Monthly Research
& Market Commentary

The Talent War: A Call to Arms

Assets/Capabilities / 05 May 2017 / By Dave Aron

Whether you call it Human Resource Management, Human Capital Management, People, Skills or Talent, the issue of getting (access to) the skills and capabilities we need has never been easy.  But with a constantly rising bar of excellence as technology and information move to the heart of every organization, and new, scarce skills like data science, cloud architecture, machine intelligence and digital anthropology entering the fray, the talent challenge has reached another level.  LEF believes that this increasingly intense war for talent will decide the winners and losers in the next decade, and most conventional businesses are far from ready. 

LEF has often observed that most of us have sleepwalked into the 21st century with 20th century businesses that are not fit for purpose – and that includes our approach to people.  21st century organizations recognize talent as their critical asset.  Too often, today’s organizations are not finding the talent they will need, nor are they unleashing the true talent, discretionary effort and creativity of the people they have.

We’re not helped by all the uncertainty about where things are going.  We don’t know what talent we will need, and in what quantities.  It’s not even clear what talent we need to own, and what we just need to be able to access.  What’s more, the people with essential new digital skills frequently don’t fit today’s pattern.  Typically, they are motivated by purpose, and they often don’t buy in to the corporate world.

Even if all those problems were solved, all indications are that the right talent isn’t available in the market in sufficient quantities.  And if we could get the talent we need, we probably haven’t got the organizational culture, structure, processes, methodologies and tools to get the most out of these people and reward them in ways that they value.

And we are not being sufficiently innovative in our approaches to finding and unleashing talent.  We need something radically different, and an order of magnitude better, if we are to win in an age when talent is the key to success.  

There are tools and approaches being used by a small minority of organizations that are providing super-normal results.  These include unconventional practices such as hiring whole teams, applying artificial intelligence to shape teams, and creating internal talent marketplaces.  If we are going to win the talent war, we have to be open to these and other radical ideas.

Most importantly, leaders cannot devolve this responsibility.  They must dedicate time and effort to both executing and innovating their talent journey.  Most of them know and accept the vital importance of winning the talent war, but aren’t doing enough to address it.  Our research project Attracting and Unleashing Talent is nearing its conclusion and its findings will be published in July 2017.

Do you have any talent gaps in your organization?  Share your views on this topic via this short 5 minute survey.  In return, we'll ensure you receive a copy of the final report upon publication in the Summer.


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