Tag Archives: war for talent

The one with a battle not a war

For at least the past decade discussion has abounded about the war for talent. When I first interviewed for an HR job a friend who is a Senior HR practitioner told me to avoid using the phrase as it would sound like meaningless jargon. I followed her advice then (and got the job) but continue to see the phrase in print (online and offline) and featuring on many conference programmes.

It appears with my limited perspective that the biggest focus in the war for talent, or least in the discussions I see is the acquisition of talent (recruitment in normal language). Whilst ensuring an organisation hires great people is absolutely key in ensuring the health and effectiveness of the organisation – it is only a battle, it is NOT the war.

The other major battle is termed by some talent development (Learning & Development in my language but to my Dad I work in training) and I promise this post isn’t another one all about L&D. But it is about Talent, and what seems to now be termed talent mapping/planning (succession planning in old skool language)

In the past few weeks I have been talking to people in several different contexts about my views on talent. When the subject of succession planning rears its head, as it inevitably does, it amazes me how much focus is given firstly to the operation of the exercise (the project management elements) and secondly the administration of the process (the tools or system used). What appears to be given little attention is the actual content of said plan…

What largely seems to happen is that line managers are asked to assess their teams and fill in some form of document or chart with an indication of what roles that individual will do in a specified amount of time. Now I accept there are some organisations that do this very well but it appears most do something rudimentary.

So let’s have a look at the pitfalls associated with a basic or rudimentary process:

  • It’s largely based on the subjective opinion of the line management
  • The investment in objective measurement of either performance or potential is often limited
  • It is often married to a evolving or flawed performance management system
  • The balance between current performance and individual potential often skews to assessment being made on performance
  • It often doesn’t consider options wider than the current function an individual is working in
  • It is often subjugated to ‘business as usual’ and becomes a compliance exercise rather than attention being paid to individual and organisational potential

This list could go on and on and as previously stated isn’t a view on the best practice that exists in some organisations but my perception on what happens in some organisations that maybe haven’t seen (or been influenced to) the value of investing in their succession plan.

Views abound on many parts of this subject and an interesting view from the other side of the fence can be found in this post  from Katie McNab.

People don’t appear on a balance sheet. If they did you would have to depreciate them, give information on their expected life span and what investments are being made to ensure that life is achieved or exceeded. Whilst a machine in a factory receives planned and preventative maintenance and effort is put into the next generation of upgrades, additions, capacity extensions and ensuring that machine runs as efficiently as possible. Due to the lack of objective (and for that read financial) measures around people it appears they don’t receive the level of attention they would benefit from.

So why did I write this? Firstly because the thought has been bouncing around my head but probably more to ask that the next time you hear/use the phrase the war for talent you think about all the battles on all the fronts and how important your existing employees are to the future success of your business.


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The one with a rant about Gen Y

You can’t open a newspaper, magazine or Twitter client these days without hearing talk of Gen Y and for those of you who err towards the puerile end of humour, read this brief blog post from @garyfranklin

Like anyone else peddling their wares in HR these days I am aware of that apparently we need to change the world to engage with generation Y and that the baby boomers are going to break the pension pot.

I must confess I bandy the phrases as well as the next ware peddler but until I indulged in a little light wiki’ing recently I didn’t know the specifics of all the generational definitions and as I work in L&D indulge me momentarily in sharing some recently acquired knowledge:

  • The Lost Generation was originated by artist and write Gertrude Stein to describe those lost in the First World War
  • The Greatest Generation is a phrase originated by NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw for those born between the turn of the 20th century up to 1924.
  • The Silent Generation has been used to describe those born from 1925 to 1945. Clearly whoever coined the phrase had never met my Mother…
  • The Baby Boomers we all know about and they were born between 1945 and 1964 and embarrassingly I learned about the term because there was a specific edition of Trivial Pursuit (the shame) and with some exceptions they are running the world at the moment and at one time or another have all lived in a yellow submarine (kidding!)
  • Generation X are those born between 1964 and roughly 1980 (definitions vary) and interestingly are the first generation to earn less than the one before them even though their defining era likely involves Thatcher & Reagan, yuppies and red braces but also at least 3 recessions.
  • Generation Y are those born between 80/82 up the early mid 90s (again definitions vary) and have grown up with the internet, generation X parents and according to many sources (including the above linked blog) expect a lot more from their employers (reward, recognition, feedback, involvement, development, advancement etc) and if they don’t get it they will leave.

I won’t even discuss the ‘digital natives’ or generation Z but it does worry me that people who think it’s perfectly acceptable to write ‘coz’ will be running the country when I am receiving palliative care.

So is there a point? Well it’s more a rant than a point but again I beg your indulgence…

I only have two 1st cousins and both are significantly younger than me. The eldest is Gen Y and during a conversation with her at the weekend she talked about how finding friends in a new environment was difficult (she is going from undergraduate to postgraduate) and that she felt that people were only interested in her for what she could give them rather than building a meaningful relationship just for the sake of friendship. This spun off to a conversation about some of the traits of gen Y and how she felt alienated by it and the following thought struck me…

Are the lunatics taking over the asylum?

Did Nurse Ratchet think “McMurpy’s not happy let’s change the rules until he is?”*

Do school teachers change the rules of classroom discipline because the kids complain about it?

With major corporations training senior managers on how to engage gen Y employees are we allowing the preferences of a group to influence the way businesses are run, despite at times it being counter to the espoused values of the business?

It strikes me (and this is probably where my rant shows me up), however draconian it may sound that WE (whether that be a boomer or Gen X) need to stand our ground and actually manage consistently across the organisation to “assist” those of a different generation to understand and appreciate what the expectation is of them… What will get them reward and recognition and advancement…  rather than expending energies understanding what rice krispie treats they want and how to win the oft quoted “war for talent” by superficially making our businesses more attractive.

….steps down from soapbox

Now who wants a game of foosball? It’s gr8!

*for any Gen Z people reading this, that refers to a film called “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” starring an actor called Jack Nicholson. Watch it – it’s brilliant 😉


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