Welcome to the new – and different – war for talent

Limiting focus to just high potentials will leave a business at risk, study warns

By Claudine Kapel

For many organizations, the care and feeding of leaders and high potentials is a top priority.

But what about everyone else?

A recent study by KPMG suggests organizations will need to take a more holistic approach to talent management if they are to successfully recruit and retain skilled people in the coming years. Focusing just on leadership talent and high potentials isn’t enough in this era of skill shortages.

The majority of survey respondents (59 per cent) agreed they are facing “a new war for talent” that is “different than in the past,” says KPMG. The survey reflected input from 335 human resource professionals from 47 countries.

When it comes to securing the right talent, survey respondents highlighted two key areas of concern. They felt the scarcity of people with the skills required for new, emerging roles represents the most critical market shortage. In addition, they were concerned about younger skilled workers who “seem less interested in traditional roles” and see themselves as free agents.

Given these broader talent concerns, the survey results are not surprising. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of survey respondents said it is more important to create a unique talent strategy for the organization that addresses all employees than it is to focus on retaining high potential and high-performing individuals and senior leaders.

In fact, just over half of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that pursuing high potential talent at the team’s expense puts the business at risk.

KPMG suggests organizations are being prompted to rethink their approach to talent management because of four key factors:

  • A broad-based shortage of skilled workers
  • The effects of increased globalization
  • Competitive pressures resulting from improving economies, and
  • The changing career expectations of younger skilled workers.

As the KPGM research indicates, what distinguishes today’s talent challenges is that key skills needed by organizations to remain successful aren’t limited to leadership level roles or even high potentials. The talent story of the new age is about vital skills in general, and they can be resident in any job or at any organizational level.

That has implications not only for talent management, but also for total rewards. To ensure continuing access to the skills they require, organizations need a compelling value proposition that appeals to a diverse pool of talent.

In an era characterized by broad talent challenges and multi-generational work forces, organizations need to ensure their people strategies cover all the bases. This means strategies need to be holistic and inclusive.

It’s not enough to make sure your house is in order with respect to how you develop and reward top leaders and high potentials. To win in the new talent game, you need to pay attention to all the players.

What makes this complicated, however, is that your players don’t all have the same priorities. Of course, they have common needs and expectations, including a fair and competitive compensation package and a good work environment.

But, as an obvious example, Millennials are at a different point in their lives and careers compared to employees who are approaching retirement, and so put emphasis on different things when it comes to matters like pay, development, and advancement.

To that end, an effective total rewards strategy today is all about nuance. You may need more types of programs than in the past to more fully address diverse, multi-generational employee needs. This may compel employers to introduce more programs related to employee development, teamwork, workplace flexibility, and wellness.

At the same time, organizations will need to ensure their employment proposition is working for everyone, versus just a select few. It used to be that organizations saw their key talent as representing a “critical few.” But now, more individuals – reflecting a widening number of organizational levels – have or need skills that are vital for organizational success.

Shifting focus to address the good of the many may not be a simple undertaking, but it’s likely a prerequisite for continued business success. Because to paraphrase Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, this isn’t Kansas anymore, Toto.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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