Stay at the top of your industry through talent development

A critical shortage of skilled labor threatens many companies. Research shows that companies that excel in developing talent remain at the top of their industry. Learn how to manage your talent.

By Paul Loftus

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Demand for your products is as durable as ever. But thanks to globalization you face a whole host of challenges – just as a critical shortage of skilled labor threatens your ability to outperform the competition.

That shortage is not only a function of the ageing workforce, which is a challenge for many industries. Your industry suffers from a particular image problem with the younger generation. They just don’t think it’s glamorous or “high-tech” enough. What’s more, they fear that your culture is rigid and “old school” and would never be able to accommodate their ambitions.

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You know, and Accenture research confirms, that organizations that excel in developing their people also tend to be high-performance businesses that dominate their markets. Few industrial products companies achieve this level of excellence.

Most tend to under invest in identifying, developing, and training their people – even though people are the greatest assets for any institution. Many have been forced to hire back retirees in an effort to compensate for the failure to identify, acquire, and build the workforce necessary to compete in today’s marketplace. Overall recruiting efforts are still falling well short of plan.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that the talent crisis is also an opportunity. In fact, it offers a whole host of opportunities to improve your talent management practices – and thus make the institution stronger.

Globalization may have intensified the competition from low-cost producers – but it has also opened doors to previously inaccessible pools of talent in Asia and elsewhere. Now is the time to abandon obsolete, piecemeal approaches to recruitment and training. By seizing the chance to develop new people development skills - skills that will actually attract and retain the right sort of talent, new and old, and from a global pool - you could power well ahead of the competition in the race to achieve high performance.

Our research shows that talent management success hinges on mastery of four core and inter-dependent capabilities:

  • Aligning the workforce with your business strategy
  • Attracting, developing and retaining key talent
  • Minimizing the loss of critical skills
  • Continuously challenging the enterprise

Here’s how.

Aligning the workforce with your business strategy

High-performance businesses understand that workforce constraints have a huge influence on successfully executing business strategy, so they have developed an exceptionally keen understanding of their particular workforce demographics and have developed programs that are aligned with their overall goals.

By elevating human capital management to the level of a strategic function and aligning it with their overall strategic direction right across the organization, high-performance industrial products businesses are able to focus on the development and pursuit of talent throughout their global supply chain – talent that can really complement their existing corporate gene pool and, indeed, improve it.

They clearly articulate a vision for the company’s workforces and ensure that they understand their worldwide needs – present and future – as well as the resource pools that will serve those needs.

Consider, for example, how Woodside Energy Limited, a leading Australian upstream energy company, integrated people management processes and tools to encourage behavior that would support the company’s vision and business objectives.

Woodside’s people management strategy aligned individual performance with business performance by providing opportunities for individuals to realize personal and professional growth aspirations. A flexible rewards and recognition program compensates all employees on the basis not only of their ability to achieve individual and team goals, but also according to how well their individual behaviors align with Woodside’s mission, vision and values.

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Attracting, developing and retaining key talent


Attracting people with the skills and talents to improve the corporate gene pool hinges on a combination of a successful human capital strategy and superior workforce planning. This may seem obvious, but demographic change has greatly complicated the process.

Accumulated experience has become a more important determinant of an individual’s career than mere advancement in the hierarchy. Today’s well-educated and highly skilled young people no longer expect lifetime employment - but they do want to be able to tailor their careers to their evolving needs and expectations. Young people favor employers who will provide them with the means to make individual decisions. And they want the chance to move sideways as well as upward in the corporate hierarchy, or to change jobs at key points in their careers.

The key to recruitment success is having and clearly articulating a “global people development” model, or philosophy, which is closely aligned with your operating model. You can start to develop that philosophy by refining your brand image to attract today’s employees as well as your customers.

Companies that have been outstandingly successful in attracting the right sort of talent tend to have very strong brands indeed - brands that are very often personified in the company’s leadership. Think of General Electric, for example, and you immediately think of the charismatic Jack Welch, who considered his success in attracting the right people to GE to be his greatest single accomplishment.3

Convincing younger people that you are also creative and flexible is a tougher proposition – but some companies are broadening their appeal to the young by pro-actively targeting universities and even high schools. In Kansas City, for example, Cummins Corporation’s “Dream It. Do It” program showcases the challenging nature of the company’s work and manufacturing processes to individuals approaching high school graduation – a pivotal decision-making point. The program already has raised enrolment in manufacturing-related courses at the local technical college by 35 percent. It also has helped the area win a $15 million federal workforce development grant.

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