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War for talent

Talent have not won the war. It’s a terrible lie.

1st Jul 2015
HR After Dark
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“The war for talent’s over, and the talent won.”

If you care about young people nowadays, stop feeding them such lies.

All that free coffee and fresh fruit and on-site gyms that we say is evidence that workers are beating off job offers with a stick will dry up in a few years.*

Globalisation and an inescapable fact of life - companies find their talent where it is cheapest - will make sure of this.

Capitalism is lifting people out of poverty worldwide and the world is becoming more equal. Many are seeing their living standards skyrocket and this is giving young people across the world better access to education and skills that will make them more employable.

This is a fundamental win for humanity. But if you're in a Western economy, it may not be so good for your career. In 1990 the world population was 5.279 billion and the people who could take white collar jobs were confined to rich, Western countries. Good education was hard to access. Going to university was a sound bet because it magnified your employability. Oh, and it was often free too, so no crippling debt at the end.

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Replies (4)

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Karen Drury
By Karen Drury
02nd Jul 2015 11:05

Sobering stuff. But don't be dismissive of young people's resilience to actually react to changing circumstances - including intense competition from overseas. This incidentally should not be limited to young people - anyone who's in a job, or needs a job, are ALL impacted by cheaper, increasingly-better educated talent world wide.
I too don't think that university should be touted as the be-all and end-all of education, but there may be a positive side to the situation where 'everyone has a degree', in that if everyone has one, yours will need to be better - which means that standards may rise. Let's keep our fingers crossed.

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Shonette new
By Shonette
02nd Jul 2015 11:45

The world of work has always been a case of adapting for every generation as expectations and technology shifts; of course things are more accelerated at the moment, but I agree that it's not just a consideration for younger people.

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Image of Jon Ingham
By Jon Ingham
06th Jul 2015 16:20

There are two wars (it's a nasty and inappropriate term but let's leave that aside.)

There is a war for talent. Degrees may be commonplace but McKinsey suggest businesses could be short of 85 million workers with college degrees or vocational training by 2020 globally. If you've got one, you're going to be in demand. But I think this war is largely about more specific skills that other don't have - often combinations of technical and soft skills, and a good personal brand. These aren't the sort of people who are going to be on, though they may be designing, coding or marketing this. These people are already and will become even more highly marketable, and can command their own price. They have won the war.

At the same time, it's predicted there will be 95 million lower-skilled workers who could be unemployed. Basic talent marketplaces give these people a huge new opportunity, but here, it's the computer alogorithm that's won. People just need to be grateful for what they can get and hope their jobs don't get automated with the computers undertaking these roles for themselves. So it's still not where you really want to be, at least if you live in a high cost of living location.

We need to encourage young people to develop more higher level skills. That's really the only way to keep ahead of the algorithm.

Stats from McKinsey's No ordinary DIsruption - see

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Karen Drury
By Karen Drury
08th Jul 2015 00:13

I do think that there are plenty of people with degrees who are stacking shelves and waiting tables. I'm not so convinced that 'if you've got one, you're going to be in demand', but I do agree that the college degree is insufficient. The idea of personal brand when you're stacking shelves is ludicrous, and probably fits into the 'lies' that the original writer identifies.

For the basic skills set, I've yet to see the algorithm that can serve me in a restaurant or clean toilets, or provide care for mental patients. What's needed is not necessarily more qualifications, it's a rethink about how work is valued.

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