CEOs Focus on Talent Shortages, But the Key is Engagement & Retention

In the last couple of years, leaders have been compelled to look to a new asset group — their workforce — to provide the company with the same productivity and financial gains they’ve experienced from leveraging hard assets and operational systems.

It seems obvious that people are at the heart of every aspect of running a business, and are therefore in the best position to positively impact outcomes, but that perspective has only recently begun to make its way into leadership training or business publications.

CEOs tell me managing talent is at the top of their agenda and research bears this out. According to PwC’s annual global CEO Survey, 83 percent of the CEOs surveyed from 69 countries plan to change their firm’s talent management strategy and for 31 percent those changes will be major.

HR’s opportunity to shine

“CEOs are putting the focus firmly on their people,” said Michael Rendell, Global Head of HR Services Practice at PwC. He added:

Competition for talent is intensifying as recruitment activity picks up in some sectors and there are increasing difficulties finding staff with the right skills. CEOs often speak of the importance of talent, but there’s not enough evidence of action being taken. The survey findings are encouraging, suggesting talent will be reflected more in company strategy. HR professionals need to help CEOs see what can and should be done.”

This provides an exceptional opportunity for HR leaders to play a heightened role in helping set the course for the future of their organizations.

HR should be proactive in ensuring programs related to employee engagement, recognition and rewards, and training and development remain at the forefront of the company’s strategy for growth and success. They should also continue to assist senior leaders in staying the course.

Candidate shortages intensify

CEOs anticipate the main change to talent management will be using more non-financial rewards to motivate staff, and this is a good sign these leaders are beginning to understand employees are not motivated solely by compensation and benefits.

CEOs and their HR professionals need to make sure employees are engaged financially and emotionally in both their work and their organization to have any hope of attracting and keeping the talent needed to move forward.

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Indeed CEOs believe the main challenge to talent over the next few years will be a limited supply of candidates with the right skills, and they have good reason to believe it will be difficult.

In spite of persistently high unemployment levels, employers around the world are having increasing difficulty recruiting the people they need, according to ManpowerGroup’s Talent Shortage Survey. The reasons most often cited in the survey are lack of experience, lack of available applicants, and lack of technical skills. In the U.S., there is the added reason that candidates are looking for more pay than is offered.

Needed: A focus on engagement & retention

To respond to these shortages, employers need to sharpen their focus on employee engagement and retention, and augment their training departments and recognition programs to optimize these tools to snag those elusive skilled workers.

What other factors have you found to be successful in attracting and retaining employees? Please share your stories and examples of how you’re tackling this challenging issue.

The post originally appeared in a somewhat different form on

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   




3 Comments on “CEOs Focus on Talent Shortages, But the Key is Engagement & Retention

  1. Completely agree with what you are saying, although working out exactly how to achieve this is where the real challenge is!

    At Fuel50 we have just developed a detailed benchmark list of concrete practices that we found work in synergy to statistically imporve retention and engagement outcomes across a range of global industries.

  2. There is no talent shortage.

    There is a shortage of professionals who want to take a vow of poverty. There is a shortage of people who don’t want to be paid fairly. There is a shortage of employers willing to train new people.

    But there is no talent shortage. Plenty of people in the unemployment lines would love to work for you, but you’re discriminating against them for various idiotic reasons.

  3. This says a lot, “It seems obvious that people are at the heart of every aspect of running a business, and are therefore in the best position to positively impact outcomes,” when considering organizational shortcomings in employee engagement and retention. Establishing a recognition and reward strategy, to allow employees to impact and motivate each other, is a great way to positively impact business overall.

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