The global war for talent is on, but who’s winning it?

The global war for talent is on, but who’s winning it?

Whilst growth largely characterised the latter part of the 20th century following the end of the Second World War, the beginning of the 21st century saw the return of unemployment (and in particular, youth unemployment) amongst mature industrial economies. But whilst some workers struggle to find employment, those with in-demand skills are being hand-picked by the companies (and countries) with policies in place to attract and retain the best talent on the market.

On any given day, millions of workers cross national borders in search of better conditions and new challenges, whilst technological developments and constantly improving networks allow highly-skilled workers to deliver their services from remote locations - meaning that in today’s marketplace, workers don’t even have to leave the country to work for the benefit of other economies.

But which countries are fairing well in the war for talent, and more importantly, why? With global competition at an all-time high, and unemployment becoming ever more problematic, the Global Talent Competitiveness Index (GCTI) — a new research-based report which ranks world-leading economies according to their ability to retain and develop talent has been launched to afford business leaders and policy makers a greater insight into which strategies are working for today’s organisations.

Growing talent for the future: understanding skills gaps in a global context

Many governments have already started to respond to the pressing need to ensure the growth of their workforce by extending opportunities to those on the fringes of society — but solutions aren’t always so close to home. The possibility of attracting workers from abroad is often considered, and whilst immigration poses major social and political challenges, Europe in particular faces a struggle with young nationals who lack the skills needed by an economy with fewer low-skilled jobs.

With the rapid attrition of farm and manufacturing jobs in the developed world, today’s opportunities are found in the business services, healthcare, scientific and green sectors of the economy, but there is a significant deficit across Europe between the skills that companies need to operate effectively, and the skills that local labour markets can provide. If global economies are competing for the same talent in a world of shortages, there may not be enough to go around. The obvious solution? Create more talent.

Education in the spotlight

With a worrying number of young people leaving secondary education without the literacy, numeracy or social skills sought by today’s employers, educational institutions are under increasing amounts of pressure to turn out work-ready youngsters with the skills demanded by an ideas-led economy — but the responsibility must be shared by business leaders.

One of the reasons that youth unemployment is so high in developed countries is that companies often recruit highly skilled workers, rather than providing apprenticeships or training opportunities. To counter the deficit, people must be offered the opportunity to learn through experience, or risk stunting growth in emerging countries.

An uneven war for talent

Unsurprisingly, the results of the GTCI reveal that high-income countries top the list of global economies. The first middle income country (Montenegro) appears in 26th place, while the first low income country (the Kyrgyz Republic) places 78th. High income countries generally have the capacity to generate a significant amount of skills and talent, and whilst mature economies face their own problems (that of realigning human resources to develop innovative knowledge-based societies), a significant number of developing and emerging economies are still struggling to acquire or generate the vocational skills needed to build the basic infrastructure they lack, and to compete in more labour-intensive markets.

Clearly then, whilst most economies share the need to increase their talent base, they’re not all trying to attract the same skills — meaning that attraction and retention policies should vary accordingly. Policies should be well targeted around the specific skills required by each economy at a particular point in time; however, economies must be wary of creating policies targeting skills that are in high demand globally without also building strong retention policies.

Future proofing your talent pipeline

Demand for new skills and talent is likely to continue to change much faster than our ability to provide them, but what we can learn from the GTCI report is that a greater awareness of which skills are necessary for growth (and what is being done by other economies to secure them) has become critically important for businesses, governments and individuals. Understanding what makes talented workers move across borders will continue to be a significant source of competitive advantage: in other words, we need to keep learning.

Steps for action

  1. Enable greater cross-border mobility of talent, guided by appropriate immigration policies to balance surpluses and deficits of skills across the world;
  2. Provide access to education and opportunities, particularly to those on the fringes of labour markets;
  3. Invest in talent development, rather than focusing solely on workers with the high level of skills and knowledge that many businesses require.

Faced with a complex array of challenges and opportunities, decision makers need quantitative tools to help them identify the best possible course of action when it comes to implementing talent-related policies, along with success stories that can be adapted to their own situation, and benchmarking instruments to help them monitor progress.

Download the full report now to learn which strategies are working for today’s organisations.