Management April 12, 2013 Last updated September 18th, 2018 605 Reads share

How Will You Win The War For Talent?

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Wouldn’t it be great if you could snap your fingers, and have the best and brightest people working for you?  What could your business achieve if only you had talented, focused, thriving people committed to making your business and their careers a huge success? Here’s the deal. There is no magic potion. No simple solutions to the complex challenges posed by demographics and changing expectations. Bummer right?!

In fact, looking at the whole big hairy problem of attracting and retaining talent as a “war” is fundamentally misguided. Wars have victors and the vanquished.  Bloody battles and explosions.

In contrast, attracting, developing and retaining the right people for your business is a lot more like a chess game. Good strategy keeps you in the game against formidable odds.  There are winners and losers, true, but wise action trumps guerilla tactics every time!

I guarantee anyone offering you win/lose “simple” solutions to your staffing challenges is simply putting lipstick on the problem. But, if you’re game for it, here are some proven practices that ensure you focus on how to establish a competitive edge. And stay out of the trenches!

Without a road map you’ll go no where – fast

Here’s a highly effective planning practice for solving complex problems just like the so-called war for talent.

  • Convene the people who have the most to gain (or loose) from the issue you’re faced with.
  • Develop a collective view about the problems that may occur, and parse them into themes. Don’t get bogged in detail at this stage.
  • Assign each theme to a group of people to flesh out a solid understanding.
  • Reconvene to share updates.
  • Identify controllable issues, opportunities and risks to manage.
  •  Prioritize them, and develop your action plan.

Identifying themes and prioritizing action saves you from getting sucked into the morass of trying to do everything.  And achieving nothing. If you want to know more about this approach, here’s a very helpful article – The Art of Complex Problem Solving.

Seeing systems

Here’s a framework you can use to look at the Talent chessboard for your organization.

Talent War

External factors

Despite the general chatter in the popular press about the impact of retiring boomers, or upcoming Gen What-evers, your industry, or niche warrants a closer look at things. For example, if the nature of your whole industry is changing rapidly – think video rental stores versus Netflix – then it’s time for a shake-up in your hiring practices.

For example, in my work as a business coach I see increasing acceptance of remote, telephone based relationships. It’s an efficient use of time, and lets customers seek out the right match for their needs regardless of geography. In turn, that means I need to align myself with savvy internet marketing people, far more that I used to need help from event planners and print based marketing experts.

Strategic factors

Assimilating a number of new employees to support rapid growth, for example, means you need to hire a cross section of experience levels so you don’t have 101 newbies who all need time to learn their way around.

In comparison, mature, stable organizations can afford to bring in recent grads or less experienced staff because you already have things moving along fairly well, and the time to develop new people.

There’s a lot of rhetoric about corporate culture, and far too much of it is pie-in-the-sky talk. Be candid about the upside of working at your place of business, and you’ll find that naturally points to the type of skills and values employees need to succeed.

If you’re a high-pay, drive-them hard kind of place that’s cool. Hire people who want to make their mark, educate them well, and don’t plan on them sticking with you for 25 years.

But if you need people who have highly specialized knowledge, or to protect small but lucrative client list, you’ll want to stay on top of the factors that make your business attractive to employees over the long haul.

The more skilled or highly educated your workforce is, the more autonomy they’ll expect. If this describes your biz, you’ll need to focus on distributed decision making and ensuring you cultivate the business knowledge necessary to your success. Tight command and control practices are contrary to your needs, so get rigorous about removing red tape and increasing autonomy.

Internal factors

More than anything else, people thrive when they know their work is meaningful. Ensuring you connect the dots so everyone can see how their work contributes to achieving significant milestones pays dividends.

If I had 10 bucks for each time I’ve heard a good employee simply give up because they didn’t feel they had input… well, I’d have a lot of money! Engaged employees know how to contribute their expertise, and make things happen. Developing the practices of collaboration, not only improves your result, it drives employee satisfaction.

Just as people crave meaningful work, they also want to know their efforts are recognized. Feedback – far more than simple affirmations – acknowledges guides and motivates. It’s not hard to do, but it’s commonly overlooked.

Finally – remember to share the success. Promotions go to those who earn them, as do the biggest financial perks. But recognizing effort as well as results is how you build a true team.

Win like a Grand Chess Master

I wish I could tell you about the 10 easy steps to solve the thorny issue of finding and keeping the talent you need. But you’re too smart to think the challenge of finding people who can make your business succeed can be solved with trite, simple answers.

So put your chess master thinking-cap on. Strategic, long range planning is how you’ll win this particular competition. And it’s how you’ll keep on winning long after the guerilla warfare types have burned through a dozen gimmicky hiring platforms.

Cozy up with your colleagues, engage the best minds you can find, and play your best game!

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Janine Gilmour

Janine Gilmour

Janine Gilmour of Touchstone Advisory Services coaches business owners who want spend less time managing problems and more time managing their business. She helps her clients cut through confusion, build actionable goals, and focus on actions that yield results.

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