Winning the 21st century war for talent

Workathlon

By

Most hoteliers, regardless of geography, cite finding good staff as one of the top challenges in running their business. Gyan Nagpal, CEO and Principal of PeopleLENS Global Associates, author of the book Talent Economics, talked about the issue at his address at the Hotel Operations Summit India in Delhi this week.

Meta talent trends in global employment

The world is shrinking through greater access to travel and technology. Yet while companies may have global brands, global technology and global capital, they face a systemic paradox in that there is not a global talent pool.

Nagpal pointed to statistics showing that of 3.4 billion people actively employed in the global workforce, only 211 million work in a country they were not born in. Disallowing those classified as refugees, that leaves less than six percent in what could be considered a truly global talent pool. That means that 94% of the workforce is anchored by local languages, customs and culture.

Another meta trend is that staffing tool kits will no longer be built around full time employees. Hotels will no longer staff based on 2.5-3 associates per luxury room, nor will we hire graduates that will stay in our employ for 30 years. There is a shift away from employment models developed in last century’s industrial age, to one focused on aggregate capabilities and an open talent economy.

The final meta trend presented by Nagpal dealt with the erosion of employment loyalty on both sides of the equation. PWC’s global survey of CEOs reflected that 77 percent of respondents believed that the way businesses currently manage talent isn’t working – in fact it was one of their top three business problems.

What to do?

With the ever-growing war for talent, businesses will need to find unique solutions and think differently to the models what we’ve grown up with. Innovative solutions to new challenges seldom come from familiar places.

One clue, Nagpal suggests, is to take a lesson from history. The arts renaissance flourished in the Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries, largely due to the patronage of three generations of the Medici family. They brought together great artists and gave them unlimited support and political cover. By bringing artists from different disciplines together, there was great collaboration and cross pollination in art, sculpture and architecture. By bringing different disciplines together, they broke boundaries in all disciplines.

Micro and macro talent ecosystems

Today scarcest resource is good people and to start creating breakthroughs to hire them, you have to understand the talent ecosystem.

To illustrate macro talent economics, Nagpal put up a graph that plotted countries’ projected GDP growth rates against their talent dependence ratio (net workers entering and exiting the workforce). All nations but two (Mexico and Pakistan) showed workforces shrinking relative to their growth demands, even when growth through technology and increased productivity is taken into account. The U.S. workforce will shrink by two percent, and the Russian workforce, which is now suffering from low birth rates there in the 1990s, will shrink by as much as 10 percent in this decade. The findings show that, all things being equal, the talent bloodbath is set to get worse.

On a micro economic front, Nagpal pointed out that we are in an age of assertive talent, with 2014 studies showing low levels of engagement, particularly from those aged under 40. Among this group, management and leadership matter more than any other factor, including compensation. Furthermore, while having both effective managers and business leaders is the ideal scenario, these  assertive employees were found to be less hinged to their direct managers. The want their managers to be fair, transparent and predictable, but they are willing to put up with ineffective managers if the company overall is driven by a strong leader.

Now more than ever, top management and leadership matter – it’s where to spend development resources. In fact, the need to get great leadership should, if necessary, be prioritsed over individual employee training.

How to put new models into practice?

Businesses are losing faith in current best practice tools, many of which are over complicated, and there are no silver bullet solutions. Nagpal advocates that the talent conversation should no longer rest with the HR department. Business units need to take it back.

By embedding the execution of talent recruitment back to individual business units and departments, they can reinvent staffing solutions that are based on their own individual variables. And they can do this in ways that are simple, highly adaptable and commercially viable.

This transfer of responsibility should also be an innovation engine, though department heads need to be business savvy. This can be an opportunity to consider a wider range of talent resources, including contractors, consultants, outsourcers, interns and those seeking part-time and job sharing options.