The War for Talent Isn’t Over or Lost, Fast Company Article Notwithstanding


“The War For Talent Is Over And Everyone Lost.”

That’s the headline of Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic’s and Adam Yearsley’s recent Fast Company article, and here’s the callout that follows it: “Instead of winning a war for talent, organizations appear to be waging a war on talent, repelling and alienating employees more successfully than harnessing their skills.”

Don’t mince words, guys. How do you really feel?

I have to admit, I understand their point of view. The corporate recruitment process is broken. There’s a pervasive employee engagement malaise. And organizations continue to struggle to create great company cultures.

However, there’s another way to look at all of this …

1) The War for Talent Isn’t Over At All

It just needs to be waged differently.

Companies using the traditional talent acquisition model basically advertise their jobs, offer compensation packages they hope will attract the best possible candidates, evaluate applicants based on their resumes and work histories, and ultimately hire the individuals they believe are most qualified. Increasingly, though, employers realize this isn’t necessarily the best “battle plan” to compete for talent. In fact, it’s exacerbated their problems. Seventy-one percent of employers claim they can’t find candidates with the right skill sets, according to a Forbes article.

In order to attract the right kinds of talent, a growing number of employers are shifting to a new talent model—one that puts their company culture, their values and their work environments front and center. This model makes tremendous sense, particularly in light of one of the key findings of LinkedIn’s 2016 Global Talent Trends report: more than two-thirds of the 26,000+ professionals surveyed by LinkedIn said they want to know about a company’s culture and values above all else when considering a job. Not salary, not benefits, not perks. Culture and values. “They may know about your company,” the LinkedIn report states, “but they lack a clear picture of what it’s like on the inside—and the typical job description isn’t helping.”

As a result, savvy employers are illuminating their organizations’ inner workings by developing stronger social media profiles, for instance, and encouraging current employees (i.e., their best brand ambassadors) to openly share their work experiences on sites such as Glassdoor and Great Place To Work. Their new job ads put greater emphasis on life inside the company and opportunities for personal growth and development rather than merely listing job responsibilities and requirements. These companies are also borrowing an effective tactic from the marketing function by creating articles, videos and other content that are tailored to their candidates’ interests. This content never directly “promotes” their organizations; instead it shows these employers understand their talent and want to help them excel in their careers.

In addition, this new talent model delivers an improved candidate experience, eliminating byzantine application processes and forms that take ridiculous amounts of time and effort to complete. Candidates actually hear back from employers after applying to jobs; some are even interviewed for more than one position because these employers look for additional job “fits” early in the evaluation process.

The authors of the Fast Company article don’t seem to like the “war for talent” analogy much. Like it or not, the war for talent goes on.

2) “Everyone Lost” Is Hyperbole—and Hyper-Hopeless

Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to talent acquisition and management, there are many things all of us could be doing better.

Employers could be delivering a better candidate experience; they could match employees to specific roles and projects more effectively; and they could coach, mentor and develop their people with greater care. Workers, for their part, could be better at selecting jobs and companies they’re truly aligned with; they could take a more active role in their own career planning and development; and they could take greater responsibility for managing their own performance and engagement.

The authors of the Fast Company article put much of the blame on employers for workers’ disengagement and professional restlessness. Yet, as researchers have pointed out, employees themselves are also responsible for their own engagement. According to a 2016 TalentSpace blog post, a large-scale study of highly engaged employees across a range of industries, continents, cultures and demographics is documented in Timothy R. Clark’s book, The Employee Engagement Mindset. The study found “highly engaged employees take primary responsibility for their careers, their success and their fulfillment. They own their own engagement. They are the driving forces.”

Yes, employers everywhere continue to make talent-related mistakes, and workers are still creating roadblocks to their own fulfillment. But this doesn’t mean everyone has lost. It means we need to keep improving—employers and employees alike.

Talent acquisition and management have evolved dramatically over the past several years. It’s no wonder many companies are struggling to cope with these changes. The good news is there are companies such as Capital One and Comcast that have redefined and redesigned they ways they’re engaging with talent. If you’d like to read about these companies and others that are blazing trails to a new era of talent management, download a copy of the Talent Board’s 2016 North American Candidate Experience (CandE) Research Report and pay special attention to the case studies.

3) Organizations Are Screwing Up, Not Waging a War on Talent

Obviously there are employers who don’t treat their talent well, and there are others who do a crappy job of managing one or more aspects of the talent lifecycle. But the vast majority aren’t doing these things willfully. They’re not trying to undermine their own success or ruin their brand reputation. And they’re certainly not trying to send their best talent screaming for the door.

They’re making these missteps largely out of ignorance, flawed strategy and/or a lack of proper investment in the infrastructure necessary for effective talent management. (Arguably, subpar investments are deliberate on occasion but I’d counter-argue that cheaping-out on your talent investment is often a result of flawed strategic thinking.) In fact, infrastructure is a critically important element of effective talent acquisition and management. As Kevin Grossman stresses in his TalentCulture blog post, without the right recruiting infrastructure in place, it’s next to impossible to tap into today’s richest talent channels, build robust candidate pipelines, efficiently track and manage talent relationships, or deliver a great candidate experience.

Believe it or not, many employers are still trying to put the right recruitment infrastructure in place. Again, this doesn’t constitute an outright “war on talent.” It’s a problem they’re addressing, as evidenced by the roughly $2 billion annual investment they’re making in HR technology.

On the Other Hand …

Although I spent the last thousand words presenting alternative views to those of Dr. Chamorro-Premuzic and Mr. Yearsley, I’m not saying they’re entirely wrong. And Ted Bauer, a writer whose work I admire, echoes their opinions in his incendiary post, “The war for talent became the war ON talent.” The three of them make some damn good points. I’m just offering a different perspective.

At the end of the day, these three gentlemen are asking employers to wake up to the ways they’ve failed—and continue to fail—their talent as well as their companies. I’m not arguing against that. It’s a great way to map out a better path to a brighter future.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

This entry was posted in company culture, employee engagement, HR, recruiting, talent acquisition, workforce, workplace culture. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The War for Talent Isn’t Over or Lost, Fast Company Article Notwithstanding

  1. Colleen says:

    Who has failed is the education system which has limited the number of skilled workers to compete for professional and technical careers. While we can hope the government could address this problem, companies cannot rely on hope. Savvy companies are building the pipeline for future talent for them and for the industry. By companies starting in the schools to build interest and skills, students can see how their future can be brighter by investing in education. If only our country was less focused on keeping factory jobs and more focused on building skills for technical and professional careers, we would not be having this war “on” or “for” talent. Nevertheless, employers must create their own destiny.

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