On-again, Off-again: The War for Talent

Here’s some news for you: the war for talent is back. I’m not kidding, I just heard a keynote speaker mention it at an HR event, so it must be true.

Are you just as tired as I am of hearing the same thing over and over again? Especially when it comes to the war for talent? Yes, there are some jobs that are hard to fill. Yes, that will always be the case. And no, that doesn’t mean the war for talent is back.

The interesting thing was that the speaker based this prediction solely on 2 arguments:
1. The baby boomers are leaving the workplace
2. The younger generations cannot fill those jobs, as their numbers are lower.

Where to begin? First of all, baby boomers are not leaving the workplace completely. Due to their good health and the fact that the financial crisis wiped out life savings, many of them retire only part time. Second, while generation X is one of the smallest generations ever, that is certainly not the case for GenY and GenZ, especially not from a global perspective.

Thirdly, and this bothers me the most, the speaker completely overlooked the concepts of automation and consumerization and what that means for the future of work. Until a few years ago, we need other people (a middle man) to complete tasks for us: buying music, hiring a rental, checking in for a flight etc. Today, you log on to a website and do those tasks yourself. And yes, that means that a bunch of programmers and a system have replaced customer-facing human beings. And to add to the effect, these programmers can work anywhere in the world.

I fully understand that if you need a sales person in your shop you must hire local, and that is true for other jobs as well. But there are many jobs where location isn’t an issue, and you can introduce technology to get things done.

So let’s get creative and solve “the war for talent” – if it ever existed at all.