Hiring Talent: Are You Prepared For The Next Talent War?

March 25, 2021 / Comments (0)


There are many strategies that companies use when it comes to hiring talent, but many and especially the larger corporations are employing strategies that simply push talent away from them and straight into the arms of their competition.

In my opinion, there will be a war for talent and it will be based on the usual two factors:

  1. Attracting the best people
  2. Retaining your best employees

I know it sounds obvious, but let me tell you in my near forty-years of experience in the staffing and recruiting industry when recruiting for some of the world’s leading organizations, I have yet to see one single organization get these two factors right.

It’s not that they are not committed to doing so, just that again, in my opinion, their recruiting strategies are too fragmented and not cohesive enough to make the required impact, and the layers and layers of management that are too focussed on protecting their own interests and jobs, rather than hiring exceptional people.

There is also the factor of time — too many large corporations have recruiting strategies that are simply too long-winded and when you put people into the mix, especially those who lack a sense of urgency, you are creating a recipe for helping your competitors to suck up the talent you have already worked hard to engage.

The Board-talent disconnection

How many executive leaders are really plugged into the hiring practices of their organizations?

The executive leadership team is the team that maps out and drives success — its function is to deliver shareholder value and in line with the mission statement, goals, and customer commitments or “deliverables” of their organizations.

They know they need the best strategies, products, services…and people.

The best people treat your organization like their own…they are self-starters, natural leaders and have an uncompromising willingness to develop and learn.

I’ve had many meaningful discussions with board-level executives, who really understood the need to deliver change in their recruiting and employee retention strategies…but as I worked down through the organization and engaged with lower levels of management, I might as well have been talking a different language.

This, to me, is the crux of the problem.

Fragmented recruiting

It’s a challenge to get everyone on the same page in any business, let alone if you are trying to create company-wide recruiting strategies in larger, international organizations.

A good few years ago, I was working extremely well with one of my larger clients and we had delivered some key, high-level experts to a specific sector of their technology business.

The process involved meeting with key executives to understand the precise pain points of that specific division and to create a strategy to make sure we addressed both current and future needs. Working proactively was the key here and using our market knowledge we were able to pinpoint key skills and then ascertain their availability, over the next twelve months.

This approach made human resource planning much easier and it worked like a dream — the executives had ensured the strategy had filtered down throughout the division, which extended globally and everyone enjoyed the benefits.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken

However, as we were working through the first year, we received an email from a new division that was created to “rationalize” the human resource supply function in terms of efficiency and cost.

Soon after, we received another document that contained a new list of charge rates for each skill-set we were supplying and new terms and conditions that were far less favorable.

The new charge rates were less than the rates we were paying for the people!

Our existing executive leader told us that his “hands were tied” and this was one of a few “initiatives” that were being brought in.

The result was a complete disaster with many in-demand skillsets simply leaving the company and moving to the competition and all because of what was ultimately told to me as a new initiative from a finance team that had the ears of one board director.

This is just one example of what I experienced over the years and there were many, many more.


“The War for Talent: It’s Real and Here’s Why It’s Happening.”

“Open Letter to the CEO and CHRO: You’re Disconnected On Talent Priorities.”

The future of hiring talent



People are taking back control of their careers and the best people will have the choice of where to work and to a large extent, the ability to determine their terms and conditions.

The economic landscape has changed beyond recognition and companies now need to be far more agile, leaner, and less hierarchical if they are going to survive and thrive.

Acquiring and retaining the right talent will be a “given,” and the challenge will be to make sure there is the right balance between key technology and people, or more specifically the right balance between machine and human intelligence…emotional intelligence.

Hiring talent will not be about loading up the latest talent acquisition software, or hiring teams of in-house recruiters to save your recruiting fees — or will it be about designing the latest psychometric analysis tools.

Build your talent community

It’s about getting a firm strategy in place to make sure you are building a talent community that is aligned to your corporate goals and then keeping that community continuously engaged with your organization in a human fashion!

Like you, I am well aware of automation and the benefits of artificial intelligence, so there is no need to focus on technology that will ultimately replace repetitive tasks and even replicate human intelligence.

That will become evident as technologies emerge and utilized, so by all means, spend a few productive hours in meetings preparing your company for the future…but you still have to deal with the “now.”

You will need a ton of human talent to transition to the automated age…you will still need to attract and retain people to do the things that people should and can do best…deal with other people.

Machines are purely functional (for now) and are not great with emotion, creativity, and the simple “human factor” that has been developed over the course of mankind.

To win the “war for talent” you have to take a step backward and focus on the personal touch — engage with your talent community frequently and with sincerity.

If you can write down what you do…

I’m going to now give you an insight into my own thinking and specifically for people who want to future-proof their careers and occupy the top twenty-per-cent of the talent pool in their industry.

I advise people to become what is termed a “linchpin” and to me, it is someone who is invaluable to an organization.

Seth Godin has talked extensively about this and I have my own views which you can take a look at in my article:

“Linchpin: How To Become A Linchpin At Work And Be The Best Employee.”

You should look to hire existing and potential linchpins and this is the basis for your recruiting strategy across the board.

Will you be able to hire linchpins easily?

No, of course not…but you can play a major role in creating them and the good news is that when you do, you will automatically acquire a great deal of loyalty.

It does, however, require a disciplined approach and one where you have to get the buy-in from your key employees.

