The war for talent

Sep 21, 2022


In 1997, Steven Hankin of McKinsey introduced the expression ‘war for talent’ for the first time. In particular as a strategic business challenge and a critical driver of corporate performance. Today businesses are still struggling to find and keep talent, but times have changed …

Four years later, in 2001, McKinsey-consults Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod wrote a book with the same title. They stated that the war for talent is about the timeless principles of attracting, developing, and retaining highly talented professionals. About recognizing the strategic importance of human capital and the enormous value that better talent creates.

Creating a winning EVP (Employee Value Proposition) is key. This includes making your company uniquely attractive to talent, building a long-term recruitment strategy, using job experiences, coaching and mentoring to cultivate the potential of talent. Central to this approach is a pervasive talent mindset: a deep conviction shared by leaders throughout the company that competitive advantage comes from having better talent at all levels.

Exceptional Employee experience drives engagement

This so-called war has been raging since the nineties and continues to do so. Today there are fewer people looking for work, professionals in the workplace lack loyalty and millennials are not directly known for their engagement. The internet has disrupted the relationship between employers and employees. It has become a transactional understanding, because even if an employee indicates that he is 100% satisfied with the job, he or she can always bump into an even more seductive opportunity. Therefore, a constant evaluation and adaptation of your retention strategy as an employer is necessary.

So, let’s rethink talent acquisition, development, and retention. Acquiring talent only gets you so far. Keeping your workforce fully engaged is what will drive sustainable profitable growth. Today’s talents are looking for meaning and purpose in their job. They need to understand how their role connects to the company mission and it must align with their personal and professional passions. Engagement needs to be nurtured with support and planning. When employees are engaged and supported by leadership and able to work the way they want, they will deliver better results.

Lay the right foundation

Employees from every generation want meaningful work, so how can your organization distinguish itself? By telling the truth from the start. Forward-thinking organizations are starting the recruitment process early, evaluating their brand and clearly defining and communicating their Employer Value Proposition.

Lay the right foundation through a strong organizational culture, a clear and inspiring EVP and make efforts to connect with employees in more meaningful ways (identity, emotional and social benefits).

Today, millennials state that:

  • the content of their job is just as significant as the wage they receive
  • a nice, warm atmosphere is key
  • nice colleagues, mission, vision, and company values are important
  • they want open communication
  • they don’t want to take their job with them at home
  • they work to live, not the other way around

So, finding talent is one thing, but understanding and helping them evolve is something else. As an employer you should ask yourself what the interests of your talent are, what incentives they like, which tasks give them energy and much more.

Get more collective insights

Getting more collective and individual insights is key. Get (more) digitized so you can propose real-time recommendations around how and where work gets done in your organization. Keep connected with your talent and recognize your employees. For instance: how many of your employees own a dog or are actively involved in some sport? How can you anticipate these insights? Will you organize a ‘bring your dog to work’-day or a sunday morning walk with those interested? Will you offer match tickets as an incentive or ask your sporty colleague to share insights on how a specific warming up exercise can contribute to a better performance? …

Know that effective retention strategies are not one-shot efforts, and that sharing critical information provides trust. Create communication strategies targeted to employees that take into consideration effective organizational communication best practices.

Know that communication is key and that if your organization doesn’t provide this information, employees are compelled to obtain it through observation, indirect behavior, and secondary sources. So, meet regularly with your employees, provide performance management feedback, commit to ongoing learning and professional development. Don’t limit yourself to exit interviews but conduct periodic stay interviews as well.

Make love not war for talent

Chinese war lord Sun Tzu wrote in his book ‘The art of war’ that a war will be won by those troops who are the most motivated and best prepared. He also stated that ‘all is fair in love and war’.

So, let’s start motivating, be prepared and make love instead of war for talent. By approaching things differently, you can gain an edge over your competitors.

Do you want to develop your Employer Value Proposition, sharpen your ways of internal communication, digitize your collective insights, and prepare your business for engaging and retaining talent? Let’s get in touch. Contact us via our contact page.

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