Who will Win the Talent War?


I recently read a blog entry written by Michael Watkins of the Harvard Business Review entitled “In the Talent War, the Ceasefire is Over“, and was inspired to at least start a broad based discussion on the topic.

Anyone, who has the courage to open up a news paper, or flip the channel to the local or national media outlets can tell you that the economy is downright bleak at best. With the massive layoffs, downsizing, rightsizing, pay reductions, pay freezes, hour reductions, or whatever labor cost reductions are called these days comes an inherent risk – the risk that top talent is going to leave for the competition when things improve.

I definitely agree that talent acquisition and retention is an immediate concern; however, for most organizations it is probably not the highest of priorities on the list.

With that I ask….

What can organizations do to improve talent acquisition, retention, and development as the economy begins to exit this exhaustive recession?

4 Comments on “Who will Win the Talent War?

  1. 1. Manage Talent2. Manage Performance3. Manage Diversity1. Manage Talent In some ways, it can be harder to manage a talented employee than one that has little to no hope of advancement. At the organizational level, efforts have to be made to identify and cater to high potentials. This means providing opportunities for continued professional development and career advancement, providing access to leadership and information, and giving talented employees some level of input into strategic decision-making. 2. Manage Performance Performance is everything in the talent war. Young employees especially are keen to flight at the first signs of poor performing teams and organizational malaise. Talented employees surrounded by stagnant or inconsistent performers begin to wonder if the organizational culture truly supports high performance and if they fit. This of course is made much worse when exceptional performance is either unacknowledged or insufficiently rewarded. 3. Manage Diversity The current workforce is the most age diverse in the history of human existence. There has been great insight into this and the implications for managers done by the Sloan Center for Aging and Work at Boston College. While I single out generational diversity, other diversity elements are undeniably important as well. With the competition for talent being so competitive, organizations that leverage inclusion to create extraordinary workplaces will have more success in attracting and retaining top talent. They will also have a wider pool of talent to pull from. If any of this strikes a chord with you and is worthy of further discussion, I can provide some specific examples of workplace policies that embody each of the three areas I've outlined above.

  2. In terms of talent acquisition, retention, and development, Generation X and Y tend to be more bias towards entry level or young talent. As a focal point, I would agree that those echelons of the organization are the best source of undervalued, ambitious, and skilled resources. Holistically, organizations also need to evaluate their upper echelons as well during crisis to ensure that business remains contiguous as market conditions improve. The last thing that you would want is to have your director of sales in a high growth market leave the company when macro economic conditions improve. Like all institutions; political, social,economic, or otherwise, leadership tends not to not commit until the point of capitulation – by then it is too late. I believe that those who exhibit a bit of foresight and take a little risk, can best position themselves to excel out of the recession through internal development of talent and retention of key stakeholders. Naturally, there is some level of turnover; however, I would imagine it is a pain to retrain, hire, and incubate new resources when turnover is high. It could also lead to highly disruptive relationships at both ends of the supply chain.

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