The War for Talent, still raging 20 years later. How do we win?

In response to Wall Street Journal article Is America Running Out of Unemployed People to Fill Jobs?, published on March 16, another indication that we are at peak employment, and new tactics are needed to address new realities. There are fewer people available to hire, and new entrants to workforce from schools and abroad are not fulfilling employer demand.


“War for Talent” is On

Over 20 years ago, the American economy first declared the “war for talent”. The future success of organizations hinged on their workforce capability, and how they attract, engage, and retain employees. While the war took a brief hiatus following the Great Recession, it returned with rage and new weapons to counteract it. 


Employee Retention Issues

In early 2010, the U.S. level of unemployment was approximately 15 million while there were roughly 3 million job openings. As of January, 2018, the level of unemployment has shrunk to less than 7 million while the number of job openings has more than doubled to a little over 6 million. As Eric Morath of the Wall Street Journal put it “for every job in opening in America, there’s barely more than one unemployed person available to take it.”

Organizations no longer have a bevy of talent to choose from when looking to fill key positions, making it harder still on retaining talents. Because of the challenges in filling open positions, recruiters have increasingly turned to identifying passive job seekers.

Growing organizations are not only faced with the challenge of bringing in talent but also fending of competitors from poaching their existing hard-earned talent 


Winning The Talent War: Start From Within

What can organizations pull out of their arsenal to fight? Given the tighter job market and decreased talent pool, the answer is less in enhanced recruiting practices. And endlessly increasing wages is not a sustainable solution. The universal tool for every organization is a continuous, feedback-based, data-driven employee retention strategy.

Employers need to pay better attention to the needs of their employees – only a third are engaged at work! From 30 -35% of U.S. employees are engaged at work (typically twice that at the world’s best organizations) and over half are actively looking for new jobs. Clearly there is ample opportunity to win the war from within.  


Employee Retention Strategy

Although there are key drivers of retention across all organizations such as advancement opportunities, benefits and perks, manager relationships, company culture, job fit, training and development, etc., there is no “one size fits all” retention strategy.  

The key to creating a culture of retention is to capture the changing needs of employees as close to real-time as possible, and then publicly act on that conversation. That reinforces that feedback matters, and more honest dialogue occurs. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, be cautious of anyone who says otherwise. There is a universal best practice to how we ask the questions.

To learn how to stop top talent from quitting and how to implement an employee retention strategy there are tools from Retensa at 


For Eric Morath’s full article on Wall Street Journal, visit


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