HR needs to draw talent from a far bigger pool, which includes former criminals, according to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Develoment (CIPD) chief economist.
Speaking at the CIPD's annual conference in Harrogate this week, during a seminar on beating the coming shortage of skills and talent, John Philpott said HR should not simply look to their current workforce or schools for new recruits.
He said: "Some of the talented people of tomorrow will currently be languishing in jail and have talent that needs to be nurtured."
Paul Devoy, development manager of the Sectors Skills Development Agency, urged employers to invest in developing their staff. This would then eliminate the productivity gap the UK has with the rest of the European Union and would add £80bn to the UK's gross domestic product.
He added that the qualifications improvement of the last 10 years had already added between £30bn and £50bn to the nation's GDP and created about 200,000 jobs.