HR: How to Win the War for Talent

© | Seamartini Graphics

In this article, we take a look at 1) what exactly is “the war for talent”, 2) game plan for winning the war for talent, and 3) inspiring initiatives that help tech companies win the war for talent.


Origin of the term

Close to two decades ago, consultants from McKinsey and company came out with a groundbreaking study and literature claiming that talent was an essential trigger for corporate performance and that an organization’s skill to attract, build up and keep talent would be a considerable competitive gain much into the future. The credit for coining the term “war for talent” goes to them.

So what exactly does the term mean? It indicates an increasingly cutthroat landscape for hiring and keeping talented employees.

In a book entitled “The War for Talent” by Mckinsey consultants Ed Michaels, Beth Axelrod and Helen-Handfield Jones, the authors provide recommendations for winning the talent war. The book does not delineate a set of advanced HR processes but instead, a mindset that stresses how critical talent is for an organization to be successful.

Demographics of the “war”

This “war” is strengthened by demographic shifts (chiefly in Europe and the United States) recognizable by soaring demand and decreasing supply at the demographic level. There are just not enough workers in the post-baby-boom category to take the place of the retiring baby-boomer category of workers in the Europe and the U.S. However, this is not the situation in the greater part of East Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America or Central America. Eastern Europe also has the similar demographics of an aging and/or dwindling workforce.

We are now nearing a situation of full employment which means even if you fire one employee or he quits of his own will, you’re going to struggle to find another one while the outgoing employee would have plenty of options before him. Your and/or other organizations have to face and handle a situation of “free-agent” workers which you created.


Present a winning story of why people should work for you

Winners are attracted to winners. So if you want to attract the best of the pack, you must make your organization look attractive to them by marketing it effectively. Present such an awesome picture of your organization that the market’s most accomplished free agents would just jump at the opportunity of joining your team. Don’t be so sure that they already comprehend what you do or the reason(s) it matters.

Don’t control but encourage teamwork and collaboration

Growth and innovation, by their very definition are about a “different” way of doing things. So rather than expect everyone to do things the way it’s always been done, be humane and make your employees feel like they’re people. Promote people on the basis of meritocracy (power should be given to individuals almost solely on the basis of merit). There may be employees in your team who you think are not capable of achieving great things. However try giving them the space and the opportunity for it and they may just surprise you by doing the “unimaginable.”

Also think of how you can create a collaborative milieu in your office. Leadership today pushes authority to the back with teamwork and influence emerging as more important. Before long, collaboration will rule owing to the fact that cycle times would call for it, younger generations were trained and prepared to engage in it and technology would carry on with enabling it.

Cultivate employees’ interests and show them you care

Supporting your employees in work/life integration would make them feel happier and fulfilled. Don’t be too authoritative, and let your workforce be themselves as long as it doesn’t create problems for you and your company in the process. In addition, show that you care for your employees/candidates. One example to do so is to find out which restaurant is your employee’s/candidate’s favorite and present him with a gift card and a note reading something like “we want you.”

Let learning/development be tailored to each employee

Learning for employee development should ideally be customized to each individual and offered when it is demanded or most required. If you do this, you will prove that you value your employees and have faith in their ability to make one or more informed choices that are the best for their organization’s interests as well as their own.

So don’t be like most other organizations that consider training as just an inventory to give to people as a group. Tailor it and you’ll gain in the process. The tailored development would resemble an investment, not an expense in emerging successful in the war for talent.

Connect their job to a higher purpose

According to a Brookings Institute report, 64 percent (close to two-thirds) of millennials stated preferring earning $40,000 a year for engaging in a job they thoroughly enjoyed to earning $100,000 a year for engaging in a job which they found boring. What’s more, to attract and keep the most dedicated and best talent, it looks like employers need to walk the talk in terms of showing how they utilize business as an instrument for good.

Etsy is one example of a purpose-driven business and apparently its standing as a certified B corporation validated its claims to be one. Certified B corps satisfy meticulous standards of environmental and social performance, accountability and transparency. All B-corps including Etsy are a magnet for the brightest and the best because they make available higher quality jobs associated with a higher purpose. According to an Employee Happiness Survey, created with University of Pennsylvania researchers, overall employee engagement at Etsy is 80 percent positive while the national average is just 60 percent.

However, purpose alone is not enough. Purpose clubbed with fair working conditions and an energetic work environment provides the ideal mix. Interestingly, any company having a B Corp certification achieves this deal mix. Here’s a look at two of the benefits of B-corps in numbers:

B-corps are associated with a 46 percent higher likelihood of having engaged and satisfied employees compared to other businesses.

B-corps are considerably more likely to have a more flexible workplace and to offer 5 or more weeks of paid time for family leave (the likelihood is 65 percent more for maternity and 42 percent more for paternity).

Creating Shared Value (CSV): Though corporate philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) endeavors can help some way to remain in the talent game, really visionary managers or other leaders have another strategic opportunity available before them – it is the creation of shared value (CSV), a concept which extends beyond CSR to the core of a business.

Be transparent

Be wholly transparent. Make it known to the candidates why you desire to hire them, what you expect as a company and in what way(s) you can assist them with growth.

Give them opportunities to develop versatility and agility

Forward-thinking organizations that truly value their employees don’t stop with giving the latter the opportunity to go up the career ladder and increase their expertise. They also help them develop the versatility required to cope with jobs pertaining to a number of challenges and experiences, early into their job. This in turn forces them out of their respective comfort zones and gives them the confidence to take on “first-time” assignments or bigger, challenging jobs in other roles, businesses and geographies. As time progresses, the effort you put in to opening up opportunities for your employees will show itself in increased versatility and agility, and competitiveness.

