I have just re-read the classic McKinsey article from 1998 called ‘The War For Talent’ (The McKinsey Quarterly, 1998, number 3). It is a great article and I will recommend you all to read or re-read it. It is great for many reasons. Firstly, it was the article that coined the now famous phrase ‘war for talent’ and thereby started the focused effort many large and multinational companies since have had. Talent Management has become a large focus area for many HR executives and a core HR activity. This was not the case in the beginning of the 1990’s.
A second reason why it is a great article is that it is very well researched. They interviewed 5,679 executives from 77 companies of which 359 were CEO and their direct reports as well as 72 senior HR executives. Impressive.
So what did the article conclude? Well a few conclusions are; 1) The war for talent can be won if – and only if – companies elevate talent management to a burning corporate priority. 2) You must create a strong employee value proposition [I like this]. 3) Many do focus on attraction, retention and development but their effort is way off the mark. 4) All talents care deeply about culture, values and autonomy. 5) Feedback and coaching works really well and 6) too few understand their retention problem. Many articles and White Papers have been written since concluding basically the same. These conclusions are worth remembering.
How have companies taken on this advice here 13 years after the article? Bersin & Associates surveyed in 2009 American companies’ talent management and concluded that 15% had no talent management strategy at all, 40% said it was at a ‘novice stage’, 40% was at a ‘intermediate stage’ with some mature processes and only 5% had a clear strategy with mature and integrated processes. Wow, that is not good enough.
It appears that the future winners of the War for Talent are almost identified…time to step up for the rest. Talent Management really isn’t a ‘nice to have’ anymore. It is a ‘must have’ in order to survive.