The Talent War Ceasefire is Over


In this sixth and final part of our series of posts on the 6 hot themes that will be affecting HR in 2013, we look at the War for Talent, which is ramping up again in the face of the economic upturn and a growing shortage of skilled workers.

The war for talentThe economy is recovering. That’s good news, right? Um… right?? Well, yes! But most Human Resources pros view rising employment data with very mixed emotion, because as unemployment slowly ticks down, recruitment can get more competitive, and voluntary turnover rates begin to inch up. Employees worry less for their job security, and top talent begins to poke out of the foxhole and look around for opportunities.

And that is just what we are seeing. In other words, if the economic recession offered an armistice in the War for Talent— that ceasefire is rapidly coming to an end.

Of course, employment numbers are only a small part of the story. The War for Talent is exactly that: a competition among employers for the most skilled talent available. There’s a reason it isn’t called the War for Employees. That’s because there is a growing shortage of highly-skilled workers, which is independent of unemployment among less skilled workers.

According to a 2012 report by the McKinsey Global Institute, employers will face a 13% shortage of highly skilled workers  by 2020 –that is 38-40 million fewer skilled workers than needed. In developing economies, the shortage of educated workers could be nearly 45 million workers. Conversely, we will see an 11% oversupply of unskilled workers around the globe. And according to World at Work, at least 72% of companies worldwide have already admitted that finding skilled workers is a major problem.

This begs the question, how can you ensure that you are able to hire and then retain all the skilled and qualified workers you need, in the face of fierce competition. Well, it helps to consider what skilled employees are looking for:

  • Competitive Base Salary
  • Job Security
  • Career Advancement & Growth
  • A Convenient Work Location
  • Learning & Development Opportunities
  • Flexibility
  • Great Company Culture
  • Robust Benefits


In light of that, here are some tactics you might employ in 2013 to differentiate your company and attract the talent you need:

Build Your HR Brand – Your company may have a great brand, but do you have a great HR brand? Are people attracted to your culture and dying to be part of it? Maintaining an HR brand is more than simply tacking recruitment ads onto your corporate brand. It is about projecting a positive reputation and communicating that image of your company to current employees and the prospective employee pool. People have always been willing to eat at McDonalds, and employee satisfaction was high. But not many people wanted to work at a place where the term “McJob” was coined.  When the company started to manage its HR brand, it jumped to #8 on the list of  the Best Multinational Companies to Work For. And in 2011, when McDonald’s sought to hire 62,000 new workers, more than 1 million people applied. Neglect your HR brand at your peril.

Hire for the Right Fit – Just because the market is tough doesn’t mean you should be desperate or lower your standards. Hiring people who fit your culture means they’ll be both more productive and more likely to stick around.

Manage Your Culture- The single best thing you can do to retain top employees is to create a culture that they don’t want to leave. The top 100 Best companies to work for see 3% or fewer of their employees leave voluntarily. Find ways to create a great culture that reflects values that your employees can relate to. Then find ways to measure and manage that culture.

Think Outside the Zip Code – Telecommuting and non-traditional work groups have made the job market a global one. According to a survey by KPMG, 71% of companies believe that working across borders has increased over the past 3 years and 60% of companies have increased use of virtual workspaces. Consider broadening your search for the right candidates to other geographic regions.

Train the Skills you Need – Hiring for growth potential and developing existing staff is becoming a tactic for many companies. This segues nicely with employees’ desire for career growth and empowerment and can be a huge statement of confidence in your employees that will boost your culture.

Increase Salaries – It may not always be an option, but according to Manpower’s Talent Shortage Survey, the “pay more” approach is being implemented most often in China and the U.S. Make sure that at the least, compensation is at or just above the averages for your area and industry.

Master the Technology – Being on the cutting edge of technology is critical to success when the competition gets cutthroat. Use technology to source and connect with prospective hires, and then use it to manage your talent, recognize and reward employees and measure your culture. Getting a handle on big data is necessary for everyone, but mastering it and making it work for you can give you a huge competitive advantage.

According to experts from PwC Saratoga, the Talent War ceasefire is over. So now that we’re back in the trenches, how do you plan to fight the good fight?


More in this series of posts:

#1: How Crowdsourcing Will Affect HR in 2013
#2: Measuring & Managing Culture with Big Data
#3: Keeping HR From Getting Lost in the Cloud
#4: HR Hits the Road – The Impact of Mobile Networking in 2013
#5: Healthcare Changes & Employee Morale in 2013

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