Magnetic appeal

The single most important battle to be fought today in the running of any enterprise, private or public, is ‘the war for talent’. Do you ever summon up the courage to consider the following questions: Are we a magnet for talent? Are the right people, in sufficient numbers, constantly knocking on our door? Are we not only attracting the right people, but are we also retaining the right people for the right reasons and for the right length of time? My belief is that there is never a shortage of talent; there is only a shortage of great companies that the best people want to work for. Are you one of those companies?

New wealth, and therefore future value, will come from the innovative and creative thinking of your most talented people – not from wringing the last bit of efficiency out of the old ways of doing things. You must be free of denial, nostalgia and arrogance to truly understand this. It might be interesting to weigh the amount of time, energy and focus you put into capital allocation, versus the amount of time, energy and focus you put into talent allocation.

If the leaders in your business were asked to rate the three biggest challenges of the next decade, where would they rate the war for talent?

Would it even be on their list? If not, they (and you by association) are 10 years behind where they should be. Hope is not a strategy. What plans, actions and processes are you undertaking to make your business truly competitive in the future, linked to the talent you must attract and retain?
Once you have been able to attract the kind of talented people you’ll need to guarantee future success, do you have the corresponding culture and values that will allow them to realise their full potential? Talent only soars when you set it free. Bringing talented people into a company that is old-fashioned and too bureaucratic – that is still operating as a command-and-control structure – will be a recipe for disaster. Perhaps the most important internal measurement you can now take, is trying to honestly determine if your best people have total freedom to make their very best contribution.

Do not guess. You must ask them and then be willing to confront the issues accordingly. Otherwise, you will simply lose these people, and your investment in time and money in attracting them in the first place will have been a total waste.

Empowerment as a concept has been misunderstood for as long as it has been used. It is not about giving anything to anyone; it is simply about removing fear and bureaucracy from the decision-making process. Every company today is too slow and too bureaucratic. What makes globalisation so profound (equal in significance to the invention of the printing press or the industrial revolution) is the speed with which change is happening, facilitated, of course, by technology. Standing still today is a terminal illness. You may have lots of clever ideas, but are you moving fast enough? Have you peeled away the layers of bureaucracy to give your best people the greatest opportunity to contribute? Are you fostering a culture of collaboration, and re-directing your energies externally to collaborate with both your business partners and your customers? Are you facilitating collaboration between your customers?

The ability to see the future before the competition and to get there first, is an integral component of great leadership. No leader can do this alone. The depth of talent that surrounds successful leaders is sometimes the best indication of their wisdom and competence. The legacy of every company operating in the remarkable world of work in which we now live, will be determined to the greatest possible extent by a singular determination – perhaps obsession – to find the right people, keep the right people by giving them unlimited freedom to contribute, focus the right people on the right things, and reward them handsomely.

The war for talent will only become a bigger challenge in the months and years ahead. The most profound consequence of globalisation is the inevitable march of technology and capital, that is removing all barriers, all boundaries, all friction and all constraints – and at a remarkable speed. We are moving into a period where all technology will be digital and mobile, where all the knowledge pools on the planet are connected and accessible by five billion of the six billion people alive today. Anyone can be a competitor now. Correspondingly, anyone can be a customer too, and two billion potential customers have come online in China, India and Eastern Europe in the past 18 months alone.

Are you positioning your enterprise – whether it is in the private or public sector – to successfully meet these new challenges? The most important choice you can make to do so, is to be certain that you are focused on finding ways to attract the most talented people available, and that you are bringing them into an environment that truly allows their talent to soar.

HR must abandon hope or become ‘human remains’
HR must create ‘talent-magnets’

Larry Hochman is one of the most sought-after speakers in the world and recently presented one of Personnel Today’s HR Directors Club events.Globally recognised as an expert on leadership, customer service and talent management, he was named European Business Speaker of the Year in 2001.Prior to that, he spent many years in senior positions with British Airways and AirMiles.His roles included director of customer service and director of people and culture.For more information, go to

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