Time to End Talk of This Phoney War

And so the dreaded expression ‘War for Talent’ rears its head again on my twitter timeline. You know some of the context…

  • Salaries at some levels are increasing, it’s because there’s a war for talent
  • Companies can’t find the skills, it’ll create a war for talent

Never mind that there’s abundant talent out there waiting for an opportunity; a willing workforce only a few days or weeks’ training away from filling that ‘skills gap’.

I’ve given my opinion on the gratuitous use of this phrase before here and here but there seems to be a never-ending need to talk up a lack of creativity and vision in talent acquisition as a phoney war.

So I’ve turned to source material – the book that the original authors of the ‘War for Talent’ report published in 2001. In it they put forward the case that winning the war for talent isn’t about frenzied recruiting tactics but the principles of attracting, developing and retaining highly talented managers, which will be applied in ever evolving ways.

Next time you think of using the phrase read this and think again…

“Excellent talent management has become a crucial source of competitive advantage.

Companies that do a better job of attracting, developing, exciting and retaining their talent will gain more than their fair share of this critical and scarce resource and will boost their performance dramatically.

Our War for Talent research shows this. The companies that scored in the top quintile of our talent management index earned, on average, 22 percentage points higher return to shareholders than their industry peers. The companies that scored in the bottom quintile earned no more points than their peers.

Certainly, many factors other than talent management are driving return to shareholders but this data provides compelling evidence that better talent management results in better performance.

Clearly, having more capable people isn’t the only thing companies will have to do to win. They will also have to set high aspirations and enact the right strategies and performance initiatives. They will have to energise and align all their people so they deliver their best performance. But talented leaders are needed to make these other performance drivers happen.

As companies respond to the war for talent, they will develop more powerful and more sophisticated approaches to talent management. Over the next decade we believe talent management will advance as far as marketing did in the 1960s and quality did in the 1980s. Some companies will advance in building this capability; others will fall behind.”

It’s a mind-set not an act. It’s about creating a business that aspires to give the best a place to thrive and be happy. It’s not about throwing money at people and it shouldn’t be an excuse for a lack of training and up-skilling.

A recruitment campaign devoid of strategy, creativity and transparency isn’t a war. It’s a resounding defeat.

3 thoughts on “Time to End Talk of This Phoney War

  1. Jeez this is a good post Merv, and great excerpt from that book.
    So true.

    The `War for Talent` as actually as I see it, is used as a defeatist phrase in the current age. An excuse for low retention and poor attraction.

    The inability for businesses to look solidly at their people development structure, and consider the value of their place of work as an employer choice; for internal and external attraction; staggers me. So many companies seem resigned to losing staff at all to regular a rate.

    I was talking to company recently who are doing everything in their power to address this, and even hire people to look into this stuff as a full time proactive job role. It was to their credit. It’s so rare.

  2. Oh dear, looks like we are guilty of using this phrase…. but there really is a ‘skills disconnect’ in many industries and employers will need to start to consider how they can attract (and retain) the best talent).

    However must say that our suggested strategies for winning “the War” (oops said it again!) are focused on retention so include keeping the talent you already have and building a place where people want to come to work. Perhaps that means that we are saying the same thing……in a round-about way…

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