The “War” For Talent: Real Shortage, or Employer Propaganda?

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Depending on who you speak to, there is a talent war going on and every employer should be gathering up their troops to battle for the best and brightest.

While I don’t disagree that there are still some highly sought after professionals that are hard to get, particularly in technical fields, I don’t see this said talent shortage/war being true in general.

What I have seen is great talent who are no longer passive but now actively open to any and all conversations surrounding new opportunities. I see those top performers as ready to have conversations about their next move, but employers being ill-equipped to receive them.

What do I mean?

This means that many of the employers speaking about the talent shortage are really spreading workforce propaganda and are in fact the root of the problem when it comes to the talent discussion.

All employers want the best and brightest at their company, yet not all of them are diligent enough in how they attract, assess, develop and retain that talent. They want the finest selection of talent, but offer up salary, development, and benefits that don’t begin to compensate or reward the efforts of quality professionals.

There are various types of workers needed to keep your organization afloat.

  • You have the top performers who will do what they are expected and offer up ideas, skills, and abilities above and beyond what you ask of them. These are your current and future leaders.
  • You have your operational people who will be on time, do what is asked of them, and nothing more. They’re not overly concerned about upward mobility or development-just pay them for an honest day’s work and you will have them for the long haul.
  • Lastly, you have those that will do less than what you expect and require a lot of hand-holding. These are the people who do just enough to keep you off their backs, but are not adding much to your workforce in terms of engagement and productivity.

When you think about what you want the makeup of your employee ecosystem to be, it isn’t likely that you want to attract or retain the latter kind of people. Everyone is aiming for the best! You want those professionals that are self-motivated, productive, and ready to push the company agenda ahead.

A return on effort

While it’s great that you are clear on what you want, are you as clear on what will attract and retain what you seek?

The talent is there. They are open to conversation and helping you solve your business problems, but it comes at a price.

Just as you expect ROI on your investment in them; they expect that you provide opportunities for growth, benefits, fair market value pay in return for their efforts.

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It’s called “return on effort.” This is where you get what you need from the employee, and you in turn provide proper remuneration for their deliverables.

Be honest

Do you have the budget or resources to garner the talent you seek?

This is an important consideration for all businesses. If the answer is “yes,” your only worry is the strategy in getting and keeping them. If “the answer is no,” you have both a budget concern and work to do in terms of figuring out how you fairly and equitably distribute what you can; plus continuing to attract and retain talent despite a shortfall.

This is not an easy task, but it may require you to be honest with current employees as well as new hires as to what you can really offer. Some may still join or remain with you through the struggle, while others may flee. The point is it’s time employers stop selling grown adults on ideals and fluff that may never come to fruition.

Be cognizant of what you can offer as an employer and admit your shortcomings. Talent gaps and shortage may be real, but it isn’t the full story.

This was originally publised on Janine Truitt’s The Aristocracy of HR blog.

Janine N. Truitt is a human resources professional as well as an HR blogger/founder of “The Aristocracy of HR” blog. Follow her blog "The Aristocracy of HR" at . Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her tweets on Twitter @CzarinaofHR. The opinions shared in her articles are her own and are in no way a reflection of the views of her employer.


3 Comments on “The “War” For Talent: Real Shortage, or Employer Propaganda?

  1. I couldn’t disagree more. The idea that top performers are the only candidates worth pursuing is exactly the kind of rhetoric that is driving the perceived shortage of talent. Perhaps I’m misreading, but the idea that the root of the problem in attracting and retaining top talent is unfair compensation (or poor ROE) is also a major misconception. Comp is certainly important – but opportunity to grow, work/life balance, and company culture are even more so.

    The bigger problem I have with this, though, is that there’s no distinction between performance and potential. To be clear: They’re connected, but not exclusive. Your top salesperson isn’t necessarily going to be your best sales manager. On the contrary, there are many in the other two categories you’ve listed that likely have much higher potential than they are currently exemplifying. If you’re only chasing performers, you’re going to miss out.

    Our research shows that employers are having a very real problem attracting, hiring, and retaining talent. The war for talent is a very real thing, though misconception is running rampant in regards to what it entails. I shared some thoughts on this on my blog earlier this week:

    “One of the key findings from Brandon Hall Group’s Talent Acquisition Benchmarking Survey is a serious disconnect between the goals hiring organizations have set for 2014 and the processes they have in place to achieve them. Hiring better talent was the most important goal for our survey respondents by a long shot, and yet … the majority of these organizations are still beholden to traditional assessment practices with the main objective of screening applicants.

    Consider this: What if the perceived shortage of talent – and even the skills gap at large – is the result of assessment malpractice? What if, by asking the wrong questions, we’re burning the chaff and the wheat? What if we’re over-screening and underestimating candidates?

    Your next rep of the year could very well be the underdog your recruiters would never give the time of day. He or she may be the gray squirrel that was overlooked because you’re still chasing the purple ones. If you subject them to assessment malpractice, they’re very likely to end up gathering nuts for someone else.”

    Full post:

  2. Kyle,

    Thanks for chiming in. I point out that the top talent and operational kinds are the people necessary for the efficient run of the company. I also pointed out that those that do the bare minimum are the ones we don’t want to attract and are in fact detracting from the organization. The under-performers are specifically addressed as those not performing up to par.

    I specifically point out in the beginning of the article that companies are ill-equipped in their strategy for not only attracting and retaining, but developing talent.

    There are varied types of professionals in the workforce and not all of them are top talent. The point of my argument for the sake of this particular post is not how the manage and develop laterals, but how and why companies are missing the mark with top performers in my experience.

    You bring up some salient points, but I think you missed the core argument of my post. The discussion of how to properly engage, compensate, reward and retain talent on the whole is a larger-than-life discussion that was not the intention for this one post.

    I appreciate your opinion and reading nevertheless.

    All the best,


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