Fighting for Talent

Posted: April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
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We are all engaged in a fight for talent. Not only do we need to recruit the right people but, as my friend and expert in human capital strategies Roberta Matuson points out, we also need to keep the right people. The notion of ‘rightness’ is key. It is a question of attracting, working with, and associating with people who are appropriate given our goals. This plays out in our personal, professional, social, and political lives.

On a personal level, whom we associate with is critical. Anyone who has children, particularly adolescents, knows that their circle of friends is a key element in determining their activities, attitudes, and beliefs. The same goes with adults. We need to be careful about whom we associate with, whom we listen to, where and how we seek advice, what and with whom we learn.

On a professional level, companies are increasingly fighting to attract and retain the best people possible given their objectives, values, and strategies as organizations. The same goes for non-profits, associations, charities and foundations, governmental agencies, institutions of higher learning, etc. Any organization that is trying to provide value to others in society must have the optimal mix of the right people to get the job done. Consider the following:

  • A CEO client of mine points out that since 2010 they have put a few excellent performers in key positions of power and decision-making in her company and this has made a major difference in how they all interact, the quality of their decisions, the performance of the whole company, as well as customer satisfaction.
  • Another client of mine, who owns a small company, points out that he has a hard time finding individuals with the same drive and determination he does to grow the business they way he wants it to grow. He has created a business model around a certain type of employee and partner, but he now realizes that he needs to find a different type of person who is willing to be an employee but who is also entrepreneurial, willing to take risks, and also share in rewards. In other words, he can only attain his strategic objectives if he gets the right type of person.
  • Jim Collins and Jerry Porras in Good to Great noted that companies that made a transition to spectacular growth after decades of puttering along had two key characteristics. First, they were led by CEOs who had a kind of low-key transformational leadership they call “Level-5 Leadership.” Second, these companies were able to first “get the right people on the bus” and only then figure out where the bus needs to go.
  • My own considerable experience in organizations, first in the military, and now as a business consultant, is that nothing happens without sound leadership, management, and the right people.

Finally, on the highest level, entire societies and polities need the best people to function properly. Countries are competiting for talent like never before. Canada has always been a nation of immigrants, even to the point of now having the highest level of non-native born citizens in the world. However, the Canadian g0vernment has recently begun revamping immigration laws and regulations to make the country even more attractive to talented indidivuals from around the world. When questioned about this, Canadian Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney pointed out that Canada is in competition with Australia and New Zealand for talented immigrants. It takes 6 months for a highly-qualified university graduate in India to be accepted in Australia, whereas in Canada it can take years. Moreover, Canada has persistent structural unemployment in many areas of the country while simultaneously experiencing labour shortages in dozens of specialist trades and professions. Meanwhile, highly qualified immigrants are stuck in low-paying unskilled jobs while their considerable talents and qualifications go unrecognized. The time to act is now and that is what the government is doing.

In 1981, economist Julian Simon wrote a book called The Ultimate Resource, updated in 1996 as the The Ultimate Resource II. In these books, Simon congently argued for the fact that the ultimate resource is not mineral wealth or any other type of material resource, but rather human ingenuity. I agree wholeheartedly with that assessment.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

  1. Roberta Matuson says:

    Great post Rich!

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