Will the War for Talent Ever Die?

The war for talent is more heated than ever, but winning the battle doesn’t mean you won the war. Are you ready to fight?


Leen Sawalha

VP Product & Growth

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I’m sure you have all come across this term at least a few times; the “war for talent”, and if you have ever tried looking it up, you already know that it was a term coined by Steven Hankin in a 1997 article, and again in 2001 in a book by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod.

But that was a long time ago, and in the 21st century, things are changing by the minute. Is this “war for talent” still going on? Is it the same war? Will it ever end? How can you win this so-called “war”? Are there too many questions and not enough answers?

Well, if answers are what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s break it down.

What is the “war for talent” in our day and age?

The term was first coined because of the apparent decrease in the supply of skilled workers. Especially in the United States and Europe, baby-boomers were beginning to retire, but the post-baby-boomer generation was not necessarily interested in acquiring the necessary skills to replace them. That led to a shortage in labor, which then led to the war for talent between organizations.

Nowadays, however, the war for talent isn’t only the result of a shortage of skilled workers, but also of organizations wanting to find the right skilled workers. With the increased emphasis on having the right person, in the right position, and in the right organization, the challenge of finding these individuals is becoming more and more difficult, especially in this ever-changing environment.

Will the war for talent ever die?

The simple answer; No. Why? Because the reasons why the war exists are not going to change anytime soon. There are new technological advances, new generations of workers, new skills to be learnt, new businesses starting, and even new industries booming. In an environment with this much change, how can it become any less competitive?

The easy answer is that it won’t. If you haven’t yet realized that you also need to change to become more competitive, then you are already behind in this war for talent.

So, how can we win this war for talent?

There’s a simple answer for this question, too: Get talent! But the means of actually getting “the talent” are not quite as simple!

Being able to attract the best talent is one of the largest challenges faced by organizations and HR professionals. Because the supply for these workers is lower than the demand, the power has shifted from organizations to workers.

It is organizations that now have to be present on social media, display the best organizational culture, market themselves to potential employees, and offer competitive compensation and benefits packages.

Let’s face it: networking, attracting, recruiting, and being employers of choice are not easy tasks. Just because you’re a multi-million dollar corporation doesn’t make any of these tasks easier, and it’s even more difficult to compete as a smaller organization without the backing of large capital.

For these reasons, regardless of what type of organization you are, the industry you work in, market you serve, or your organizational and recruitment strategies, there are two things that you must always do:

  •  Know what you need
  •  Know what you don’t need

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? If you can identify both what your organization specifically needs, and what it specifically doesn’t need, then your strategies of actually reaching your goals will be more precise and aligned. However, as simple as it sounds, more organizations only seem to focus all of their efforts on only one of these points.

Make sure you know exactly who can benefit your organization the most, and who you shouldn’t be investing time and money on. Remember, it’s not all about skills anymore, it’s also about fit.

Just because you won the battle doesn’t mean you won the war for talent

You can have the best recruitment strategy in the world, with candidates lining up to work at your company, but that means nothing if you can’t retain them.

What use is it to spend time, energy, and money investing in a recruitment strategy if you can’t motivateengage, and develop your employees once they are hired?

Unhappy employees are unproductive employees. They can love the company and its culture, but be demotivated by the type of work or operation the company provides. On the other hand, they can love the work they do and how they can do it at your organization, but don’t feel like they associate with the culture there.

If you have followed our advice and identified who you are looking for, you would be able to ensure you can provide them with what they need once they actually join your organization. If you truly know what motivates them, who they are, and how they function, you can ensure that you’re giving them every reason to stay and no reason to leave!

Don’t forget about your current employees!

Winning the war for talent isn’t just attracting and retaining new talent; it’s about keeping the ones you already have, too! Before you even begin searching for new talent elsewhere, start by searching for them in your organization. I’m sure there are some you can name off the top of your head, but there might also be other great talent that is flying just under your radar.

Review their performance appraisals, communicate with them and their supervisors, get their feedback, and, most importantly, get to know them! Just think about how you would feel if you found out your bosses were searching for talent and offering them great things while you go unrecognized? Not such a nice thought, is it?

Show your existing human capital that you care; get to know them, listen to what they want, and invest in them as much as you want them investing back in you.

The war for talent is more heated than ever, and is one you need to strive to win. Recognize that it is a continuous challenge that is unlikely to end soon. There’s a reason why human resources management is becoming more and more important, and it’s because the employees ultimately determine the success of the organization. Invest in learning who they are (and who they are not!) in order to successfully attract and retain them. But first and foremost, recognize the talent you have right now, get to know them, and show them you care.

Now, are you ready for battle?

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