Combating the War for Talent

The expression “the war for talent” is a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997, and refers to the challenges of attracting and retaining talent. Although that was 30 years ago, it is more relevant now than at any time in history. With the impact of the Baby-Boom cohort heading into retirement and a declining birthrate, the competition for talent is starting to heat up.

WIth the Jobless rate nearing 4% in the US and 5% in Canada, we are approaching a workforce that is fully employed. When the jobless rate reaches 5% the talent needed to fill positions does not exist in the unemployed workforce. The US Job Openings is hovering around 7 Million unfilled positions. We are seeing companies poaching employees in industries that traditionally do not steal their competitor’s talent. For many industries, the biggest competition in the future will be for human capital, not customers. The good news is the companies that get the people will be rewarded by getting the customers.

So how do we combat this “War on Talent.”

I believe more than ever, engaging your workforce is critical. The numbers speak for themselves; engaged employees don’t look at leaving their place of employment. Only 15% of engaged employees would consider leaving opposed to as much as 80% of your disengaged workforce, and engaged employees recommend their place of employment as “a place to work and a place to do business.” Companies are giving lipsync to engagement but not making the hard decisions to engage their workforce. They are concerned with the engagement scores and pressure the Human Resource Department to improve the numbers when improving the scores invariably starts at the top. The fact that the scores are trailing indicators by the time you see them you may have already lost some key talent.

By definition and engaged employee leverages their strengths and aligns those strengths with a task to help their organization achieve its goals. They are emotionally committed to success and give their organization discretionary effort.

If your organization does not have a formal engagement program, I urge you to start one. Do an honest engagement survey to get an accurate set point but begin to work on improving engagement before you even see the results. If you are wondering why your employees are leaving for the competition, it is seldom for the money, but more likely they are not engaged, and the increase in cash is how they justify it.

Engagement is a journey, and with any trip, it starts with the first step. Good luck with your Journey.

Eddie LeMoine
Author, Speaker and Employee Engagement Expert.

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