Job requirements are in the process of being redefined and employee versatility and agility are going to be more essential than they probably have been in the past.

Tap into social media

Social media offers an innovative method to engage prospective employees directly and is better than the conventional job board and agency recruiters. It is a great way for companies and candidates to familiarize themselves with each other prior to coming to the more formal business/employer-employee relationship should the candidate be selected. Research, community and engagement – all will help you find the ideal candidate and all are possible through social media.

Candidate engagement

Engagement is the sole effective way to handle the millennials. Prove to them that you will give ear to their ideas by telling them to come to a solution for your challenges so as to get the job. When you invite your candidates to demonstrate how they can help your company on the basis of their existing knowledge, they would be suddenly empowered to show you their value further than the list of previous accomplishments that are obvious from their resume.

Performance management

Along with talent management, there should be performance management programs as the combination would really assist people with shining. It is true that some organizations avoid openly managing performance even though it is a valuable method to recognize the accomplishments and loopholes in your people with respect to knowledge, skills and behaviors. That way you know what they need and can provide support for the same in a particular way. If there is no performance management, your employees’ idea of their own performance at the job may be distorted because there’s no standard to measure against. Performance management will enable you to provide talented employees with a clear picture of what is expected from them. This will give employees the motivation to achieve more, with you providing the necessary support to achieve goals.

Execute a ‘career lattice’ instead of ‘career ladder’

Gen Y is a mobile generation engaging in a mobile career. Chances of them sticking with a particular organization for five years or more are slim. So, don’t expect them to wait 5 years for a promotion. This generation actually wants their employers to permit them to practically move through the company into different assignments and jobs every 1 to 2 years. So, it would be advisable to forget the career ladder and instead make it a ‘career lattice.’ Provide talent motility, job rotation programs, special assignments and intrapreneurship so that employees can function as entrepreneurs and come up with new services and products for the company.

Provide a meaningful and strong workplace culture

Corporate culture may be defined as the shared attitudes, values, beliefs and standards that typify members of that company and which delineate its nature. The origins of corporate culture are traceable to an organization’s strategies, structure and goals and how it handles customers, labor, investors, and the larger community.

A considerable degree of turnover can be traced to workplace culture. Fortunately, company culture costs you nothing but your attention. The better your culture, the increasingly alluring it becomes to prospective candidates. Just put in a tiny amount of investment and money into it and you’ll be able to create a dynamic and special work environment that will assist with getting the best talent out there attracted to your company. Think along the lines of things such as work hours, how you assign projects to people, time-off programs and philanthropy commitments. Offer inclusion, openness and diversity.

Provide a flexible work environment

The millennial generation values time more than money. Thus, they look for a job environment that offers them flexibility. So you must be more open to flexible working hours, virtual teams, telecommuting, being prepared to give more vacation days instead of a bonus, and things like that. With respect to employees who work away from the office, video can actually help you ensure their participation, at a moment’s notice, in meetings with other employees, clients or stakeholders. Most of the time, these meetings can be carried out anytime and anywhere on practically any device. This is the case whether you’re using telepresence deployments, Google hangouts or any other medium.

Lift the veil

Currently, a lot of importance is attached to recognizing the future generation of leaders. With respect to this, the main challenge is digging out the hidden leadership capability available inside the organization beyond the most apparent candidates who stand out. A suggestion for doing this is to lift the veil. This means you openly tell your employees what they have to do to earn a place for themselves in the list of candidates with “high potential.” That way, those among your workers who yearn to be on that list will work to prove themselves worthy of it. However, do make it clear to them that a position on the list doesn’t necessarily mean you will give them a promotion. What it does mean is that you will give them a chance to get one.

Fundamental requirements to be on the list include an exceptional performance record, much of the behavior and character a leader is expected to possess, and a readiness to accept bigger jobs.

Offer a neat compensation package

If you want to seize real talent, just making any offer is not enough. The possibility is that several other companies would be or have already made offers, some better than yours. So, your HR team should be knowledgeable about the different kinds of pay packages with benefits offered by your company’s rivals. Packages have their differences with respect to base pay, bonuses, equity and perks. So you need to come up with an offer that would really get the candidate tempted to accept it over the other offers he may have received.

Sign-on bonuses are at present, used very often and not just to make up for a candidate’s loss if he should quit his current employer, as they used to be used for. Candidates expect sign-ons to be a component of the package. Stock is another important component of the offer and it can be in any of different shapes and sizes. Your team must comprehend this and assist with walking your candidates through the various types for them to make an informed decision. Stock should definitely be considered because fat salaries are typically not an option.

The situation is no longer such that going to a startup calls for trading down on money in favor of additional upside potential on equity/stock.


Outstanding Perks – Example: Google

Some of the perks one can expect from Google are: employees don’t have to pay for their lunch and dinner, financial support is available in case an employee wishes to adopt a child, Googlers can utilize the company’s beta test products which haven’t reached the public yet to help with their work, Mountain View campus-based Googlers get a no-cost ride to and from their workplace and a sustainable and great risk-reward ratio.

Creative freedom – Example: Baidu in China

Whether it has to do with resources, quicker product iterations, bigger budget, or freedom to recruit at will, Chinese companies such as Baidu could just present a more exhilarating experience. What’s more, employees are permitted to design their own product whether or not they posses any experience in the realm of product designing.

Comments are closed.