Tech Tips: Understanding the war for talent in the Knowledge Age

Let’s face it: We live in a competitive world. Our children compete in youth sports leagues; our schools compete for county, state and national championships; colleges and universities compete to attract the best and brightest students to their campuses (and for the tuition money that goes along with it); and businesses compete for our hard-earned money spent on necessary and discretionary goods and services. With all of this competition, it’s no shock that employers are waging a war for the talent needed to differentiate their organization from those with which they battle on a daily basis for market share.

In future articles, I will discuss strategies for winning (or competing favorably, at least) in this war for talent. However, I think it’s first important to understand how we got where we are. There are numerous contributing factors that have led us to this current “state of war” for talent, but the three I consider as critical to understanding how we arrived at this point are listed below.

The baby boomer effect:The aging and retirement of the baby boomer generation

  • There is a growing gap between the aging population that is leaving the workforce and the fresh talent entering it. It is estimated that the aging population worldwide is projected to rise from 11 percent today to 22 percent by 2050, resulting in the number of people no longer contributing to the workforce jumping from 800 million to nearly two billion over the next few decades.
  • Since economic prosperity is dependent on the size and quality of the workforce, the lack of available, qualified human capital poses a huge growth challenge for emerging economies.

The emergence of the Knowledge Age and the Knowledge Worker

  • In addition to the shrinking workforce, there is still a large portion of the population that does not have the necessary skills needed to be employable in the “Knowledge Age."
  • The Knowledge Age is described as the third wave of human socioeconomic development (following the Agricultural Age and the Industrial Age). In the Knowledge Age, wealth is based upon the ownership of knowledge and the ability to use that knowledge to create or improve goods and services, and the Knowledge Worker is one whose main capital is knowledge. Typical examples of knowledge workers include software engineers, doctors, architects, engineers and scientists.
  • In this Age of Knowledge, only 2 percent of the workforce will work on the land and 10 percent will work in industry, leaving the remaining 88 percent as Knowledge Workers.
  • Currently, jobs in the computing, IT and engineering industries are especially vulnerable to this skills deficit. It is essential that educational institutions everywhere keep up with the current trends in the competitive job market to ensure that their students are equipped to take jobs in industries that demand their skills most. However, with the rapid rate of technological change, this is no easy task, as we have a limited ability to foresee what future skills will be needed.

The challenge to please employees with differing motivations

  • Our workplaces have become incredibly diverse, and the challenge to meet the expectations of multiple, distinct generations of employees is a daunting task for company CEOs, presidents and human resources managers. Compensation and benefit packages that were designed to please the baby boomers do not entice the generation X or Y worker.
  • No longer are compensation, holiday and paid time off and health benefits the primary factors considered by employees when weighing one opportunity against another. The younger employees now consider such factors as company purpose, setting of goals, autonomy, flexibility and opportunities for innovation as critical criteria in making a career decision.

I look forward to future articles discussing attracting, acquiring and retaining talent in your organization. Until then, I leave you with a couple of quotes to consider when making your next hire or communicating with your existing workforce.

“Do not hire a man who does your work for money, but him who does it for the love of it.”

-- Henry David Thoreau

“Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.”

-- Robert McNamara, former president of Ford Motor Company

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