Last Friday I found myself on the periphery of someone else’s recruitment pitch. The whole thing had a not-so subtle undercurrent around the idea of a new WfT: there are no candidates, Brexit is scaring off the overseas talent, there is a skills shortage and, of course, we were ‘up North’. For these reasons, the pitch had a negative focus on what the client could expect from a candidate shortlist. This got me thinking about why the ‘War for Talent’ was conceived, and how it is being used as a concept in 2018.
The WfT still has its place in talent management. However, the workforce has moved on considerably since then. The 21 year old of 1997 was focused on a good wage for a good job and the opportunity for self-development. On the whole, the 21 year old of today expects considerably more. They want employer-led development, agile working, work-life balance and a wider range of benefits.
Using the phrase ‘the war for talent’ to push the fault of bad or inadequate recruitment to external factors like skill shortages, education, migration, is not the spirit in which the concept was conceived. Instead of looking at one role, one position, the WfT is about long-term strategising. A short term view about finding high calibre candidates on a role by role basis can give an unrealistic vision to recruiters and clients alike. For recruiters the competition is fierce. But this is certainly nothing new and nothing to do with a principle devised in 1997: recruitment, external or internal, has always been challenging.
The WfT, in the sense McKinsey meant it, brings something important into focus: instead of bemoaning the challenges of finding the perfect shortlist we should focus on collaboration between clients and recruiters to explore and improve a company’s Employee Value Proposition (EVP).
Using the WfT for introspection
The WfT was originally built for introspection, looking at how companies can change themselves in order to be more attractive to the top tier of candidates. This introspection allows effective recognition of the talent that is really needed throughout the business, as there is no point hiring talent whose ambition and capability does not match those of the opportunity at hand. Recruitment partners should be holding a mirror to the organisation and advising on how to help attract and retain the right talent.
As a recruiter, but possibly more importantly as a hiring manager, it is key to look at a recruitment meeting as an intelligence gathering exercise. On average I will see three different businesses per week. As part of any business development meeting it is imperative to discover the employee ethos of the business. We examine what drives talent to excel in every environment. As we witness such a variety of company cultures, we are keenly placed to assist clients in terms of what does and doesn’t work in their industry. We can look at what their long term strategy should focus on, and where they could beat the competition in the race for talent. The WfT has evolved far beyond its original concept and recruitment is on the front line of this.
In the WfT your recruitment partner should be your closest ally. The WfT is not an excuse for not finding candidates, or charging more, or extending deadlines, but an opportunity to work together: not only finding the perfect candidate, but refining what the perfect candidate looks like. Recruitment remains challenging; top candidates know what they want from a role and a company, and have the luxury of being able to consider their options before they accept an offer.
Yes, there remains a skills shortage, and companies must battle to win the candidates they want; in 2018, developing your EVP in conjunction with your recruitment partner affords a far better chance of competing successfully in the War for Talent.
George Beaumont is a search consultant at Berwick Partners. He specialises in recruiting senior leadership roles across the Consumer sector. To find out more about how Berwick Partners can help, click the button below.
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