20 years ago McKinsey researchers predicted that a “war for talent” was beginning. Companies seemingly agreed that they were all fighting for the same talent, talent who now, according to researchers at LinkedIn and other sources, are “passive jobseekers” making up almost 75% of the current workforce. These employees are disengaged or actively disengaged at their current jobs, waiting for a better opportunity to come. So what kind of war is this really? Company vs. company? Company vs. employee?

And how have companies been fighting this apparent “war?” Most have tried every marketing and recruiting trick you can think of to attract, engage and retain the best talent:

  • “We’re the Best Place to Work”
  • “We have free lunch”
  • “You can play ping-pong or video games whenever you want – at work”
  • “You can work from home”
  • “Bring your pet to work!”

It’s been all about perks and “culture” and hiring Chief People Officers. But according to a recent Fast Company article titled The War for Talent is Over, and Everyone Lost, everyone has lost.

The article points to those passive jobseekers I mentioned above, who have not been swayed in the least by the perks, as the reason for the loss. The appeal of self-employment and entrepreneurship has become too great for jobseekers to want to work for anyone other than themselves. In fact, as the article also states, the war is now being waged on talent, with organizations alienating their passive employees by not giving them the support to really shine in their roles, which in turn alienates candidates who don’t see how their careers will be able to grow. Both sides are losing, with companies complaining about not finding enough talent and employees complaining about their jobs.

Stop Fighting

Here’s what I have to say: Stop waging this fabricated war ON talent! We’ve been dancing around the core issue related to attracting, engaging and retaining talent for too long, and it has nothing to do with a war. It has everything to do with companies telling their stories.

Some companies get it, but definitely not most. Those companies who do understand the importance of their company story, know finding the right talent is key for growth and staying competitive. The companies who are winning are telling an authentic story about their company through their employee’s eyes, sending a message meant to attract a specific audience, not just every .NET developer in the area. How are they able to do this you might ask? Because they take the time to understand their current employees and what makes them tick, what makes them successful and passionate and long-term players. They are NOT talking about pool tables and free lunches.

Start Understanding

Companies that are winning the “war” are also not looking at “industry standards” and trying to match number for number. Statistically speaking these averages and percentages are great, but they aren’t numbers that are meant for every company. Think about it this way:

Let’s say that the national average of engaged employees is 60%. What do most companies do? They set their company engagement goal at 75%. Why? No reason, just because it’s more than the national average. Seems silly doesn’t it? But that’s what is happening in the majority of companies today when it comes to recruiting and engaging current employees – they’re just picking numbers out of the air without really considering the WHY.

Imagine if every company truly had insight into the impact that each employee had on their business goals and outcomes. Data like that exists and can exist; you just have to dedicate time and resources to gathering and understanding it. Once you do, you might actually realize that for your company, 50% employee engagement, along with many other data points, is the perfect mix for maximum impact on the bottom line.

Make Talent Acquisition a Priority

The problem is a small percentage of companies are truly making talent acquisition one of their top priorities. As a consequence, not enough budget and resources are being given for talent strategy and employee engagement in most organizations. In this instance, I could argue that companies are waging a war on talent by not shifting their priorities to focus on improving the situation. But all in all, it’s still a mistake to think of this as a talent war.

What has been lost in viewing this as a “war,” is the ability for organizations to tell their story in an authentic and meaningful way. As a consequence, candidates are discouraged and complacent, settling instead of finding a company to align their passions and story where they can work for the long term. This is why employees are now shifting from one company to another every 2-3 years. It’s no wonder that people are considering being freelance or starting their own businesses.

The good news? It’s not too late. Start the change now by telling an employer brand story to attract and engage the right type of people and the right mindset to help the company succeed and stay competitive. It’s on companies to do this; if they don’t they will cease to exist in any form that is attractive to customers, investors, board members and candidates.

Stop waging a war ON talent. Start dedicating time and resources to discovering who you are as a company and who are the people who will understand and thrive there. Without that right fit talent, you will not win in any way.

UB Ciminieri

About UB Ciminieri

UB has worn many hats in his career - business development, client development, solutions consultant, marketing, training - and it's clear that these different roles have given him the passion for changing how companies attract, retain and develop talent. UB is an independent thinker, taking the initiative to think outside the box. He’s an early adopter of technology and social media and always thinking about how to engage and educate his peers and the community.