Well….. sort of official. The boss of one of the biggest finance recruitment firms has said so anyway.
Robert Thesiger, chief executive of headhunters Morgan McKinley, has declared that the War for Talent is over after a survey revealed that the number of vacancies in the financial sector has dropped by 65% over the last year. The study also found that candidates now take on average 76.3 day to find a job compared with 28.5 days this time last year. As Mr Thesiger said, competition is much fiercer and employers have a wider pool of talent from which to choose.
Many will be surprised it has taken so long for an end to the War for Talent to be formally announced. The term was coined to describe a world in which people with the skills and behaviours necessary to give a company its competitive advantage were scarce. Organisations therefore had to compete with each other to win, develop and keep that talent. The War for Talent was the result of an economic boom and a shortage of skilled people. Take away one side of that equation, the demand, and the problem goes away.
Yet all through the back half of last year, many people, especially HR professionals and, in particular, those in development or recruitment, insisted that, despite the coming recession, there would still be a War for Talent. After fifteen years of growth it was as if no-one could quite believe that it might one day be possible to recruit and retain people without promising them the Earth.
Some are still making this argument even now and insisting that the War for Talent is still raging. Well, they would wouldn’t they?
That said, there will be some areas where, despite the economic downturn, there will still be skills shortages. Over the long term, too, those who say that declaring an end to the War for Talent is premature may well be right. The population is still aging and in the next few years more people will leave the available workforce, as the baby-boomers retire, than will enter it. Even if the economy doesn’t return to the boom levels of the last few years it will eventually recover and the demand for labour will increase. For firms to ditch all the policies they brought in to develop and retain good people would be short-sighted.
Over the next couple of years, though, it is going to be easier to attract and retain good people. Almost inevitably, thereofore, firms will cut back on recruitment incentives, retention bonuses, benefits and development.
As I said last month, organisations’ priorities, and therefore the skills required by HR professionals, will change during the next couple of years. Talent management will be less of a priority while experience of downsizing, restructuring and the related employee relations activities will be more in demand.
Organisations, the labour market and, therefore, HR functions are going to look a lot different from what we’ve been used to.