Hiring talent: Key components



Here are some of my key components of what to look for when it comes down to uncovering the potential of existing talent and hiring new employees and they are all equally important and please take a look at the “linchpin” article to see the process from the other side:

  • Commercial awareness — so many people are not commercially aware and that means they are not sensitive to the day-to-day problems and challenges of operating a business…your business. Make sure your staff and at all levels are as commercially aware as possible and look for the same in your potential hires.
  • Creativity — this is a quality that will add value to any job role. Creativity lies at the heart of everything… problem-solving, new customer initiatives, and more efficient operating procedures, just to name a few. Encourage and harness it.
  • Willingness to cross-train and upskill — the future of work is dynamic and it requires dynamic people. People must be ready to learn and change and you will find a lot of hidden talent in your organization right now if you prepared to look for it.
  • Leadership — the qualities of leadership can never be understated and there is, of course, a huge difference between management and leadership. Look for natural leaders and evidence of leadership throughout the lives of your potential hires and not just in their current or previous jobs.
  • Passion — how passionate are your potential employees about what they do…and your existing ones for that matter? Passion overrides “work” and that is where you get employees who will go the extra mile.

Attracting and retaining the best people means focusing on the deeper-rooted human factors that lie within us all, yet seem to be ignored by organizations simply trying to fill vacancies because of skills gaps and shortages.

You have to look deeper, look ahead and make sure you are seeing the “big picture” qualities in each individual.

I’ve kept this list deliberately simple and there is obviously a lot more involved, but focusing on the above qualities in preference to a pure analysis of skills, in my opinion, will lead to greater success down the line.

It also goes far beyond a “job specification” and these are simply too one-dimensional — remember that the dynamics of the global economy are changing, which means the same for your people.

Your internal human resources function will probably be too focused on the job specifications you provide them to go into the areas that I have described above, but you have to start the process and commit to it.

As I talked about in the opening section of this article, many of your employees are too focused on preserving their own jobs and livelihoods to hire people that could prove to be better than them, so you have to create a culture from scratch, to eliminate this concern if you really want to win the war for talent.

Shaping your organization



You have to shape your organization from the top down and please don’t hire outside consultants or companies to do so.

It must come from the heart of the organization…the leadership team, if you want any real chance of having the message understood and the actions implemented.

The first stage for me is to make sure that your hiring processes are aligned directly to the dynamics of your customer and this doesn’t matter whether you are looking at internal-only facing business functions and roles, or ones that are directly customer-facing.

Just take a look at the varying levels of quality when it comes down to customer services as an example.

Think about the poor customer service calls you have had to endure to get an idea of exactly what I mean…and this is a customer-facing function!

This comes down to both poor training and poor hiring strategies and policy.

Hiring talent has generic qualities

There are certain qualities that are required from every employee and you have to identify them and ensure that every hiring authority in your organization is aware of them — I’ve listed some above, so increase your focus on these qualities.

Remember, you are looking for qualities that fall outside of a simple job specification and these qualities will make the difference between you and your competition.

You may want to ensure that every employee and no matter what role they are being considered for, will be tested on their knowledge of say, commercial awareness…or they will be given a problem from another division to see if they can come up with a creative solution.

You can train commercial awareness, you can encourage creativity, so you are not looking for the best answers here…but you may also uncover some raw talent that you would never have done if you focused purely on the job description.

Don’t obsess with the CV/Resume

Many people cannot put together a decent resume, or if they do, they may have had some form of help and most CVs bear very little resemblance to the true person behind them.

This is one reason where technology can fail miserably — by focusing on keywords and other factors, you are hiring a piece of paper or an email and not a person.

One strategy is to request that every person who applies for a role provides a simple value proposition in relation to the role they are applying for and the value that they believe they can bring to the organization.

You can specify a maximum number of words and always ask for an attached CV, but you can receive text, videos, or both to get a much better insight into the person and their thinking.

Speed is of the essence

Slow decision-making was one of the most significant barriers that I experienced in my recruiting career.

Don’t make the mistake of elongating processes in the hope of finding the perfect talent match for your job. You will never create a perfect match and for me, I would rather look for a match in culture than skills — technical qualities are obviously vital depending on what you are recruiting for, but don’t ignore the human qualities.

It is far easier to work with people who are already loyal and committed to your organization through cross-training and upskilling so look to push talent up the value chain and recruit replacements as it will generally be a faster process.

When you are interviewing, make sure that you are conducting interviews in a time-efficient manner and don’t overdo the number of interviews.

Make sure you give clear decision-making timelines to all interviewees and stick to them and finally, give clear and concise feedback whatever the outcome of your decision.

Remember, you may meet the same candidate again for another role and once they are interviewed in your organization, they will be an ambassador for your company…good or bad!

Don’t be one-dimensional when it comes to hiring talent

Many organizations let key talent slip through their interviewing process and simply because the person hiring is too focused on the specific role rather than looking at the big-picture of the organization.

Think about other interviewing possibilities that you could uncover with the person you are interviewing.

Salespeople are always in hot demand and there is a global shortage of good, consistent salespeople.

It’s also another area where you can easily train and develop talent and I have had the best success with people I have personally trained in the art of sales, rather than hiring purely on sales experience.

And I have taken people from all walks of life through sales training…always consider other opportunities for the candidates you are interviewing.

Human resources

This is a tricky area for me as I’ve always tried to avoid human resources like the plague and their counterparts…procurement.

While I understand the need for both business functions, I find that they are too internally focused and not in tune with the real-time dynamics of the customer and they also slow down the process of getting the best talent.

But this is just my opinion.

There is obviously much more to the tasks of hiring talent, but I hope that I have at least provided you with some food for thought, and remember, everyone and every organization can change if they are willing to and we are certainly in unprecedented times and we will have no choice but to adapt.

In the meantime, don’t push valuable talent to your competition!

Neil Franklin

Neil Franklin-Entrepreneur

Last modified: March 25, 2021

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