The War for Talent
by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod
For the longest time, you had to search for a book that dealt with the subject of attracting, developing, motivating, and retaining talent. Now it seems as though we’re inundated with books on the subject. There’s obviously a reason for this trend. There’s been a real talent search in most every industry for the past few years. However, in a market characterized by uncertainty, instability, and an incredible number of layoffs, many firms have eased their concern about finding and retaining good people assuming the war for talent is over. Experts tell us it is not! In fact, the authors of this book reveal that, because of enduring economic and social forces, the war for talent will persist for the next two decades!
Ed Michaels is a recently retired director of the celebrated McKinsey & Company consulting firm. Helen Handfeld-Jones is a Senior Practice Expert with McKinsey in Toronto, and Beth Axelrod is a Principal of McKinsey in Stamford, Connecticut. The three combined talent to conduct five years of in-depth research to identify the programs and behaviors that help today’s foremost firms attract and retain the best kinds of employees—including surveys of 13,000 executives at more than 120 companies and case studies of 27 leading companies.
As a result of their efforts, they define talent as shorthand for a key employee who possesses “a sharp strategic mind, leadership ability, communications skills, the ability to attract and inspire people, entrepreneurial instincts, functional skills, and the ability to deliver results.” They also uncovered a definitive connection between top performers and superior corporate achievement.
The authors share five common imperatives that companies need to act on if they are going to win the war for managerial talent and make talent a competitive advantage:
- Embrace a talent mindset
- Craft a winning employee value proposition
- Rebuild your recruiting strategy
- Weave development into your organization
- Differentiate and affirm your people
The authors offer an array of unique suggestions that will provide your organization with a new approach to talent management. For instance:
- Move beyond recruiting hype to build a long-term recruiting strategy.
- Strengthen your talent pool by investing in A players, developing B Players, and acting decisively on C players.
- Use job experiences, coaching, and mentoring to cultivate the potential in managers.
- Encourage employees to switch departments.
- With senior hires, look for “leadership style and values” consistent with “the company’s culture.”
The authors offer many examples from companies like the Limited, GE, Amgen, and the Home Depot. You’ll learn much from this clear perspective on how to develop a corporation’s greatest asset—its people.
(This book review was originally published in 2002 as one of the Top 10 Books – Edition 10.)