Why is the war for talent an issue at all?

November 17, 2016    Andrew Peers     

The War for Talent – a term used the world over to describe the increasing difficulty to recruit the brightest and best in a highly competitive market. It’s a challenge blighting western businesses in particular and one of the single biggest concerns for those seeking growth and longevity in a global economy.

Over the last five years the war for talent has really captured the concern of UK plc and particularly of those businesses in the knowledge economy. But before an organisation can prepare for or win the War for Talent, it pays to understand what led to this global challenge.

Demographics and an ageing workforce
The UK population is aging and working for longer. In 2010, there were just over 1.3 million more under 16s than people aged 65+ but by 2035, the situation will have reversed with 4 million more 65+s than under 16s. We are faced with less new talent and a larger proportion of older workers.

Until the introduction of the Age Discrimination Act it was all too easy for the older generation to be discounted in the workplace, with myths surrounding their work ethic and ability to learn new skills clouding their value. Consider that in the next 10 years there will be 13.5 million new jobs in the UK and only seven million school leavers  and you can see that a pinch point is coming. Older workers will soon have more value than ever before, proving vital in retaining skills and expertise within businesses.

But we should remember that the older workers of tomorrow are in fact the younger workers of today. As the Baby-Boomers (born 1946-64) begin to leave the workplace it is the Millennials (born 1979-2000) and Generation Zs that will fill their shoes. As we work longer, Millennials will be the biggest contributor to the global workforce.

Diversity
The workplace has never been so diverse with different cultures and ages, more women and a wider variety of working styles such as part time and working remotely all existing together. Our lives also follow a much less linear pattern with education, work and personal time all overlapping – while this might be a formal career break to travel or study, it could just as easily be how we combine personal and professional time within the context of a working day.

Proliferation of technology
The ubiquity of mobile devices has created an always on, always connected culture and has delivered huge benefits to businesses. The War for Talent is deeply rooted in technology for Millennials are the most tech-savvy generation. Technology has changed how we create, collaborate and communicate and has opened up the world – we can trade with and work on other continents with ease. Technology has also brought more autonomy to the workplace, allowing workers to choose where and how they work and liberating them from a fixed location.

Globalisation and mobility
Emerging markets in India, China and the Middle East have instigated huge changes to the way businesses operate and export. British businesses are now playing on a world stage, faced with increasing competition from emerging markets and new dynamic entrepreneurs. Globalisation also changes the mobility of people, making it far easier to cross geographic and cultural boundaries and seek employment abroad.

Knowledge economy
The things we buy and the processes we use to make them now rely less on labour and more on knowledge and technology. This has prompted a transformative and global shift from product-based to knowledge-based economies. Skilled and knowledgeable workers are now a company’s biggest asset.

The global talent shortage has drawn attention to much more than just recruitment and retention strategies, it has highlighted the need for organisation’s to embrace diversity, technology and knowledge sharing. The world of work is changing – employees seek autonomy and choice, mobility and freedom, challenge and reward. The War for Talent will be won by those organisations that differentiate, exceed employee expectation and recognise that the only business constant is change.

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