Wargaming for Recruiters

Peter Weddle

We’re now seeing a great many blog posts and webinars offering advice on how to prepare for the future and a return to business-as-usual. In most cases, the counsel is a version of the well-traveled axiom, “Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” It’s a helpful guideline but too vague to be used in determining the specific steps that will be required for effective talent acquisition in the next 12-24 months. Recruiters face a number of possible scenarios during that time, and wargaming is the best way to be ready for whichever of them actually occurs.

Do a browser search of the term “wargaming,” and the vast majority of the results will involve online and video battle games. In business, however, the term refers to a much more benign and consequential activity. It is to simulate the potential scenarios – the state of the economy, the status of a product market – a group or organization could face and to work through the specific actions it must take in each to achieve the best outcome, as measured by the group or organization.

For recruiters, the purpose of wargaming is to identify alternative scenarios that will influence the labor market conditions their employer might face in the near- to mid-term and then to determine the recruiting team’s operating, budgeting, staffing, technology, training and leadership requirements in each of the most likely scenarios in order to meet the employer’s talent acquisition needs effectively. In effect, it’s “Hope for the best, but plan in detail for every possible contingency.”

Successful wargaming ensures an organization is not caught by surprise and forced to take extraordinary steps to adjust. Those steps can be (and usually are) costly and can even force unwelcome changes to a company’s overall business plans. To avoid such setbacks, recruiters must first understand the three basic principles of determining and analyzing wargaming scenarios:
1. There is never a single possible scenario. The best wargaming occurs when participants first think through and identify all of the potential situations they could face. Given time and other limitations, it’s okay to then prioritize the alternatives and focus on the 2-4 most likely, but having a complete list first is the best defense against facing a bolt-out-of-the-blue surprise.
2. Scenarios are never static. They are simply a description of what could happen and those possibilities always reflect the ever-changing circumstances of the real world. Wargaming, therefore, is not a one-off exercise, but a continuous analysis of (a) potential situations an organization could face, (b) necessary adjustments to the priority list of scenarios and (c) changes to strategies and tactics as a result of the adjustments.
3. Scenarios have different implications for different organizations. What might be a positive situation for one, could be negative situation for another. Moreover, each scenario itself often has more than one possible implication for an organization. It can, of course, be a challenge or an opportunity, but it can also be determined. In other words, a scenario that is initially negative for an organization can be transformed into a positive situation with effective planning and action.

So, what are the possible scenarios facing recruiters in the next 12-24 months? They will be shaped by at least two factors: the state of the Covid-19 pandemic and the state of the economy. The following list isn’t intended to be definitive, but it will get you started on your analysis of how those factors will shape the challenges and the opportunities your organization might see in its labor market. Note: For each of the scenarios, pick the dates / deadlines you think are most realistic.

Scenario #1

  • The Covid-19 health threat diminishes by the end of Q2 2021
  • The economy begins to climb out of the recession by the end of Q2 2021

Scenario #2

  • The Covid-19 health threat is still a serious concern at the end of Q2 2021
  • The economy begins to climb out of the recession by the end of Q2 2021

Scenario #3

  • The Covid-19 health threat diminishes by the end of Q2 2021
  • The economy is still in recession at the end of Q2 2021

Scenario #4

  • The Covid-19 health threat is still a serious concern at the end of Q2 2021
  • The economy is still in recession at the end of Q2 2021

Scenario #5

  • Some other factor (e.g., a change in governmental leadership, increased violence on the streets) enters the picture and dramatically changes circumstances.

Wargaming, at least as far as its application in talent acquisition, isn’t a quest for world dominance, but it is a way to give an employer a competitive advantage in the War for Top Talent.

Food for Thought,
Peter

Peter Weddle is the author or editor of over two dozen books and a former columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the founder and CEO of TAtech: The Association for Talent Acquisition Solutions. You can check out his latest books on Amazon or in the TAtech Bookstore.

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