There is no war for talent–not in Asia, anyhow

The ‘war on talent’ was coined by McKinsey in the late ’90′s, for which they made a simple demographic assumption about talent in the US and Europe.

With a low or negative birth rate, there would be less people to take over from the baby boomers, and not enough people to fill the job opening, hence the war begins over scarce resources. That’s pretty much it.

But that was never the case in most of the world, especially Asia. Yet one still hears that shop-worn “war” phrase, companies despair over not having enough strong talent, and headhunters state the good ones will cost a bundle, etc.. Is it true??

I think not.

The major problem is not the shortage of talent–not in an area with rapidly growing populations. It may be more of what some companies are loath to say out loud; “slipshod hiring practices”.

My clients are nearly all MNC’s, mostly Fortune 500. With the shibboleths of ‘talent acquisition, talent retention and talent development’, one would think hiring for senior roles would be methodical, consistent, clear on overall structure, scope, metrics, challenges, and so on.

Many brand name companies struggle with attracting top talent. Some reasons I have grappled with:

  • No alignment on who the internal stakeholders/interviewers are, nor clear job definitions and descriptions
  • Interviewing that goes on in perpetuity, always asking for ‘that perfect person out there’; Ut ameris amebilis esto..
  • Inability to articulate the upside, on many levels; ‘Trust us’, one client told my candidate, ‘within the next two years you’ll be back to the pay you now have. Our future is very good.’ Huh?? He turned the job down instantly, of course.
  • Senior management uninterested/too busy to get involved in the process of any senior ‘talent acquisition’; “that’s HR’s job, not mine. I trust their decision”..
  • Look for less expensive or easy hires rather than incentivising the best;
  • Hiring their own ilk rather than those who don’t look or talk like them, but have the smarts for the job; a challenge prevalent in Asia
  • No strategic ‘on-boarding’ to ensure a successful transition-everyone is too busy, or dropping a new hire in the deep end to see if they can swim..
  • [/list]

    All my work is in Asia, so I can’t comment on anywhere else.

    But I can tell you that when it comes to the ‘War For Talent’, there is talent–plenty–especially in Asia. They may not look nor talk like you, but talent is talent.

    One of the hardest things to do is get a good fit on board, and have them stay and grow. Always will be. Companies must be clear on what they’re looking for, ensure there is internal agreement, methodology and cooperation to do so–that’s the real war…

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