The talent war rages on

While organisations accept that talent comes at a premium, are they looking
beyond traditional selection practices? Research exclusive to Personnel Today
suggests a definite lack of ambition when it comes to improving the process

Everyone is talking about the ‘war for talent’. But what are firms doing to
win the best people? And are they using robust new ideas to identify, attract
and keep this sought-after group? A survey carried out across numerous
industries by Personnel Today and talent research company Kenexa found there is
widespread anxiety about finding and keeping talent, but new ideas are thin on
the ground.

The survey – carried out in January – looked at 222 senior HR professionals,
working in banking, financial services, chemicals, IT, manufacturing, public
sector, retail, services, telecoms and utilities.

Of those surveyed, 90 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that recruiting
talented people is a key issue for business today – and only 7 per cent
disagreed, or strongly disagreed. And an even higher level – 93 per cent – see
the retention of such staff as a key issue.

But despite the high priority they claim to give to talent, 57 per cent of
companies do not have a specific talent management strategy or plan. This suggests
that their approach is at best ad hoc and that efforts are not co-ordinated
across the organisation. It is also likely to mean that there is a lack of
workforce planning and the connection between human capital needs and the
business plan has yet to be made.

Some larger companies have developed the post of talent director, or talent
champion. However, the survey shows that only 37 per cent have anyone whose
specific remit is to manage talent.

When looking at ways of assessing and predicting talent, companies are
relying on traditional methods. The most widely used ways to assess talent are
formal qualifications or performance appraisal. More progressive approaches –
such as talent or trait profiling – are only used by 10 per cent of firms in
the survey.

Performance appraisal is used by a large proportion of organisations, but it
should be noted that many appraisal systems only rate people against limited
organisational benchmarks and rely heavily on subjective opinion.

Paper qualifications are still the bedrock of talent assessment, rather than
scientific methods. But about 30 per cent of companies are using psychometrics
or assessment centre approaches. Overall, it seems that companies are not
updating their talent management practices.

Despite all the hype about talent, the most acute shortages are still in
management and executive areas. Talented team leaders are also in demand.
Shortages of operational staff appear to be less severe.

There is also a big demand for frontline staff and for graduates and
professionals. Frontline staff may be highly sought after because of the
increasing importance of customer-facing employees, and the shift to
service-based companies away from manufacturing.

A lack of action is indicated by the fact that 58 per cent of respondents
are not entirely happy with their capacity to find and keep top performers.
This means that in most organisations much more needs to be done. And the fact
that 23 per cent of HR managers are neutral about the link between talent
resourcing and business performance suggests there are many HR managers who are
not convinced that talent management is a priority if companies are to succeed

There is strong agreement that the war for talent is reality. Only 4 per
cent of those surveyed disagreed with this, while 75 per cent agree or strongly
agree that they are in competition with other organisations for a limited pool
of talented staff.

Opinion is divided when it comes to finding ways of tackling this. The
survey found that 31 per cent of respondents believe their company needs to
turn to external consultants to solve their talent-seeking problems. But almost
half are undecided, suggesting that the preferred option is to develop internal

Overall, the findings of the survey suggest that, while there is awareness
of the vital importance of talent management, the majority of companies are not
happy with their progress. And there is little evidence of a willingness to
break with traditional approaches.

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