Competition intensifies in the ongoing War for Talent

By Business & Finance
27 March 2024

The term “War for Talent,” was coined in 1997 by Steven Hankin, and relates to the ability of businesses to attract, develop, and retain talent. Carmel Somers, a work and organisational psychologist in the MentorsWork programme, explores the ongoing challenge for employers. 

The War for Talent has evolved into a strategic imperative for every organisation aiming to thrive in a complex landscape where employee expectations and the workplace environment have dramatically changed.

The accelerating pace of technological advancement and globalisation has significantly heightened the ‘War for Talent,’ leading to an increased demand for skilled professionals, especially in critical future-focused skills such as Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and Data Analytics. As industries worldwide struggle with considerable skill shortages, the globalisation of the talent pool, fuelled by the rise of remote and hybrid working models has transformed the battle for qualified labour into a global phenomenon. Notably, societal and economic shifts, together with technological progress, have intensified competition across all sectors. The emergence of remote work and the subsequent ‘Great Resignation’ which began in 2021 suggest that talent might have turned the tide in their favour. This shift in the balance of power towards employees is characterised by their increased mobility, the demand for flexible working conditions, and a pursuit for more meaningful and purpose-driven work.

The expectation is that one in five employees are expected to change jobs in 2024. Should this occur, HR departments across the country will face significant challenges.  MentorsWork, the award-winning mentoring programme, is aware that businesses are always looking to recruit and retain the very best talent so they are supporting small and medium businesses across the country to ensure they know it will be imperative to implement measures to enable their organisations to win the war for talent, and stay one step ahead of their competition. The organisation is working with Irish businesses so that CEOs take a strategic and proactive approach in attracting, developing, and retaining talent. Key insights they have shared are:

  1. Prioritise Employee Engagement: Leaders should actively involve themselves in employee engagement, moving beyond delegating this critical function to HR departments. Engaging with employees at a personal level, understanding their needs, aspirations, and concerns, and acting on this understanding is crucial.
  2. Adapt to the New Normal: It is important of embrace flexible work arrangements, including remote and hybrid models, which have become a significant factor in attracting and retaining talent in the post-pandemic period.
  3. Value Proposition: Organisations must refine their employer value proposition, focusing on creating a workplace culture that is attractive to current and prospective employees. This involves not only competitive compensation but also career development opportunities, work-life balance, and a positive work environment.
  4. Leverage Technology: Embrace technological advancements not just in operational processes but also in talent management strategies. This includes utilising data analytics for better decision-making and adopting digital tools to enhance the employee experience.
  5. Continuous Learning and Development: With L&D leaders foster an environment of continuous learning and development, enabling employees to grow their skills and careers within the organisation. This significantly helps in retaining top talent by providing them with pathways for advancement and personal growth.
  6. Employer Branding: A strong employer brand that resonates with the values and aspirations of the workforce is essential. Transparent communication, showcasing success stories, and a positive online presence are key to building a compelling employer brand.
  7. Strategic Recruitment: Streamline the recruitment process to be agile and responsive. Quick decision-making and a clear understanding of the role and fit are vital to securing top talent in a competitive market. HR leaders need to regularly review workforce planning, emerging skills and technological impacts to identify the roles and skills needed to meet the organisation’s strategic imperatives. 
  8. Focus on Well-being: Prioritise the total well-being of employees by offering comprehensive benefits that cater to their physical, mental, and financial health. This focus on well-being is critical in reducing burnout and enhancing employee satisfaction.
  9. Inclusive Culture: Foster an inclusive culture where diversity is not only respected but leveraged as a strength. Inclusivity enhances creativity, innovation, and company performance.
  10. Feedback and Adaptation: Regular feedback mechanisms, through surveys and direct communications, provide insights into employee satisfaction and engagement levels. Act on this feedback to make continuous improvements and ensure you communicate all actions taken.

The war for talent is an ongoing strategic challenge that requires a multifaceted approach, combining leadership, HR and Learning & Development involvement, cultural adaptation, technological integration, and continuous improvement. Leaders must recognise that the dynamics of talent attraction and retention have evolved, necessitating a more employee-centric approach that values engagement, flexibility, and continuous development. By adopting these strategies, organisations can not only navigate the war for talent successfully but also build a resilient and adaptive workforce poised for future challenges. A programme supporting leaders in a range of areas aligned to the “War for Talent” is MentorsWork, a fully government-funded business support programme which you can view more and register at www.mentorswork.ie.