The global talent war: employer versus employee

“The war for talent” has a long history. Employers worry about how to recruit and retain the best talent. One response is to fish in the global talent pool, not just in a domestic talent pool. This makes perfect sense. If you want the best talent, why just look in your neighbourhood when you can look around the world? And if you want low cost talent, then you need to look at low cost countries. And if you want highly reliable talent at low cost which will work 24/7, then you buy a robot.

A high tech CEO expressed the employer’s perspective well: “Why should I recruit only from Silicon Valley when there is so much more talent around the world. I don’t care where you live. You can live in San Francisco with five kids and a fancy house, or you can live in a beach hut in Malaysia. I don’t care. I pay for the work done. That means I pay the same rate for the job whoever you are and wherever you live.

For an employer, that makes perfect sense. But what does the war for talent if you are an employee? If you are a highly talented techie who likes living on a beach hut in Malaysia, you are going to make out well. Not many people are like that.

If you want to succeed in the global war for talent, you need to have exceptional talent, and more. In talent terms, you need to be at the top of your game. But that is not enough. The half life of skills is getting shorter all the time: skills which are leading edge today will be blunt edge within five years. You have to keep learning and keep adapting to keep ahead. But even that is not enough: there will always be younger, hungrier and with fresher skills waiting to take your place. So you need to have more than technical skills.

You need to show that you have the soft skills which make it impossible for a robot to replace you. You need to have cultural intelligence; you need to show that you can adapt and change, deal with ambiguity and uncertainty, you can persuade and influence other people remotely. This are higher order skills which are in scarce supply, and if you have these skills plus a strong technical skills base, you will be in demand.

The  global war for talent is increasingly a winner contest. The very best global talent can command huge salaries; many more will struggle but get by; and the losers lose it all.