If the war for talent ever really did go away, I think we’d all acknowledge – it’s back. And in certain industries, geographies, and skill sets I’d suggest it’s possibly being more fiercely fought than ever. Organisations of all shapes and sizes are consequently looking for ways to make their talent acquisition capabilities stronger and more effective. But this is obviously just one part of a much more complex puzzle. HR professionals also need to focus on retention measures – as highlighted in my last blog – and on how to maximise the value of in-house people resources or to put it more colloquially, how to ‘grow your own’.

So what exactly do we mean by ‘growing your own’? Increasingly, organisations are taking a proactive view of the future to ensure they will not be undermined by short-sightedness. The key question to be asking is not just who or what you need right now, but “when should I begin to strategically plan for likely vacancies to be had in three years’ time?” And the best answer to that? Right now.

It’s obviously important to identify exactly which positions you will have the need to fill in the coming years – most of which are likely to be mid to senior level roles, as well as the notoriously hard-to-fill specialist roles. And in a world where it’s almost impossible to predict what will be happening next week, let alone next year, that is a significant challenge, but one which we simply cannot fail to address. Given this, and the fact that the National Commission on Mathematics and Science in the US has estimated that 60% of all new jobs in the 21st century will require skills possessed by only 20% of the current workforce, deciding exactly what technical abilities will be needed in the future is virtually impossible.  I would therefore argue we should possibly be basing our strategic workforce planning on key competencies rather than just on skills that may end up looking prehistoric in a few years’ time. Things like flexibility of thinking, curiosity,  adaptability – capabilities that will be vital in the ever-accelerating workplace of the future. However if we are to get the best return on investment from a competencies based approach, we must be sure that we have in place the structures and culture which will allow them to mature and fit with the organisation’s business objectives.

Now the all-important question: how do you actually take a new hire to where you want them to be within three years? One thing is worth bearing in mind; that training often equals retaining. Much of the very best talent at all levels will be looking for organisations with a comprehensive personal and professional development path to ensure that no time is lost in advancing their career – and this, as we all know, is particularly true within millennial groups. This path/retention strategy will consequently become all too important as the US Bureau of Labor statistics have suggested that Millennials only stay in a job for an average of 18 months. If you can offer demonstrable progression and a clear development path to your colleagues, you are providing an ideal working climate, and are much more likely to reduce attrition and retain top talent.

I believe this is already becoming one of the key battlefields of the war for talent. We, for example, are currently working with one major international company to ‘join up’ their internal and external hiring with a view to filling 80% of new roles with either emerging or existing talent. It’s a programme that involves reshaping hiring expectations, helping front-line managers to think laterally with every new position that comes on-stream and ensuring that individual training and development is as good as it possibly can be. It’s consequently a tough call, but one very much worth making. In my view, making the very best use of human resources already within an organisation is no longer a ‘nice to have’ , it is logical, sensible and a commercial imperative. And those innovative and bold employers that commit to the investment to effect it will gain a clear and demonstrable competitive advantage.

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