A recent post in Business Intelligence (McKinsey Predicts The War For Talent Will Go Nuts By 2020 ) raises the alarmist spectre of:
- High skilled talent (college degree & higher): Demand, 166 – 168 million; Supply, 150 million; Gap, – 10%
- Medium skilled talent (high school & vocational): Demand, 253 – 256 million; Supply, 288 million; Gap, +11%
- Low skilled talent (under high school): Demand, 60 – 60 million; Supply, 59 million; Gap, -1%
Let’s just assume for a moment this report is directionally correct. What does this mean for my country, my industry, and my business?
First the categories of talent are way too coarse for us to male a determination to the above questions, especially as they may apply to an industry and my business. This is why I categorize the report as an alarmist spectre. Only by looking at our strategy going out ten years can we begin to appreciate the uncertainty (this is not a risk like situation) to us.
Ah! do we even do ten year horizon strategy work? If not then the uncertainty goes from an envisage-able uncertainty (a.k.a. grey swan uncertainty) towards a black swan like uncertainty. You will not see it coming at all until it hits you. Strategy achieves two outcomes:
- Gives us a direction for what we want to become as an entity (creating our desired future)
- Gives us the wherewithal to see what is important to enabling or jeopardizing our achievement of our desired future.
Those who say (and practice) the perspective that long term strategy (i.e., 10 years and out) is a waste of time for whatever reason are choosing to blind to the circumstances that will affect their future. I would argue that those who do not do long term planning will be incapable of making any use of the McKinsey prognostication. Should we ignore (don’t know because we don’t see the specific consequences for doing so). Should we take it under consideration (don’t know because we have no idea on how this might specifically be relevant).
I understand the argument that our future is so uncertain and changeable that long term planning is a waste of scarce resources. My perspective, is that this is all dependent on how you approach long term planning including how you consciously factor in uncertainty and risk into your deliberations. I would further note that this “not worth doing” perspective clearly demonstrates that your view of your place in the future is the result of adaptation to “others” moves versus having others move in response to you. Hence, your core business capability is rapid adaptation.
However, adaptation always assumes that you will find (at an economic cost) what you need when you need it. This is where the McKinsey report becomes critical: will what you need be available as and when you need it? You don’t know, and you won’t until later.
Knowing how to plan within an uncertainty is the competency that is worth platinum in circumstances where you may face severe constraints in supply. Organizations that are predisposed to being assertive in what their future will be take the view that we will create our future. A future where these constraints will not be mission sow stoppers.
Strategic Talent Management (STM) complements this assertive business orientation. STM determines what are the critical competencies, how are these packaged into people, when will they be needed, what are the specific (i.e., not the McKinsey like reports) supply markets going to be like, what signals will tell us whether our assumptions are faulty, how do we best use lead times to ramp up, etc.
Dear business executive, if you want effective STM in your organization, you have to do your job too. You have to do useful long term planning.