The Organization’s War for Talent

After running a few sessions for organizations last week I realized I keep getting very similar questions about the talent, salaries, and employment forms. I felt it was time to share a few of my thoughts on how these matters have shifted.

Priorities of the workforce have been changing for quite some time now and Covid-19 definitely sealed the deal.

Covid times accelerated the change in organizational patterns and brought it to a point of no return where traditional models got to a point of “we are going to give this a go”. I can only say I saw this coming as my own vision of how things work and should work has always differed from the norm.

The Big Exodus of the Workforce

Countries like Germany, the USA, Canada and Australia have been built with the support of many immigrants. But, gone are the days when people had to move continents to find a job.

Even my own story is quite aligned to that, as my grandfather and father both migrated to find better opportunities. I, myself, migrated again in search of a better lifestyle and career opportunities first to Dubai and later on to Australia.

And now, after so many decades of people migrating in search of a better life, a dramatic shift is happening.

A few years ago, I was running a workshop with public servants from local, state, and federal agencies. I still remember the look on their faces when I mentioned that councils are in fact competing with each other as their clients (aka citizens) can move if they prefer the Customer Experience of other councils or states. As a matter of fact, I had left Germany, as I preferred the “Customer Experience” that Australia was offering.

For the first time in ages, more people are rather moving out of big cities than moving into the cities to look for employment.

I also mentioned that it wouldn’t be too long for people to be living location-independent. At the time, at best, people might have thought I was just a lunatic. Yet, less than 4 years later it is happening: the big exodus from cities and countries. Worldwide, cities like Milan, New York, Sydney or Melbourne are witnessing this big exodus of professionals moving to the countryside or even to other nations. And this, of course, shifts company culture and employment rules altogether.

The Rules of the Game Have Changed

In the past, the workforce had very clear functions, roles, and responsibilities.

Even the division of functions in married couples was mostly clear, one partner focusing on the career and the other on taking care of the house and family, right?

After the industrial revolution, entire industries were built on values like status and career progression. The number of hours that would cost and what it would do to the work-life balance of employees was always secondary.

If work got tougher and people complained then a big bonus or a pay rise would fix it. And when that didn’t do the trick anymore, employees would keep looking for other status symbols at the workplace: things such as the corner office, the paid company vacation, etc.

Well, nowadays, all these past rules are no longer applicable or at least they don’t work as well as they used to. Call me crazy but I see so many talented people on the job market that are literally bypassing the system by choosing different career paths and alternative forms of employment. They are challenging the playbook and I would even dare say they are playing a completely different game.

The old ways are gone now as we are entering a new era – an era I would like to call the “war for talent”.

The War for Talent Has Only Just Begun

There is now a category of workers that is no longer motivated by the same values that worked in the past. Nevertheless, entire industries keep trying to fight new challenges with the same old tools and strategies.

I recently read an article about the hospitality industry in England. Granted, Brexit took its toll, but overall, hundreds of thousands of people decided to turn their back on an industry that they lived and loved in some cases for decades.

Why would people want to quit a profession they love so dearly? It’s quite simple: their values have changed!

And I am not only talking about the younger generations I see this across the board. In the last 3 months, the amount of people that have told me they turned away from a better paying job in favor of a better work-life balance is the highest I have ever witnessed. In the past, I heard many people saying they sacrificed time with their families for a career opportunity (“only for the next two years” they would say) but today they are actually more than ready to take on a lower-paying job in exchange for lifestyle benefits.

I remembered one of my first employers in Sydney, moving the office from St. Leonard’s to the CBD, as it was going to make the employer more attractive for talent.

The new priority is no longer the base salary. The new priority is no longer the great location of the office. The new currencies of the labor market are flexibility and autonomy.

Attracting Talent: Multinationals vs Startups

I have to smile when I hear multinational companies saying they cannot attract talent. When I ask them what they are doing to attract more talent the two most common answers I get are that they either increase salaries or reduce entry requirements.

On the other hand, I see startups that haven’t been in the market for even a year being overrun with applications. What are these companies doing differently and why is talent choosing them over big, powerful, successful, established companies?

Quite simply, they know what the workforce wants and have their priorities straight! These companies understand their workforce and are ready to join the war. The war for talent!

These new companies understand that flexibility, team culture, purpose, work-life balance, autonomy are values that are more important and valued than salaries and status symbols, like the corner office.

Offer Lifestyle Over Career

This war is different as it defies the traditional boundaries and rules. And I am not debating here whether or not this is right or not, I am just sharing what I can observe from my own experience of working with organizations and individuals.

People will find ways to support their lifestyles and even move countries if they have to. Not to find the right employment as they can find that no matter where they are. They will move to find a better and more suitable lifestyle within their budgets.

In the past, the workforce was trying to get the best work-life balance out of the job they had. Nowadays, people look for jobs based on their lifestyle choices and are less likely to make sacrifices for a career than ever before.

Food for Thought…

Imagine your Sydney-based company is struggling to attract new, motivated, and highly-skilled talent. Is there a chance that some other company in a remote place like Bali or Hawaii is set up to offer this talent better working conditions? And more, this company doesn’t really care if their workforce is based in an expensive studio in Sydney or in a large property in Tasmania as they can run remotely. Would your company be able to compete?

What is your company doing to win the war for talent?