No Image Available

Paula Harvey

Read more about Paula Harvey

Are you ready for the next War on Talent?


Paula Harvey is Senior Talent Consultant at Kallidus, a leading provider of learning and talent management solutions. For further information please visit or follow @KallidusLimited on Twitter.

Just over 15 years ago McKinsey & Company declared the start of the ‘war for talent’ and, as predicted, prolonged periods of intense competition for talent has continued to be a defining characteristic of the global workplace. Through periods of boom and bust and the more recent global economic meltdown, the phenomenon has raged on.

With competition intensifying once again for high calibre individuals, talent management has never been more important. A recent survey by recruiter Brook Street shows signs that a renewed war for talent is appearing with 28% of employees surveyed admitting they have been approached by headhunters or other businesses in the last year. No organisation is immune, although the Asia Pacific region and industries such as social media and oil are currently more affected.

Yet, despite the fact that talent management has risen up the corporate agenda, many companies are still failing to tackle the issue effectively, risking not just their current business success but their long-term prosperity.

There are a number of things companies can do to manage their talent more effectively for competitive advantage. But first, let us look at how demographic, geographic and economic factors are fuelling the war for talent today.

The changing demographics of the workplace bring a number of challenges. Firstly, the supply of future executives capable of filling top and middle management positions is continuing to decline due to lower birth rates among Generation X (individuals born 1965-1981).

Combine this with a spike in the number of ‘Baby Boomers’ retiring (those born 1946-1964) and you have a leadership crunch at the top end of businesses. The paring back of development budgets over recent years has left many high potential candidates lacking in core skills and confidence to make a successful transition into key leadership roles. It is no surprise then that those with the right skills are in high demand.

Shortages in talent today are by no means confined to the leadership team with competition intensifying for specialist skills and expertise found among the newer generations in the workplace. Also fanning the flames is the fact that Generations X and Y are rejecting the mantra of a ‘job for life’ and are changing jobs more readily.

Furthermore, globalisation is continuing to drive increased demand for more sophisticated talent with global acumen, multi-cultural awareness and fluency, technological literacy, an entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to manage increasingly de-layered, disaggregated organisations.

So what key actions can organisations take now to protect their future prosperity? Winning the war for talent won’t happen overnight. However, building on McKinsey’s original recommendations, here are seven steps that could help put your organisation on the road to success.

1. Ensure your organisation has a talent mindset

If you are going to succeed in winning the war for talent then a talent mindset needs to be ingrained throughout your business from the top down. For some HR leaders this will mean a complete change in mindset from cost control and reduction as well as process efficiency to focusing on acquiring, developing, aligning and assessing talent which is becoming increasingly scarce.

2. Become a strategic business partner

Research shows that many HR leaders aren’t spending enough time acting as a strategic business partner. If HR is going to be truly effective in supporting growth and performance then it needs to be able to identify pain points within the organisation and provide the relevant talent solutions.

3. Ensure your organisation has a winning employee proposition

Employees today are looking for an emotional connection and engagement with their employers much in the same way that we buy into brands in our everyday life. HR needs to ask itself two key questions: Why would a talented person want to work here? And, why should they stay?

4. Differentiate your people

It is worth investing resources in trying to determine which individuals have the potential to create disproportionate value for your organisation and what steps you need to take in order to attract and retain them. ‘Some’ rather than ‘all’ of our people are our biggest asset is perhaps a more fitting mantra for today’s highly competitive workplace.

5. Integrate your talent systems

Today’s systems that integrate talent management, succession planning, learning and development and performance management offer one common view of information. This enables HR leaders to focus more time on becoming a strategic partner to the business. Most importantly, though, integrated systems provide crucial insight and metrics to help make objective decisions about talent and to close skills gaps.

6. Grow your own

Never has there been such a critical need for organisations to invest in developing their own pipelines of talent. You only need to look at the cost of replacing top talent to see that it makes sound business sense to invest in growing your own by providing superior training and leadership development programmes and ensuring you offer clear career progression opportunities.

7. Rebuild your recruitment strategies

If you want to build a business that is adaptable, agile and enduring then you will need to prepare carefully for the future with a sophisticated recruitment strategy. A global mindset and global recruiting processes will help ensure you identify and successfully recruit the very best talent anywhere in the world. Remember, the best people are worth fighting for and sometimes you will have to stretch the limits of talent management in order to remain competitive.

Final thoughts…

Winning the war on talent requires bold action, more sophisticated talent management weapons, and most importantly, a change in mindset. HR has an instrumental role to play in ensuring talent management becomes a burning corporate priority. Those organisations that live and breathe talent and become relentless in their development and pursuit of it will be the ones that win through.


Get the latest from HRZone.

Subscribe to expert insights on how to create a better workplace for both your business and its people.


Thank you.