It is 17 years since two executives at McKinseys coined the term ‘war for talent’ in a Harvard Business Review article to describe the new era of how organisations were starting to manage their top people. However, while the war for talent rhetoric may still be banded along the corridors of UK Plc, it would seem that these approaches to talent management have had their day.
The recent KPMG global survey of HR professionals published a few months ago made for stark reading – not least for those responsible for staff procurement. It suggested that the one-size-fits-all approach to talent management has become ‘antiquated’ and it warned business leaders of the need to change their game plan quickly, or risk losing the global war for talent.
Failure to do so, it added, could see them rooted in an endless battle to search and retain a high-performing few ‘while ignoring the needs of the many and the whole’. So what should business leaders do to ensure they don’t end up on the losing side of this war for talent?
It is important to recognise the key challenges that need to be overcome.
The survey highlights 3 key areas that organisations must seek to address. First, there is the on-going skills crisis that is showing sign of going away anytime soon. Second is the rapid rise in global mobility. And third, competition between organisations is intensifying.
Indeed, as more new job opportunities are being created, a direct result of improving economic conditions, job migration will invariably rise over the next two years. As such employers will need to become more savvy in their approach to recruitment as well as increasingly adept at staff retention.
However, there is also increasing recognition among senior HR leaders that a rigid attachment to seeking ‘high-performers’ rather than having a focus on business needs, is no guarantee of improved business performance. Rather it could actually prevent organisations from unearthing the talent they really need whilst steadily weakening their competitiveness and agility at the same time.
This inflexible approach to talent management is largely a hangover dating back to when the term ‘war for talent’ was first coined back in 1998. But the world has moved on since then and while there remains a war for talent, this war has evolved and taken on different guise.
Indeed, 59% of respondents to the KPMG survey stated that there is a need to prepare for a ‘changing workforce’, in what it described as a ‘newly emerging’ war for talent. According to two-thirds (66%) of respondents, it is “much more important for organisations to have a holistic approach to talent management that addresses the needs of all employees as well as those in critical roles.”
Organisation’s need to be prepared to adapt to these new battle conditions and understanding the new rules of battle engagement. So what is this ‘new’ war?
The most common reasons for talent and skills shortages are generational, where younger skilled workers are less inclined to do roles deemed to be more ‘traditional’. It suggested that the current skills shortages affect the entire organisation, at every level, and are no longer the preserve of the most senior positions.
This means that employers must take a step back and ask some rather searching questions about their existing talent management strategy: Do we really understand the current and future needs of the business? Is our existing recruitment strategy capable of responding to this changing workforce?
Employers are often tempted to go all gung-ho and adopt the latest best practice theory or recruitment solution. But this is short-termist and does little to address the longer-term needs of the organisation.
Instead, the survey authors suggest that by implementing “powerful new data analysis capabilities [that] help gauge their performance and fine-tune their people practices over time”, employers will ensure that their talent management efforts are configured and aligned more closely to the organisations’ overall strategic needs. Do you agree?