Winning the war for talent
With employment running at over 2.6 million and companies like HP announcing major layoffs it may seem a strange thing to say, but we’re currently in the middle of a real war for talent. Lots of technology companies I speak to are desperate for good quality staff at all levels and hotspots such as Cambridge have extremely low numbers of people signing on. And this isn’t just CEOs and star programmers – there are equal shortages of technicians and product managers.
So how do we meet this need as a country, particularly given David Cameron’s push to make us the world capital for innovation? There’s clearly a major role for government to encourage re-training and make sure that pupils are leaving school, college and university with both the right skills and the right attitude to getting stuck into work. I don’t just mean churning out legions of identikit technobots, but delivering well-rounded individuals with the get up and go needed in the world of work.
But given that there’s an inevitable lag in education, how do companies make sure they are getting the best brains working for them in the short term? I think they need to understand two very different trends – the rise of startups and Generation Y and Z entering the workforce. When I left university, creating a startup (whether it was a tech business or a corner shop) wasn’t a mainstream choice. Now for many it is a badge of honour, so even the most staid of companies needs to inject the fun and excitement of startup life into its corporate procedures. Whether it is encouraging staff to work on side projects (after all Vodafone was originally a Friday afternoon project at Racal) or providing a fast-moving working environment, established companies need to compete with startup life.
They also have to cope with an alphabet soup of generations. Generations Y and Z are now entering the workforce – tech savvy, mobile and with a sense of entitlement, alongside Gen X with its ‘me generation’ philosophy and the remaining Baby Boomers that need to work longer in an era of shrinking state pensions. Balancing these groups within the organisation, keeping them motivated and not pigeonholing people is key to achieving a happy medium.
So companies are in a tough position and they need to differentiate themselves if they are to succeed. Employees today are too smart to be taken in by HR speak and fluffy benefits. Forge a cohesive culture, set out core principles and make sure that they run through everything you do. Then apply ongoing marketing principles to recruitment and retention – create programmes that reach your target audiences (inside and outside the company) and ensure you are building a good reputation for delivering on your words. Achieve this, pay at market rates and you’ll have the weapons you need to at least compete in the battle for talent acquisition.