The War for Talent Revisited

Over the last decade or so I must have written half a dozen blogs on the ‘War for Talent’ (a phrase coined by McKinsey a decade before that) discussing how it has been used and in some cases abused to scare firms into improving their recruitment offering and processes. I’m certainly not the one to decry its effect, as it has clearly focused employer’s minds on how they recruit people as a talent rather than as a commodity.

Historically, hiring managers had recruited employees who significantly mirrored their own capabilities across most grading systems but the War for Talent drove an ongoing programme to recruit superstars and remove under performers.

Mark Loftus, the CEO of CharacterScope, has very succinctly summed up the old style of talent management: ‘Potential is seen as a fixed quantity – you either have it or you don’t, and it’s the job of the hiring manager to spot, hire and promote those who do’.

The Global economy has over the last few years gone through a significant shift as technology has continued to reshape businesses meaning that executive management has realised stagnation is the quickest way to oblivion. This thought process is slowly starting to transition into the way that they now manage and recruit their employees and talent.

In his view talent seems to have been viewed as a one dimensional individual, as keen on promoting themselves as shaping the business they operate in.That model is evolving and, since we are in the Middle of an Ashes Test Series, perhaps a cricketing metaphor is appropriate.Today’s talent needs to be a cricketing all-rounder. Someone who bats, bowls and fields exceptionally well. Talents, rather than talent. Exec management needs to build their employees’ excitement about themselves, their strengths and their contributions, and to awaken their inner hunger to make the most of these talents.

Mark firmly believes that talent should now focus upon leadership, as prioritising leadership development helps to imbue employees with an awareness of their natural strengths, it empowers them to go beyond their comfort zones which, in turn, drives a company to higher performance. If employees are to develop their leadership potential, they need time and space to grow, and to feel that this growth is valued by the business. Ultimately, though, they must believe that their management and their peers understand the importance of such personal and professional growth, and allow them the time to do so.

Business over the past two decades has evolved into something I probably wouldn’t recognise from when I started out. If today’s more traditional businesses are to survive these new agile disrupter businesses that have arrived, then they will almost certainly need to change their approach to talent management.