Are You Ready For War for Talent 2.0?

Get ready for the “New War for Talent.”

Call it something else if you like – maybe the War for Talent 2.0 – but as Lou Adler and others have been warning of and writing about over at ERE, the post recession “War for Talent” may finally be here.

According to a new study by Bersin & Associates, talent shortages are cited as a key business challenge by more than 50 percent of business leaders surveyed for the first time in almost three years — since the beginning of the Great Recession – as attention shifts from cost cutting to things like innovation, skills development, and rebuilding business growth as the economy slowly improves.

Bersin’s most recent research study, TalentWatch®: First Quarter 2011 — Global Growth Creates a New War for Talent, found that more than half of all businesses feel that they are being held back by a lack of talent.

“Talent will play a vital role”

The study also found that while the U.S. and Western European markets are still recovering, organizations in emerging economies in Eastern Europe, China, India are seeing revenues growth rates of 20 percent to 30 percent. This has forced organizations to shift people resources and talent strategies into these economies, and the industries seeing the greatest revenues growth are financial services, manufacturing, transportation, food service and technology.

“We are re-entering a marketplace in which talent will play a vital role,” said Josh Bersin, chief executive officer and president, Bersin & Associates, in a press release that accompanied the survey.

“As businesses have shifted their priorities to focus on new product introductions, growth and acceleration in hiring, HR organizations are focusing on programs to encourage innovation, increase employee engagement and drive individual performance. In fact, 36 percent of HR leaders cite either globalization or expansion as one of their organization’s top two business priorities and 37 percent cite the ‘need to accelerate innovation’ as a top priority for the year.”

To address these business priorities, HR leaders who were surveyed by Bersin list these Top Three “urgent” talent challenges:

  • Creating a performance-driven culture;
  • Filling gaps in the leadership pipeline; and,
  • Developing skills to address product and business challenges.

The “borderless workplace”

In fact, the survey found that skills gaps in supervisory-level and mid-level leadership positions are now becoming a major focus, along with the need to identify and promote emerging talent. Nearly half of all organizations state that they are experiencing difficulty filling key positions – and that’s up from just 35 percent last year.

To address these challenges, Bersin said, “HR organizations are engaging in a ‘war for talent,’ that is different from what we have seen previously.”

This “New War for Talent” is distinguished by what Bersin & Associates calls “the borderless workplace,” an environment in which age, geography, gender and organizational boundaries are disappearing. Companies must immediately address employee and customer satisfaction issues, they say, because these factors will quickly surface on social networks.

And, this new borderless environment, Bersin says, is spurring high-impact HR and learning and development practices to focus on empowerment, knowledge-sharing and use of social networking for recruiting and learning, and building collaborative leadership skills.

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“Even emerging economies are not the sources of qualified technical talent that they used to be,” Bersin added. “As a result, organizations need to create a dynamic, continuous workforce around the world that can be tapped to meet dynamic business demands.”

What companies need to focus on

The study, which involved interviews with senior business and human resource leaders from more than 130 corporations around the world in a wide variety of industries, is designed to help business and HR leaders understand the changing trends and benchmarks in acquiring, developing and investing in talent with a focus on providing industry-specific, actionable findings.

To combat the unique challenges posed by today’s “borderless” environment, the study found that high-performing companies must focus on:

  • Building deep skills quickly among new employees and senior workers;
  • Actively establishing relationships with prospective employees through employer branding and social networking-based marketing;
  • Implementing integrated talent management software to create internal career mobility and succession plans; and
  • Creating a vibrant, highly empowered work environment that drives performance.

This is an interesting survey, and Bersin & Associates research is first-rate, but count me as one of those who is generally pretty skeptical when it comes to predictions of big shifts in the talent universe.

Ready for “War for Talent 2.o?”

I was one of the ones who didn’t buy the notion of labor shortages back in 2007 and 2008 when everyone was predicting that would happen as the Baby Boomers retired. I called it the “Talent-Shortage Myth” even before the recession kicked in, and all know how those gloom-and-doom predictions turned out, don’t we?

But, this is a VERY different economic environment than we faced back then. Businesses have cut back, frozen, and furloughed their workforces to death – and are now sitting on a pile of cash that they might spend on talent if the economy continues to cooperate.

Bersin’s report is spot-on about what organizations are facing and what they need to do. You can get a copy of TalentWatch®: First Quarter 2011 — Global Growth Creates a New War for Talent, and you should so you can read it and see for yourself. The question is – are businesses REALLY ready to do it and actually start hiring again?

Yes, I think it’s safe to say that we’re all ready for a “War for Talent 2.0” Here’s hoping that Bersin’s analysis is right on the money and that the demand for talent is really, finally here.

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.