Why We Need to Put an End to the “War For Talent”

When resources are vital but scarce, our basic instincts lead us to provoke a conflict, to fight, and to go to war in order to claim it all for our own well-being. This explains most of the catastrophes and destructions in world history.

This is why I am not a fan of the “war for talent” concept. I do agree with the fact that talent is also vital and scarce, but being at war is not the best thing to do in managing our talent pipeline.

When we define talent management as a “war,” we focus only on competing with each other and undermine our inevitable need for collaboration.

3 reasons to end the “war for talent”

Here are (3) three reasons why this war must be ended and three suggestions why collaboration must be our manifestation in a postwar talent environment:

Reason No. 1: There would be no victor. What does it take to be a victor … perhaps retain your top talent, no matter what? It wouldn’t be achievable because Millennials make up the majority of the global workforce.

According to the Future Workplace Multiple Generations@Work survey of 1,189 employees and 150 managers, 91 percent of Millennials expect to stay in a job for less than three years. That means they would have 15-20 jobs over the course of their working lives.

Suggestion No. 1: Collaborate to create a strong “industry brand.” This is similar to an employer brand in terms of expected benefits: recruiting and retaining top talent. But it’s about the unique voice of your sector, rather than your own company.

A strong industry brand motivates talent to stay in your sector even though they change employers so frequently. By the time you need to re-recruit someone, you can monitor their professional development and they gets more specialized in a similar line of business.

Reason No. 2: It is not only about you; there is a bigger picture. The war for talent makes us so obsessed with achieving higher retention rates that we tend to feel defeated when our talent hop over to another employer. On the other hand, talent (especially Millennials) plays a crucial role in business life by job hopping from one company to another; in each company they extend their vision, know-how, and skills. Then, they transfer their experience among companies to foster innovation, productivity, and efficiency.

Is it bad? Think what happen if bees stop traveling from one plant to another and transferring pollen among plants to enable pollination.

Suggestion No. 2: Collaborate to facilitate transfer of knowledge and experience. Instead of stopping Millennials’ job hopping, provide platforms in which you can initiate and control the hopping process. Exchange talent for a certain time period in order to both acquire different perspectives for your company and offer new challenges for your talent.

Reason No. 3: A state of war hampers development. We use our resources to develop our talents as future leaders who would lead us through VUCA times (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous). A state of war motivates us to firmly and solely rely on our own capacity, culture, and expertise to do so. On the other hand, some undeniable figures prove that we may need a different approach other than “every man for himself.”

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The Global Leadership Forecast 2014/2015 by Development Dimensions International asks 13,124 leaders and 1,528 HR executives from 48 countries to figure out how leaders are performing in VUCA times. One-third of leaders are not confident in their ability to meet the four VUCA challenges, and only 40 percent of them consider the quality of their organization’s leadership as high. From an HR perspective, as low as 25 percent view their organization’s leaders as high quality.

Another report by Deloitte Consulting LLP and Bersin by Deloitte questions an organization’’ ability to develop leaders and equip them with the necessary skills. Out of 2,532 business and HR leaders in 94 countries, only 13 percent of companies rate themselves as “excellent” in providing leadership programs at all levels.  

Suggestion No. 3: Collaborate to develop more VUCA-resilient leaders. Managing in VUCA times requires certain leadership competencies. None of us are good at equipping our leaders with all of these competencies. Otherwise, the figures above would have been much more positive.

Exchange know-how, expertise, and best practices to create better leadership development programs. One’s strength would compensate for the other’s weakness.

Hamit Baris Tas
Hamit Baris is an HR professional with seven years of experience in financial services. His expertise is primarily on L&D and talent management. He is also a Lean leader and has a strong interest in applying Lean management principles into HR processes. He was a project member in the European Financial Certification Organization in developing uniform standards in vocational education in the European financial service sector. Hamit Baris is currently working as an HR business partner in a well-known Turkish bank.