The War for Talent – Finding It

November 20, 2015 | By Maretha Prinsloo

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“Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

– Jim Collins, Good to Great

The term “war for talent” has been coined by Steven Hankin in 1997 and been addressed in a number of publications on the increasing competitiveness of talent recruitment, recruitment and retention.

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”

– Elbert Hubbard

Human resources publications thus regularly tackle the important organisational goal of talent recruitment and management which is aimed at resolving the so-called “leadership crisis”, globally. There is general consensus amongst thought leaders that a shortfall in talent and leadership capability, especially at senior levels in organisations, can significantly impact on organisational effectiveness. Many HR initiatives are thus aimed at finding and cultivating the kind of leadership that can transform business cultures and strategically leverage growth and opportunity. The focus is on assessment to identify talent and create talent pools, talent development and leadership training.

A survey by Deloitte in 2007, indicated that talent shortages are acute and identified talent management as a key business driver for the future. The impact of the economic recession around 2009 further accentuated the priority of competitive talent recruitment. Some even define business in terms of two separate markets, namely that of customers and that of talent. A 2008 survey by Accenture in the US, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan and China found that worries about identifying and managing talent as well as leadership training, are growing and that talent issues remain at the top of the business agenda. The Accenture report (2008) further indicated that to secure a diverse, competent and highly collaborative leadership team with knowledge that spans disparate markets will be critical to the success of global corporations in the future.

Talent is indeed regarded as a rare commodity and the identification of which remains a strategic priority which is worth investing in. Talent can be hired, developed and built or it can be borrowed by engaging contractors and temporary workers.

“Your talent determines what you can do. Your motivation determines how much you are willing to do. Your attitude determines how well you do it.”

– Lou Holtz

The most important challenge in talent management, however, is the quality of the information by which talent can be identified. Human capital decisions are normally based on thin data and practitioners often do not know exactly what they are looking for; where they should look for it – which schools, recruiters, or contexts, or whether that talent is already available within the organization and just has to be identified; to what extent investment in people assessment and development pays off; the turnover rate of jobs; real performance differences between people and how leadership, innovation and strategic ideas can benefit the organization.

Talent searches are further complicated by:
– differences between the world views and expectation of various generations within hhe workforce,
– ever-emerging strategic objectives within the organization, and
– the changing nature of the world of work in general.

Many have identified the use of psychometric tests as a step towards identifying talent. Forbes reporter Tara Weiss notes that most companies are in fact involved in assessment-based recruitment, selection, development and promotion.

However, traditional psychometrics fall short in identifying the kind of talent that may result in innovation, business integrity and ultimately economic recovery. Transparent and biased personality questionnaires and typical IQ tests do not necessarily meet these criteria. Innovative assessment techniques and metrics could be most valuable in identifying the kind of talent required to transform industries in the future.

Assessment solutions that can optimize the optimal identification of intellectual capital, value orientations and leadership capability in particular, is critical in finding high potential candidates; optimising placement decisions; developing individuals and teams; and in maintaining and improving organizational culture. Appropriate and in-depth assessment thus play a critical role in ensuring the sustainability of the organization and industry within the broader economic context.

The assessment tools used to address complex HR challenges need to be scientifically based, valid, reliable, of an appropriate nature for the assessment purpose at hand, and must be used in a cross-culturally fair manner. Well-designed assessment centres, structured interviews and simulation exercises generally reflect the required potential and skills more effectively. The measurement of constructs related to cognition, or intellectual functioning, motivation and values, as well as behavior, are particularly useful. State of the art assessment methodologies include automated assessment centres, simulation exercises and non-transparent techniques. These assessment results can be used for purposes of recruitment, selection, placement, team compilation, promotion, succession, as well as personal, team and organizational development. For more information on how psychometric tests can be used for talent recruitment, download our FREE eBook “Choosing the right people in the changing world of work”.

“Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer