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War for Talent on a Local Level—The Case for Collaboration

The War for Talent implies that the front lines of talent sourcing are battlegrounds where there can be only limited victors.  The truth from the field suggests otherwise. 

The term “War for Talent” is one that is used broadly and loosely by CEOs and business leaders across industries, and an ever-expanding set of geographies.  Unemployment rates across the US are now at 3.7%* and most established economies are experiencing talent shortages**.  Rare are the opportunities to pioneer new locations, recruit ready-to-work employees, or teach large, untapped workforces how to produce and transport goods, service customers, develop products, or efficiently manage a company’s back and middle office.  For many, the fundamental question for CEOs as they fashion and refine their global footprint has shifted from “Where is next?” to “How do we successfully cohabit with incumbents?”

The War for Talent implies that the front lines of talent sourcing are battlegrounds where there can be only limited victors. The truth from the field suggests otherwise. Most communities demonstrating highly successful (measured in terms of inward investment) and competitive talent environments are characterized by an acceptance that a rising tide lifts all boats. A mutually supportive, communicative business community typically results in success for the majority of incumbent employers, rather than a binary environment characterized by “winners and losers”.

Deloitte has observed that many successful locations and their business communities share information and resources. In such locations, new entrants are viewed, within reason, as an opportunity to improve the quality of the local workforce, rather than a potentially predatory presence. One red flag commonly observed when conducting field evaluation in unhealthy talent markets, is the unwillingness of incumbent employers in a prospect community to share experiences and perspectives on operating environment. This suggests an operating environment beset by unhealthy suspicion, defensive posturing, and lack of communication. A pay and benefits war, exacerbated by lack of information and community, may offer short term benefits to both employers and employees, but risks making a location unsustainable, and in danger of closure.

Experience suggests that CEOs should mandate their local business leaders proactively seek to shape the local talent pipeline to meet their needs. They could help influence state and local authorities, who in turn the pipeline of talent flowing into an industry via the refinement of educational curricula, from high school, through technical school and on into university programming. Leveraging the weight of the business community to not only help shape the education system but drive interest in a specific sector or employment sector can serve to open the recruitment aperture by encouraging more individuals to enter the industry.

The ability to be an influencer in the talent market is not driven purely by a company’s pay and benefits policy; rather, it is the broader industry’s ability to aggregate and communicate its talent needs to those responsible for its development that enables agenda-setting leadership. Questions that CEOs should challenge their critical site leaders to answer:

1. What talent strategies are working or have failed incumbents or new entrants in the past? How are we responding?

2. Are we leveraging local industry expertise, or are we operating in a vacuum?

3. Is the local industry community leveraging scale of demand to influence the talent pipeline?

4. Is the business community sufficiently engaged in influencing education system with an eye to producing enough of tomorrow’s?

CEOs should encourage their local leadership to materially engage at the local level with other business leaders, both existing and prospective, and state and local authorities alike.  The ultimate goal can be achieved by leveraging scale, common goals and shared expertise to develop solutions for today and tomorrow’s talent challenges. In the war for talent, being on an island is not the place to be.

*Bureau of Labor Statistics –September 2018)

**Manpower 2018 Global Talent Shortage Survey -



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