“Companies are about to be engaged in a war for senior… talent that will remain a defining characteristic of their competitive landscape for decades to come. Yet most are ill prepared, and even the best are vulnerable” – McKinsey, 1997
Ever since the phrase “the war for talent” was first coined by McKinsey in the late 90’s, talent sourcers, recruitment consultants and all those involved in the talent acquisition process have been self-challenged to think more creatively on how to attract talent from what has become known as a limited talent pool. The 3 key reasons for this ‘war’, according to a 2011 report by the Aberdeen Group are; increasing competition in the market place for top talent, a shortage of required skills available in the labour pool, and pressure in meeting organisations growth objectives. But are these really the key reasons for this ‘war’ or are there other underlying, and often unexamined causes?
Consider this analogy to help explain the point: If you place a pencil into a glass of water, what happens? The pencil ‘appears’ bent, does it not? Indeed, our thinking will initially tell us that it is in fact bent, just like a mirage in the desert will have us believe that there is water in the near distance. However, upon further examination, and as scientific thinking later tells us, it is not the pencil that bends, but the refraction of light, as it hits the pencil at an angle that causes it to appear bent:
The way we think about talent (what it looks like, where we expect to source it from, how it should typically present itself or behave, etc), tells us that there is a war, that there is a very limited talent pool to tap from. However, upon further detailed examination of our ‘rational’ presuppositions, of our expected ‘criteria’, we may realise that it is not so much that there is a shortage of talent, but a shortage in our understanding of what talent is. The ‘war’, as McKinsey terms it, is not only about ensuring talent management is a burning board level priority, but in addition, I suggest, is even more so, about the war in our minds…in our heads! How are we to really understand 21st century talent? Continue reading