War?? What Is It Good For??
(It’s a Question of Appropriateness of Language)
There is no war for talent.
I’ll re-phrase that…
There is no war, for talent.
There is talent everywhere.
I was reading an article about how Accenture are going to hire up to 50,000 people this year, but that 40% of hires would be through social media (mainly Linked In and Twitter), and you may have thought that as a 3rd party recruiter I would be concerned by that. I should have been…but what really concerned me was the lame, gratuitous use of the word ‘War’.
‘Currently there is a War for Talent’ opined their head of recruitment.
In the UK alone we have 2.5 million unemployed (sorry, claiming jobseekers allowance…lord knows how many others aren’t) almost 2 million economic inactives, not forgetting about 1 million working part time who would like to work full time…there you are, abundant talent.
Sorry, maybe unemployed people aren’t talent. Those who have to take part time work to keep a roof over their families possess no talent. Clearly the 900,000+ under 25s who are desperately searching for a chance, any chance, to learn and prove themselves, have no potential.
Of course the original phrase ‘War for Talent’ sprang from a report by McKinsey, which really dealt with what companies need to do about the impending ‘talent’ shortfall to avoid ‘war’. (If you haven’t yet done so then I recommend you check out Gareth Jones’ excellent blog Talent Management : The Emperor’s (Not So) New Clothes)
Yet some of our biggest companies would rather see themselves at ‘war’ with one another. But do they know what war really is?
I propose that anyone who thinks that 2 or more companies trying to hire the same person/people is a war should be parachuted straight into Helmand for 72 hours and find out what war is…failing that, maybe some time spent with the bereaved families of servicemen who have actually fought in a war may provide a reality check.
Back in the day, in the masculinised world of 80s business, when lunch was for wimps and no self respecting executive would be caught without his copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, when companies saw themselves as armies fighting over consumer turf, military comparisons were seen as the only way to grow.
But not now, surely. Not when there are real wars being fought on the planet, when we are in the middle of a recession/depression that no-one really knows the end date of, when the misery, desolation and hopelessness of long term unemployment haunts so many.
How can NOW be a time to use the language of military triumphalism in such a glib, gratuitous way?
All of us in HR and Recruiting should try to ensure we use language that is considered and compassionate, appropriate to the situation. Not lazy and lame, misleading and mis-representative.
…and In My Very Humble Opinion, companies are not in a ‘war’ for talent…talent is in a ‘war’ for real opportunities… (but that is a different post)