FRI 20TH JUL 2018


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The War For Talent Is Back On

3rd August 2017 Geraldine Buckland, Smith & Williamson

Taking proactive steps to attract and retain the best people is much more important now than it has been in recent years.

With employers falling over themselves to recruit in the current job market, top talent are juggling a number of job offers, and no longer feel ‘tied down’ as they did during the economic downturn.

The war for talent as a concept was first introduced in the famous 1997 McKinsey study, which predicted that the ‘war’ would continue for two decades.  

This concept dominated in many organisations for about the next ten years, with companies planning talent strategies and creating talent pipelines.  People plans focused on the attraction, retention and development of talent and ‘high potentials.’  The nine-box matrix that was used to evaluate a company’s talent pool thrived.

Up until 2007, organisations started paying increasingly exorbitant fees to recruitment consultants to attract ‘the best’, by whatever definition one might choose.  And remuneration packages soared with these expectations.

The downturn

But as the recession impacted, the war for talent cooled because organisations were no longer awash with money and the job market had shrunk.  Movement between jobs and organisations slowed and, in some sectors, it all but stopped – at least for a while.  Salaries froze.  ‘Talent’ seemed to be forgotten, together with retention, training, development and strategic planning.

New opportunities

As the UK has emerged from recession, many organisations are waking up to this often neglected issue.  It is suddenly apparent that, in a buoyant job market, their best people have options.  How many resignations will it take for some businesses to realise that they are on the back foot?

Getting your recruitment right

Coaching, training and other development needs must return to the forefront of company consciousness in order to avoid the costly and often lengthy re-hiring process.  Having the most effective recruitment process will also be important as the inevitable gaps open up.

But what does this mean in practice?  You could probably benefit from doing the following:

1 – Examining your pay structure and benchmarking against the vastly changed market.  Much has happened over the past few years (or even months)

2 – Defining or redefining your overall reward strategy as a retention measure.

3 – Focusing on employee engagement.  If the culture isn’t right, people will be more likely to move on.  

4 – Having the right appraisal and talent management processes in place.

And most importantly, it’s key to ensure that your career and personal development offerings are compelling.  Providing employees with the appropriate tools they need to grow and succeed will foster a deeper sense of loyalty.  That’s why developing a thorough employee recruitment and retention plan will help your organisation protect its human capital and bring peace to what can otherwise be a hostile and hard-fought war.

About the author – Geraldine Buckland is the head of HR Consulting at Smith & Williamson and can be contacted on 0117 376 2277 or by email on  This article was first published in their Enterprise publication in Summer 2016 and has been reproduced with their permission.



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