The following guest post from talented contributor Alex Moyle, worthy of setting out in full as part of last week’s debate on the state of the talent agenda and importantly a case for continuing with the ‘war for talent’ analogy. Take it away Alex and thanks for keeping the important debate alive. Feel free to respond with your own comments at the end.
Yesterday I read a really passionate blog from Barry Flack entitled “What Did You Do In The War (For Talent) Daddy.” The essence of his blog was that the “war” essentially spawned “testosterone-fuelled talent strategies” which commoditized the individual desire over organisational want.
My feelings on reading the blog were mixed. There were some things that I agreed with, but at the core I disagreed that the “war” in itself was a bad thing.
Whilst the phraseology of ‘war’ may be wrong, the essence of what it meant was of value to businesses and the economy as a whole. The McKinsey’s took “talent” to the top table and this was key in businesses recognising its people were an asset to be valued and fought for. There are some who are trying to turn their back on the phraseology of “war for talent”, Paul Maxin’s article that Barry cites is one example “The War for Talent is Passe’“.
Aside from the connotations that come from individuals as an object to be fought over, the value in the concept of the “war for talent” is that CEOs and boards are already bought into the concept. Rather than work to bring another “initiative” or “catch phrase” to the awareness of CEOs, those in HR should work on reframing the “war”.
CEOs by their very position understand that a business’s approach needs to change with the times and therefore the message is simple. “The War is still being fought, however the rules have changed”
What are the new rules of the game? On this Barry, Paul Maxin and I are in agreement.
- Wants will replace Requirements : The starting point for career discussions will become “what does John want” vs “this is what we want from John”. It will be increasingly difficult for organisations to just treat people and their careers as pawns to be moved.
- Us / We will replace The Company: Companies will have to work harder to align their own goals with those of the individual; not just at point of hiring but daily, weekly, monthly and annually. A leaders approach will have to start “lets” “we” “together” rather than “the company requires”
- Custodians vs Owners : Successful leaders and companies will approach their people’s careers as custodians. Part of that contract will be that we will move beyond cash for time towards engagement for development. In the absence of development, challenge or whatever the goals of the individual are, they should expect a resignation letter sooner rather than later.
- Retain vs Hire: The war will focus on retaining the employees they already have vs always looking to attract more. The assumption that a company can always find better elsewhere will prove false. Successful companies will focus on development and making things work rather than a quick performance management process.
So where does that leave HR and the Talent communities……
1: A need to resist the temptation of creating another “catch phrase” which will serve to only re-enforce negative assumptions the C-Suite may already have about your function as “initiative happy” / substance light.
2: Focus on coaching and developing leadership’s approach to be more employee centric. This is easily achieved whenever a manager says “I need Martin to do this” just reply “what does Martin want?” Every time I do this managers / leaders of all levels stop in their tracks and 80% of the time say “I do not know”
3: Influence from the front line rather than back at base. Avoid emphasising process and instead focus on helping organisational goals. To stretch the war analogy further think Battle Field Medic vs Field Hospital Doctor.
4: Lastly and most importantly have fun…… If you look like you are having fun then it may catch on. Work and the corporate world is a game to be played and enjoyed. Some days you win, others you do not, but as Theodore Roosevelt said :
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming………….. who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.
This will not be the last discussion on the “War for talent” or whatever it ends up being called. However I am sure that it is discussions like these which will make this economic cycle better for individuals than the last, just as the last was better than the one before.