the doctor Wants To Know Why You Don’t Have A Talent Strategy

As I pointed out this weekend, the global war for talent is about to intensify – and if you don’t act now, you might not have time to. The US alone is facing a workforce shortage of 10 million by 2010, your high-tech workforce would rather stay in India, and Europe has finally recognized that if they don’t make immigration for skilled workers easier, they might not have any left, and have created a new type of renewable permit to allow people to relocate and live there quickly and easily.

So why don’t you have a talent strategy? Especially since taking a first shot is not that hard. As long as you realize that all most people today want is greater flexibility, personal growth, career paths, opportunity, open communication, and competitive pay, and as long as you make it your mission to treat people with the fairness and respect they deserve, it’s pretty straight-forward to come up with a multi-pronged strategy that is bound to be effective, especially when most of your peers are still in the dark ages and believe that the labour is nothing more than “human resources” who can be hired and fired like most farmers buy and sell cattle.

For instance, even if you just instituted the following principles, you’d be on your way to a good talent management (and acquisition) strategy (since good people attract good people).

  • Everyone has multiple career paths open to them.
    For example, every developer, if that is their ultimate career goal, has a chance of working their way up to at least CTO. However, if all they want to do is code, they have a path for working their way up the seniority ladder where they can eventually have their choice of new development project and role on the development team (as well as a huge salary – since your best programmer can be more than twenty times as effective as your average programmer). And every buyer has a career path right to the top spots – CPO, and maybe even CEO.
  • People can work where they want to, and within reason, when they want to.
    If they’re not a morning person, or regularly have to hold calls with suppliers half way around the world then, except for some common meeting hours each week, they should be able to choose when they work. Similarly, if your best developer is a night owl and does his best coding between 8 pm and 2 am, let him work a night shift. Your goal is not where or when your staff works, but the results they get. As long as they’re putting in the effort and making a commitment, whether or not they work when you work doesn’t matter.
  • With the exception of the C-suite, every job function is open to full-time, part-time, seasonal, and consultant labor.
    Let’s face it, if all the boomers retire when they turn 65, you’re average large organization is going to be hit with a double whammy it might not be able to recover from. First, it might not be able to replace even half of those workers due to the extreme talent crunch. Secondly, most of it’s knowledge – the intangible that might be accounting for 10, 20, 30, or even 50% of a company’s value – will walk out the door with the retirees. To continue succeeding, it needs to ensure that knowledge is transferred and that key relationships don’t dissipate with their departure. This means it needs to allow these individuals in particular to work part-time on their schedule to make sure the knowledge gets transferred and the relationships stay in tact after the new hire is made.
  • Furthermore, no one will be penalized for not working a traditional full-time job.
    If you have a pension plan, a recent retiree will not be penalized for contracting with you on occasion to help transfer knowledge or lead key initiatives that really require the experience of a grey-beard. Part-time employees will also have access to benefits like health-care and daycare support. (The company sponsorship of these benefits can be less for part-time employees, as these benefits are costly, but these employees should not be denied access to their fair share of any company benefit.)
  • Everyone gets regular access to subsidized training.
    With your average technical undergraduate degree partially outdated by the time it is granted, regular training is a must. A full time employee will get an allowance of at least four weeks a year to spend in classes, at conferences, or on their own reviewing e-learning courses and materials. Furthermore, they will also have a budget to spend on non-company training related to their job requirements.
  • An emphasis is made on local leadership at the national level and international leadership in the C-suite.
    Let’s face it, your employees in India don’t want to be led by a Texas Cowboy with no knowledge of their language or culture and no interest in getting to know the local ways. If you want to attract and retain top talent in a developing economy where new jobs are being created every day and where wages are rising at four or five times the annual rate in the US, you need local leaders. Furthermore, if you really want to understand how to compete in a global economy, you better have a senior leadership team in your virtual head office that is familiar with that economy. The US is less than 5% of the world’s population, and that number is shrinking. To go global, you have to be global.
  • Everyone’s compensation is reviewed annually with the intent of insuring that every one who makes an honest effort and functions at the market level is indeed earning at least market-average pay.
    Although it may be true that it’s not always about pay these days, it’s also true that it’s still the most significant factor when it comes to talent retention and acquisition. After all, all other things being roughly equal, wouldn’t you take the job with higher pay?

Now, there is a lot more you could do, and a lot more you should do, but you have to start somewhere. And I think this is a good starting point.