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May 16, 201911:49 AMMaking Madison

with Buckley Brinkman

Talent wars transforming the economy

(page 1 of 2)

We live in interesting times.

That realization hit me again this past week during discussions about limited workforce growth and its impact on future economic success. For the first time in my life, long-term labor shortages will drive transformation throughout our economy. Our present business models depend on a reliable spot market for talent, facilitating the free flow of people, and they are based on the terms offered by employers. That spot market is gone — probably for the next 20 years — and that disappearance creates a market where talent determines the employment terms.

We’ve seen the talent spot market disappear before, but never for two decades. The demographics always caught up and provided new workers. The current reality means that traditional talent strategies will quickly become obsolete as more and more companies fight for fewer and fewer workers. Successful companies will find new ways to grow and build operations with precisely the talent they need.

Labor statistics show this trend may affect small- and medium-sized organizations more acutely. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal examined the latest job-growth numbers and the significantly slower growth numbers in smaller companies. The profiles in the article highlighted the competition between those firms and larger operations, demonstrating the handicap smaller companies must overcome when fighting for talent using traditional tactics. In this case, Goliath routs David.

Manpower Group’s Becky Frankiewicz highlighted many of these same themes during a breakfast discussion last week. She emphasized that accidental or traditional strategies will not work in this economy, especially as workers define more and more of the terms of employment. Transferrable skills are the new currency in this market; the paradox is that technology makes the soft skills critical. The balance tips toward people who have the communication and engagement skills to unleash the full potential of the people around them.

How will you set your strategy to compete for talent in this new world? Frankiewicz suggests four approaches that make sense to me:

  1. Buy — Putting together a value proposition that attracts talent;
  2. Build — Using traditional development approaches to groom your internal talent;
  3. Borrow — Engaging temporary skills when and where they are needed; and
  4. Bridge — Identifying jobs at risk for automation and creating a path to more secure and demanded positions.

Successful companies will explicitly consider each of these options and develop their specific strategy. Each approach applies in different situations. Let’s take a quick look at each one.

Can you afford to buy the best talent? Unless your margins are strong and markets secure, probably not with pay alone. This option demands that you put together a creative proposition that your targeted talent values. One of the examples Frankiewicz cited was a company providing DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket to its employees, a relatively inexpensive approach that is working for them. As you can see, creativity is key to create a package that attracts and keeps the talent you want.


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About This Blog

Buckley Brinkman is executive director and CEO of the Wisconsin Center for Manufacturing & Productivity and writes about the manufacturing sector in Greater Madison and throughout Wisconsin. He has a breadth of experience in helping companies drive growth, world-class competitiveness, and performance excellence, and has led efforts to save dozens of operations in the U.S. by finding new ways for them to compete. A Wisconsin native, Brinkman holds a business degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.



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