When demand for talent outstrips the supply, you are in a war for talent. When you vie for top talent and hope they will stay longer, you are in a war for talent. When jobs go untaken, a talent shortage brings productivity to a halt.
In recent years, previously productive people became disillusioned and disconnected, as management stopped focusing on engaging and retaining their best workers and said, “Quit whining—just be glad you have a job.”
However, a new war for talent is proceeding, driven by three factors:
- A healthier economy and brighter job market (translates to more options). In addition, a mismatch of talent is leading to rampant underemployment.
- Unhappy employees, with updated resumes and packed bags. A skills gap is exacerbating the problem.
- Changing demographics are leaving the workplace short-handed. Highly skilled workers are becoming more productive and more valuable.
One-half of the 76 million Baby Boomers will be retiring in the next decade. The number of workers between the prime working ages of 25 and 54 will shrink, causing a shortage in skilled workers.
Do you feel the competition for talent? Certain mitigating factors could ease the pain of the new war for talent: fewer workers will be needed as companies outsource jobs, technology advances, productivity improves, skilled workers immigrate, and some Boomers delay their retirement.
Engage and Retain
Still, there will be great upheaval in the workplace as talented people leave to find better jobs or to retire. How can you engage and retain your people? Either love them or lose them.
- Love: Treat employees fairly and respectfully. Thank them. Challenge and develop them. Care about them, and you will engage and retain them.
- Lose: Loss is just as serious when talent retires on the job as when they leave. Re-engage your talent and ensure that they are bringing their heads and hearts to work.
Good people include your solid citizens, as well as your high-potentials. Stars are people at any level who add value. Encourage talented people to stay with the enterprise (if not your team). Talent will be the differentiating factor in the competitive battle ahead.
Three Areas of Emphasis
Let your engagement and retention strategies cover three critical areas.
- Focus on employee development, learning, and growth. Find ways to develop workers’ talents. Enrich and enliven employees to increase the time they spend on desirable and innovative work. Identify opportunities for them to move vertically and laterally. Link them to mentors, coaches, leaders or colleagues who offer support.
- Cultivate a style that inspires loyalty. Ask employees what they want from their work and what it takes to keep them. Provide feedback—clearly truthfully, and respectfully—and listen carefully Provide clear direction. Identify and correct negative behaviors. Look for meaningful ways to reward people. Hold managers accountable for retention.
- Create a work environment that people love. Create a culture of inclusion— valuing not only differences of race and gender, but thoughts, experiences, and attitudes. Let fun happen. Share information freely and regularly Seek input from your people and listen to what they say. Give people space—providing the freedom to get the job done in ways that work best for them.