The war for talent. The battleground has moved.

The battleground has moved

Much has been written about the war for talent, the term and book made popular by McKinsey & Company and Steven Hankin back in the 90's. The premise is that the competition for attracting and retaining talented employees will intensify due to greater need for talented people (as our organisations and the environment they operate within become more complex) as well as changes to demographics (our ageing population) which will decrease the supply.

I think in part this war for talent still exists but the war is being waged on different battlegrounds

Since the war for talent was written there are potentially other factors at work. Many markets and organisations haven't recovered since the 2009 GFC, there is a decreasing supply of talent to the traditional organisation as well as the potential decrease in organisations as we know them. The one job for life notion is certainly dead and while sitting in Brisbane airport Saturday night (yes my social life is awesome) I read this article called "Kiss the corporation goodbye". It really rang true for me working in big organisations. It talks about everything being cut back, outsourced or temp workers being used to fill a short term need. I certainly feel that a large chunk of my role over the past few years has been spent helping to downsize and cost cut. No one likes to see me at their site.

Some of this is about business models that don't work any more, particularly in Australia and similar developed countries. With high cost of living and high wages, labour intensive manufacturing businesses are just about gone and unions who could have played a role in partnering with organisations to address the issue of low-skill, high-wage jobs, have failed in ensuring their members have ongoing employment. High wages is not the only force at work but they have been a contributing factor in these jobs disappearing from the lucky country.

I think other factors are also at work. Women returning from maternity leave find that either their job has gone (despite the myriad of legislation that supposedly protects it) or they either don't have the skills to negotiate an arrangement that also allows them to support their family requirements, or the traditional corporate environment can't/won't accommodate something different from the 9 to 5 dream (or nightmare) or their partner doesn't contribute equally in the home or childcare is too expensive or the waiting list too long. Or all of the above. I had a little rant about this issue here.

What do these women do? They either decide to look after their children full time, giving up their income, or they do something else like start their own business. I have just been on the Gold Coast with around 500 bloggers, mostly women, many who are making an income from their blogs. Not all have kids and are blogging as a way to have flexible work that allows them to look after their family, but many are. And you know what? These women have attributes that organisations are wanting to go to war over:
  • They are smart. Super smart.
  • They are organised
  • They work bloody hard. Some 80 hours per week.
  • They know what is important to them and what they want.
  • They are passionate and engaged.
  • They are usually working for a higher purpose. They want a different life to what is offered by large organisations. They have built a community of readers that they fiercely protect when brands and advertisers come offering the bucks to market to their readers. 
  • They are self starters. They have initiative and are curious and courageous.
  • They are inspiring. 
While corporations are struggling and downsizing and losing sight of values that mean something to their customers this particular group of women have moved off the battleground of the offices and towers of big cities and into the homes of (mainly) women. And the women are not at war. They are not competing. They are doing their own thing in their own way. They are collaborating and sharing and connecting and as a result changing traditionally held business models, and making money while they do it. I can't help but think that the traditional organisation has lost the war for this group of talent. Completely.