value and value-added tasks is widening as well. This isn’t as much of a reflection on individual personalities as it is of the digitally-connected world in which we operate.

In addition to the skills and attention gaps that exist, there is growing evidence of a widening trust gap in today’s business environment. Research indicates that only 10% of employees trust that their leaders will make the right decision in times of uncertainty. This is a startling statistic and one that should concern most leaders, since uncertain times are a certainty in any organization. These low levels of trust reflect the short-term reaction to challenging times that occur in many companies, almost always affecting people.

This growing body of evidence further supports the notion that scarcity exists in the workforce.

So why do more than 2 million applicants flock to Google each year? While the company ranks high in average compensation - a major attraction that can’t be overlooked - they compete in an industry that is among the most competitive in the world, especially for software engineering talent. In 2017, Google was ranked at the top of Fortune’s list of the “Best Companies to Work for” for the sixth consecutive year, out of the eleven years they’ve been on the list, and rated one of the “Best Places to Work” by Glassdoor for nine straight years.

This isn’t a phenomenon that’s exclusive to the tech world only. In every industry, there are countless examples of organizations that have repeatedly set a standard for high performance, while attracting the best and brightest talent.

Leaders in these talent magnets have made a shift from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance by making purpose a central part of their organizations’ DNA. They recognize the need to connect with people at an emotional level, not just a cognitive one to experience true abundance in their human capital. Purpose connects emotionally because it answers the question why. Why does this organization matter to me? Why should I work so hard to improve the business? Why should I choose this company over another?

These purpose-driven leaders have made the shift from a scarcity mentality to one of abundance by:

  • Removing limiting beliefs. These include widely-held beliefs about the work ethic of millennials, the lack of connection all generations have to purpose, and the limits on the potential of others.

  • Building an authentic organization. Authenticity is about living out your purpose for all to see, even when no one is looking. Leaders in authentic organizations are steadfast in their approach and, when consistent in their authenticity, they energize others to act and create amazing results over the long run.

  • Fostering a culture of creativity. True creativity occurs at some of the highest levels of energy – when people are fully engaged and excited to co-create the future of the business. Purpose-driven leaders have been successful at unleashing the creative genius in others by:

  • Focusing their people on their strengths and the skill and talents that they love to do.

    • Simplifying the operations of the business so they can narrow the attention gap and provide time and space for people to create.

  • Empowering their people to make informed decisions, and to bear the responsibility and accountability for those decisions.

  • Recognizing their people even when their creative output adds no immediate value to the business.

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