Tag Archives: The War for Talent

The Ongoing War for Talent, because The Right Talent is So Critical for Success

After presenting my synopsis of The Rare Find by George Anders, I decided to take another look at my handout for the book The War For Talent by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod, which I presented quite a few years ago.  If you are in the  “finding the best talent” game (and who isn’t?!), both of these books are worth a look.

Here is a portion of a key section from the book The War for Talent, on “the new reality”:

The Old Ethics

The New Ethics

We invest in all our people equally Some people are more talented than others, and we invest in them accordingly
We give best performers a little more money that average performers We give best performers a lot more money
I know Charlie’s a C player but we have to be fair to him – he’s been here fifteen years We have to be fair to the twenty people working under Charlie
Managers don’t need pats on the back Managers, like everyone else, need to know they are valued
Undifferentiated praise motivates the masses Differentiation drives individual and company performance

Finding, nurturing, improving talent.  This is the name of the game.  Companies and organizations are not buildings and computer and phone systems.  They are people!  Get the people right, get the right people, get the right people doing the right things, and the company will flourish.  Get the wrong people…  well, you know where that leads.


You can purchase my synopsis of The Rare Find, with audio + handout, at our companion web site, 15minutebusinessbooks.com.  (You can also purchase my synopsis for The War for Talent at our site, but, warning — the audio quality is not as good on our earlier synopses.  Please read the faqs about our audio quality history).

The War for Talent – The War for Jobs

Here’s what prompted these thoughts. The Texas Rangers lost game one of the World Series last night, and for those of us who like the Rangers, we hope to rebound quickly.  But, as I watched, I pulled out my iPad and starting reading about the Cardinals‘ manager, Tony La Russa.  The third winningest manager in baseball history.  (#2, like Tony, had a law degree.  Isn’t that interesting?)  He has won 2 World Series, one in each league, as well as manager of the year 4 times, again in both leagues.  He is, what we might call, a very serious, valuable piece of talent.  He doesn’t have a very long list of true peers.

So, I started thinking about talent.  Here’s what we know.  There’s not enough good talent to go around.  Good, valuable, long-lasting skills are incredibly important.  And even as we read and hear about the unemployment rate, we also read about the jobs that can’t be filled, for lack of specific talent.

“A players.” That’s what every organization seeks…  Jim Collins famously wrote that we need to get the right people on the bus. (And we need to make sure the bus is the right bus, going to the right location).  Finding the right people is hard work, but very important work.

Talent is shorthand for a key employee who possesses “a sharp strategic mind, leadership ability, communications skills, the ability to attract and inspire people, entrepreneurial instincts, functional skills, and the ability to deliver results.” It’s also an overarching personnel characteristic that organizations of all kinds will require…
The better the talent, the higher the performance.
(The War for Talent).

The War for Talent…  The Coming Jobs War.  The first phrase is the title of a 2001 book (which I presented at the December, 2001 First Friday Book Synopsis).  The second, the title of a just-released 2011 book. (I’ve only read the first of the two).

Just a few years ago, there were seemingly more jobs than needed to go around, and  companies were in a bidding war for the best talent.  Now, there are more job seekers than jobs available.  I know a bunch of folks – a bunch! of folks – who are now “independent contractors,” because their companies shut down their departments.  “Talented” people!  Some of them are successful, some still struggle.  But plenty of them remember the “good old days,” when work was sure and benefits came along as part of the package.  It is this loss of benefits, especially health care packages, that seems to have serious ripple effects, and do more than just a little to create uncertainty and unease.  (Not to mention some actual, serious physical problems.  When health problems are ignored, and treatments delayed, far more serious problems follow along).

Here’s the Amazon info about the more recent jobs book, The Coming Jobs War:  What Every Leader Must Know About the Future of Job Creation, written by Jim Clifton, Chairman of Gallup:

Drawing on 75 years of Gallup studies and his own perspective as the company’s chairman and CEO, Jim Clifton explains why jobs are the new global currency for leaders. More than peace or money or any other good, the business, government, military, city, and village leaders who can create good jobs will own the future. 
The problem is that leaders don’t know how to create jobs – especially in America. What they should do is recognize that the world is in a war for jobs.

I think this really does need to be agenda item #1. We have cut and slashed and cut some more so many jobs that uncertainty permeates the land.  And people without jobs, and people insecure in their current jobs, discouraged people, lose a little  (sometimes more than a little) of their self-confidence.  It’s time to help a nation get its self-confidence back.

I’ve put The Coming War for Jobs in my reading queue.  I have been writing for quite a while on this theme:  Where Will The Jobs Be?  I hope we find some answers, sooner rather than later…

Finding Talent Remains an Important Issue


Even in a down-economy, discussions about assessing, developing, or obtaining talent will not go away.

Indeed, this week we learned about another business best-seller on this topic.

Top Talent by Sylvia Ann Hewlett (Harvard Business School Press, 2010).

Over the years, at the First Friday Book Synopsis, we have featured books such as these on talent:

  • The War for Talent by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, Beth Axelrod (Harvard Business School Press, 2001)
  • Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin (Portfolio, 2008)

I think the major reason that the quest for talent will not go away is that it is part of the consideration at the top of a company’s Performance Management system.  The first step is to “hire the right person.”  The second step is to get the person off to a good start with proper orienting or onboarding.    What’s funny is that if more companies would take the time to get the right person and get that person off to a great start, everything else under performance management would fall in place.  For example, companies would need to less counseling, progressive discipline, firing, and so forth.

However, this is not the case!  When managers have openings, they want to fill them as quickly as possible.  Companies are not taking the time and care to be sure that the new hire is a proper fit.  Talent is a huge consideration in this process, but not the only factor.  Yet, it is this rush to fill an open position, rather than ensuring that a person is right for the job, that creates so much trouble.

I understand this.  Many times managers with open positions do the work of the open position.  That means at least two jobs – if  not more.  But, I think of the old line, “do you want to pay me now or pay me later?”   A company does not have to take the time to get the right person, but when it does not, it will pay for it later in many ways.

Talent is important.  That’s why we continue to see authors write about it, and why we see customers purchase books about it, that ultimately make best-seller lists.

What do you think?   Let’s talk about it.

P.S. – By the way, did you know you can purchase synopses of the two talent books I refer to above at 15MinuteBusinessBooks.com?  You get the audio presentation along with an outline and sheet of key quotes.