The Quest for Talent: Win the Battle, Win the War

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War for Talent - Recruit and Retain the Best Employees - TalentVine

There is a war going on, underneath our very noses. An immense struggle, with few winners.  

The war for talent is real, and the casualties are immense. Despite the repeated warnings of recruitment professionals (and pleas from HR departments), many organisations are failing to make a serious effort to attract and retain quality talent.

It’s been almost two decades since McKinsey & Co’s 1998 warning about the changing business resource landscape. McKinsey & Co predicted that by now, talent would be the most valuable and sought after resource in the corporate world. Without a genuine strategic effort to attract, retain and develop high quality employees, McKinsey & Co warned, many organisations would find themselves bereft of this resource.

It is now 19 years later and by all accounts, it’s looking like McKinsey & Co were right. There is a crippling shortage of talent in some of the fastest growing business sectors. Software developers are still seeing immense wage growth, and the numbers of up-and-comers aren’t keeping pace with increasing demand. As baby boomers continue to retire in record numbers, the shortage of skills across the board will only continue to grow.

We are a victim of our own economic success – the demand for highly qualified jobs far outpaces the rate at which we can produce them – and there’s only so many degree farms that the education system can handle.

Of course, it’s not all dire. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. There are ways to ensure that your organisation is well-positioned to not only survive the impending talent shortage, but thrive in it.

Responsive Training.

You can get an Uber on-demand. Food on-demand. Amazon’s Prime Air means you can get that self-help novel you literally just heard about on-demand. Yet the most enduring, valuable investment one can make, education, is still provided in a rigid, unappealing fashion reminiscent of the days when there was a cane resting on the teacher’s desk.

Your employees need education when it relates to their role. Not at the same time as everyone else in the organisation, and not if they’re never going to use it. Encourage flexible training, when it’s relevant. Allow employees to have a say in their own development. Make training an investment, not a cost.

Real Success Metrics.

Heirarchies have flattened out immensely. Today, many teams work “with” their leader, not “for” their boss. Redefine the way you measure success among your employees. An excellent software developer is excellent not because she pursues a C-level position, but because she is good at what she does.

Focus on value, not potential.

Mission Clarity.

Everyone has a mission. Whether it concerns personal development or professional development, everyone has goals. You can go a long way towards retaining your top talent by seeking to understand their personal goals, and taking steps to help them achieve them.

Create a clear path forward for your employees, whatever their needs. Couple that with organisational goals, and you’ve got yourself a winning strategy.

Discover Leaders.

Many management preparation strategies focus on identifying a few outstanding employees and shunting them through a series of steps, sometimes involving formal training, that will hopefully turn them into a leader.

Instead of taking a narrow focus on who you think should be a leader, allow your employees to step up. Encourage all employees to take steps towards leadership roles, and give them the opportunity to place themselves in a position where leadership is a clear goal on the horizon. It doesn’t even have to be subtle, you can have a physical list of leadership candidates – just make sure that it’s open to all. You don’t want to miss a talented leader by thinking along rigid lines.

Be Agile.

Yes, it’s a buzz word. However, “agile” is a fitting term to describe one of the most necessary skills in a modern employee. Change is the only constant. The ability to respond quickly to a shifting environment, and think innovatively around new issues, is a key quality in the future of top talent.

Let your employees spread their wings and learn – the more they know about your entire organisation (and others), the easier they will be able to respond to outside pressures.


The key to winning the great war for talent is care and investment. Care about the future of your employees, and invest in it. The dividends can be immense.

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