16 Aug 2016 19:36 IST

How to win the ‘War for talent’

Spotting people with the required qualities and helping them realise their potential is key

There is a new war being waged in campuses today. It is called the ‘War for Talent’, undertaken by companies trying to get the cream of students onboard.

Teams heading to campuses for recruitment are like commandos — the HR heads and their support staff are the people running these war rooms. Their presentations combine powerful marketing pitches and high powered propaganda designed to bamboozle even the sharpest of minds being targeted. One would expect all this and more.

These ‘talented people’ constitute the prize catch of this war. One would expect the catch to be guarded with care bordering on paranoia.

“They told me that people like me were one out of every 50 short-listed from campuses of premier institutions. They said, ‘You (I) made it through our gruelling tests, group discussions, SOP (Statement of Purpose) filters, social media analytics and personal interviews. You should be proud’,” Vinaya had said in her exit interview, handled by an HR Consulting firm.

“When I walked into our office on my first day, I looked around proudly. No one noticed me. “Hey, I have arrived!” I felt like saying. I barged into one of the frosted glass cabins and announced myself. The woman there smiled knowingly, offered me a seat and helped me finish some formalities. She expected me to somehow come in precisely into that cabin and meet her.”

Vinaya’s cohort Sushant said in his exit interview, “They put me in a team without taking into account my interests. What’s the point in writing an SOP and defending it in the interview? I mentioned a lot of things which I have been doing even in my personal time to show them how serious I am about what I wish to do.”

The CEO of their company has been saying they must win the ‘War for Talent’ in order to sustain their success and growth. The company is trying hard to retain talent. In addition to compensation packages, it has also introduced facilities like generous work-from-home options, personal time offs for those unavoidable chores, and luxury buses for commuting.

Unfortunately, all this hasn’t helped — many from the ‘prize catch’ group leave within a year after joining. Many companies face similar problems in their ‘War for Talent’. But why?

Reasons they leave

There are many reasons for this.

One, these wars are being fought under the charge of HR. Using elaborate processes and technology for recruitment is necessary but it seems that they give an air of infallibility in spotting talent and ensuring a good match with the needs of companies.

Two, these wars must also be fought within, to retain, spot and nurture talent. Team leaders, technical and business managers must join this war. HR can’t do it alone.

Three, there should be clarity about what talent is and what the talented people are looking for.

Usually, companies rely on education and experience while selecting talent. Unfortunately, education and experience don’t solely determine a person’s performance, much less tell us anything about his/her potential.

Spotting the right fit

When we think of talent, we think of performance — dancing, singing, problem solving, coding... doing something well. But talent is also about innate potential. And this potential becomes visible though learning and practice.

While the environment must enable learning and practice, an individual needs to enjoy it sufficiently to overcome difficulties, tiredness, frustration and negativity, and reach a level of proficiency that is valuable to others.

Given all this, one can understand why truly talented people are:

~ Passionate about what they like doing

~ Restless

~ Evaluate themselves often

~ Take efforts to improve without being told to

~ Enjoy talking about the finer aspects of related performances (critical appreciation)

~ Don’t like to waste their time

~ Are willing to reach out to those who might help them improve

~ Want to take their talent to new situations and prove themselves all over again

~ Look for bigger reasons, like be part of a winning team or work for a worthy cause

When you need people for working on big projects or for developing complex products, they need to have critical and creative thinking abilities, the ability to summarise and expand, to define problems and build conceptual models, and the ability to frame and execute actions.

Their knowledge and experience can be useful only then. More importantly, the knowledge and experience won’t set limits to what they can achieve.

In conclusion

From the lost talent wars and based on anecdotal information about what goes on inside organisations, we can infer that most companies don’t do a good job of finding talent.

But it shouldn’t be that difficult. If you are like the people described above, you will recognise them. Talent recognises talent.

This ‘War for Talent’ can be won by spotting people with the qualities mentioned above and helping them realise their potential. It is your job to see how to use technology and alter your practices accordingly.