Words matter, so let’s talk about the Talent Disconnect instead of the War for Talent, or worse yet, the War on Talent. Framing it as a war means we are setting ourselves up for an outcome of winners and losers. Framing as a disconnect means we are setting ourselves up for an outcome of connection.
I can’t tell you how many times I have been part of a panel or even had a presentation I was giving promoted as a discussion of the War on Talent. And yes, sometimes they even call it a War ON Talent, which I hope is just a slip.
I think we all remember that this post(ish)-pandemic workforce crisis isn’t a new phenomenon. Consultants and economic developers were talking about labor shortages for years before Covid disrupted things further. I think that the shock is that once the labor market opened up again, employers expected that the people would be in abundance. Why wouldn’t they think so? For over a year we read stories of people thrown out of work. It’s kind of like what happens with expectations about existing buildings during a recession – companies always think if the economy is slow, the perfect building at the perfect price will be in abundance, but economic developers know this is rarely the case.
I will say only this about the idea that extended unemployment benefits are at fault – in my opinion whatever your state chooses to do about that, it will at most fix 10-20% of the problem. That means there is still work to be done. That means many people have real hurdles to employment – training, transportation, family obligations, imperfect resumes.
I would also caution against the effectiveness of rhetoric that essentially calls into question the character and work ethic of the very people that you are trying to get back into the labor market. There will be many employers competing for a too-small pool of qualified workers – if you were one of those workers, would you choose to work for someone who takes the approach of offering an opportunity where you both win, or for someone who is yelling at you to get off the couch?