Is the talent crisis over? Not by a long shot. There have been many skirmishes, but really, in the 13 years since the book The War for Talent was first published, the battlefield has simply shifted and evolved.

On today’s front lines, for example, talent retention is taking precedence over talent attraction. The talent focus is shifting from star candidates to the entire labour force. And the weapons being wielded by HR departments in both the attraction and retention processes have become increasingly strategic and analytic. While the battle lines may be clearer and the stakes more critical than ever, the war goes on.

The last decade has seen numerous changes in the economy and the labour force. This includes a growing shortage of skilled workers, as well as increased competition driven by globalization and emerging economies. At the same time, the attitudes and expectations of younger workers are changing. Beyond increasingly seeking jobs that accommodate their lifestyle, long-term corporate loyalty is not high on their agenda.

Recent research by KPMG’s HR Center of Excellence reveals that today’s HR professionals are fairly clear on the challenges. Not only did 59% of those surveyed believe that “there is a new war for talent and this time it is different than in the past,” but more than half also recognized that “pursuing high potential talent at the team’s expense puts the business at risk.”

To meet these new realities, those responsible for talent (involving management as well as HR in the process is a good idea) need to take a broader look at the organization. They must also look at the entire employee base in order to make talent best practices consistent and ubiquitous.

This means ensuring that a true employee value proposition is supported by HR policies and evident to all employees, both existing and prospective. The younger generation, often self-perceived as free agents rather than lifers, need to see a career path in front of them. They also need to know they’ll have the opportunity to develop new skills and receive the coaching and mentoring they need to realize their ambitions.

Key ways to address talent shortages

  • Enlist and empower management in the talent management process—don’t just leave it to HR.
  • Focus on developing clear career paths.
  • Take a holistic approach to talent management across the entire employee population.
  • Take advantage of leading-edge analytics technologies to measure and monitor talent strategy effectiveness and fine-tune best practices.

This approach, while setting a critical baseline for HR strategy, is not enough. This is where management enters the equation. Even when HR is able to communicate a clear, accessible employee value proposition, dissatisfaction with management is a prime reason why valuable, desirable employees leave a company or are lured away by the competition.

As a result, there is a significant opportunity to improve talent retention prospects by making talent management an organization-wide responsibility, not just that of HR or the chief HR officer. Leaders from across the organization have to look for and develop talent, providing experience and coaching in a range of specialized areas. Moreover, for such initiatives to succeed, those leaders must themselves receive coaching and training to develop the skills they need to effectively mentor promising up-and-comers. We generally assume senior managers possess these skills, but that’s often not the case.

Of course, developing a comprehensive talent strategy that addresses both attraction and retention is a major undertaking—one that many companies will not be able to execute at once. It all starts with understanding exactly what your organization’s employee value proposition really is—clarifying or developing it if it doesn’t already exist—then delivering on it every day. It needs to be front of mind and part of the overall organizational strategy, a regular item on executive agendas and always considered in the context of corporate performance, revenue and costs.

How your organization decides to look at the talent crisis, self-assessment and responsive action is critical. The battlefield, the combatants and the weapons in play have all changed—those who want to stay in the fray will need to adapt, too.

Laura Croucher is a KPMG advisory services partner, and the people and change national service line leader. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of Benefits Canada.

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on

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