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Rebecca Midgley

Sift Media

Assistant Content Manager

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The war for talent: Fiercer now than before?


The recession is an ideal opportunity to revisit your talent management strategies, but how should organisations be fighting the war on talent in this climate? Becky Midgley speaks to the CIPD’s Claire McCartney to find out.

There isn’t one business out there at the moment that isn’t having to change the way it does things. Increased cost pressures are at the top of the agenda and people are forced to look at how things can be done more efficiently.
Now is the right time to assess strategies and 26% of companies admit they have had to change their talent management strategies, according to the recent ‘The War on Talent?’ report from the CIPD. This is just one of the findings of the research, which is a two-part series looking at how HR professionals and other people managers can implement a fight against the likely ‘war on talent’.
Respondents were drawn from a number of public, private and not-for-profit organisations, and there were some surprisingly positive outcomes alongside some predictable ones.
Claire McCartney, organisation and resourcing advisor at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), says: "Organisations are changing their strategies accordingly to have a greater focus on the retention and engagement of talent and employees, and really making sure that they utilise the skills of their existing workforce."
McCartney suspects organisations might not have pushed so hard on encouraging existing talent within the workforce or been particularly interested in why things were working as long as they were, but at the moment, she says, because everything is under question, there will be increased pressure to prove value around talent management; and that, she adds, is where organisations "need to get smarter".

Skills shortage

McCartney says that organisations report that, while there is a greater supply of talent in the marketplace, they are having to sift through more unsuitable candidates in order to get to the people they want. There is still a demand for and shortage of specialist skills, and there has been a shift from it being an employees’ market to an employers’.
Whether recruiting internally or externally, McCartney believes that the key to understanding how you should change your strategies now is mapping out where your key roles are and who is filling them: "It’s about what ‘talent’ means within the organisational context, and sitting down with a number of different stakeholders and saying ‘what do we need to do to meet our current and future business objectives’, and then mapping out talent internally to see whether you are still able to make external recruits and whether that compliments your internal pipeline. Ensure that your line managers are actively managing, spotting, and developing talent, which isn’t always easy, and making sure that you’ve got career paths for individuals so they can develop.
"At the moment balancing those short-term and future needs is important. Something that came from our research was that people said investing in talent is a key way of investing in the future, which is encouraging and perhaps different from the last recession where people were quicker to abandon graduate recruitment, or learning and development."
McCartney believes that the war for talent is no fiercer than it is has ever been, and actually, what the recession has done is make people more creative about their processes. "It’s almost like when things get tough it’s forcing people to do things differently and to think a bit more innovatively," McCartney summarises. Looking at whether there are new business opportunities might seem an unlikely thought process right now, but McCartney says organisations that think this way will stay on top.
Through speaking with a variety of organisations, and through the findings of the report, McCartney says that it’s crucial employers keep communicating openly and frequently, even if it’s bad news. "At least people can feel aware and possibly contribute to try and change the situation, making them feel that they can perhaps make a difference which would be really good."

Changing mindsets

So how can HR support managers? McCartney points out that previous CIPD research has shown that managers often don’t see talent management as their responsibility: "When we’ve asked in one of our surveys ‘do you see this as part of your role?’, the answer is quite strongly ‘no’, so how can you change that mindset to get managers to think it’s important they be spotting and developing talent and taking a bit more accountability for it?"
It seems that some organisations are being practical and forward thinking about this: "Organisations are supporting managers by providing training and development around issues that are really important in the recession like change management, people and performance management, decision making, holding difficult conversations, and coaching line managers to be able to cope with the current situation, and empowering them to coach their team members to help them understand the realities of what’s happening, and how it’s affecting the business," she explains.
One idea is to set up a workshop around spotting the signs of stress and setting in place a wellness programme. Or it might be that employees could just do with some financial advice at the moment: "Organisations probably haven’t got a lot of money to spare at the moment, but they need to ask ‘what can we do which doesn’t cost the earth, but could make a real difference to you and support your wellbeing at the moment?’"
Despite the increased pressure and tighter cost controls, McCartney believes that it’s not all doom and gloom, and that actually, one positive thing that came out of this research is that some organisations are viewing the current economic situation as an opportunity, and she urges others to do so. "That’s the positive perspective, to actually look at what you do around talent management and make sure that it is performing the way you want it to perform. Get creative and keep your talent warm for the future."
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Rebecca Midgley

Assistant Content Manager

Read more from Rebecca Midgley

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