Winning the New War for Talent




Twenty years ago we faced a looming ‘war for talent’ in the tech industry. Employers required many more technologically skilled and innovative employees than were available in the marketplace. 

Demand far exceeded supply for skilled staff to build technology infrastructure, develop software, and meet accelerating hunger for tech-based consumer products and services. We experienced shortages of capable employees, an increase in educational programs to quickly train for these high-demand skills, and an incredible (almost meteoric) rise in salary levels for employees with these talents, even those with limited skill.


Today we face another looming war for talent, but this time it is wider spread, with potentially long-lasting implications. In the period of economic crisis, 2008 through 2015, most active employers rested relatively easily, knowing that they could fill open positions without having to establish themselves as magnate employers. They were, by default, employers-of-choice, merely because they were employing people at all. Those days are gone.


National and regional unemployment rates continue to decline, and in some markets reduce to levels below 4%, indicating more than full-employment. Labor markets such as Greenville-Spartanburg, South Carolina reported a 3.1% unemployment rate as of October 2017, having added 45,000 jobs in the past 5 years, yet increasing the labor market by only 29,000 available employees. This as their local economic development authority continues to grow this marketplace with dedicated expansion efforts in the life sciences, automotive and logistics industries.


The tides have shifted. If you haven’t already experienced it, you are likely to shortly. We have entered a seller’s market for employment. Such a market provides much greater freedom of choice to job seekers. And, although we have not yet seen the same wage inflation experienced during the tech-boom in the late ‘90s, savvy job seekers are looking for employment circumstances which are better matched to their skills and desires, and more aligned with their expectations and personal values. All of this has significant implications for small and mid-market employers, particularly in the science and technology fields, such as biotech, where highly qualified talent is already difficult to come by.


Ensuring your attractiveness to prospective job candidates, as well as creating innovative sourcing strategies is critical for immediate and long-term success. What often gets missed is the positive value of effectively on-boarding new employees, internal talent mobility, leadership development and succession planning. The growth of your business and successful leadership transitions rely heavily upon having developed and retained the skills and capabilities of your internal talent.


We’ve all experienced or witnessed, the demise of a business when the right talent is not available or ready when the need arises, and continuity of leadership and business strategy can’t be maintained. Outcome impacts can be severe - dips in productivity, loss of clients, poor customer ratings, increased internal risks, compliance issues, or an exodus of staff.


Success rates for external talent taking on critical leadership roles, especially at the senior leader and C-suite levels, are dismal particularly in the short-term. It takes careful, conscious effort to select, retain, develop and mentor key members of a leadership team. And, the impact of such influential leaders in small to mid-sized organizations is much greater than in comparatively larger organizations - there simply are fewer people to share influence and responsibility, or to absorb critical mistakes.


In a talent marketplace with so much job seeker opportunity, attending to your current workforce is just as important as concerning yourself with your employer branding initiatives. You need to attend to both external and internal talent pipelines, to ensure that the talent you’ve worked so hard to find and groom remain skilled and motivated, ready for their next move. Here are some thoughts to help guide you:

  • Provide your team with individual and team growth and learning experiences;
  • Calibrate your rewards and incentive programs to ensure competitiveness with your peers and others who compete for your talent;
  • Listen! Invite deeper conversations with your employees - learn what motivates them;
  • Invite your employees’ collaboration, take stock of what they view as opportunities and challenges for your organization;
  • Create opportunities for your team members to work from their unique strengths and capabilities;
  • Increase levels of communication and transparency;
  • Demonstrate your gratitude and appreciation for their contributions;
  • Have fun and celebrate your victories, together.

And, create a strategic talent and succession plan. This is an essential part of your business’ Strategic Operating Plan, which, should be reviewed and revised at least annually. While not difficult, it takes persistence, patience, and attention to get this right, and it pays back tremendous dividends.


As the labor market continues to tighten, finding talent to grow your business will become more of a challenge. Consider how much value you would lose if your long-service, highly sought after high-potentials jumped ship. Is there a critical role in your organization for which you have a talent gap? What is it costing you to leave this role vacant?


Have you been putting off identifying a successor to your role or another critical position? Or, how difficult it would be for you to replace your hand-selected successor should he or she elect to take their talents to someone else. How long would it take to find someone to step in? How much longer would you have to put off making a big move in the market, or beginning your own retirement?


It’s never too early to focus your attention on your talent. The trick is making sure it’s not too late.


Interested in more insights like this, check out our previous blog about the re-emergence of the Job Seeker's market.


Are you in need of a winning talent strategy? We are an unparalleled partner, let us help you Elevate your value.  Contact us! or call 215-337-3111


This article was featured in the Biotech Bulletin, 2018 Volume 1 produced by the Life Sciences Executive Network at The Sarian Group.


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