man sitting at an empty desk in front of large window with a slight glare from the sun

Winning the War for Talent: The Changing Fields and Tools

The war for talent rages on as the fields and tools evolve. Read our blog to learn the secrets to winning the war for talent.

“The war for talent” – Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company first used the term in 1997, referring to the competitive landscape of talent recruitment and retention. We know that to drive business performance and growth, companies need to have a solid talent strategy, starting from hiring to developing employees. Nevertheless, while the ability to attract, retain, and develop talent within the organization is a key success factor, it is not easy to plan strategic moves around it and simply recruiting more and more people to the company is not a sustainable way anymore.

Changing Fields and Tools

More than 30 years on and the intensity of the war has barely changed; if anything, it has deepened as businesses navigate economic downturns, pandemics, sociocultural shifts, and changing labor markets. The war will continue to rage as technology evolves, new generations enter the workforce, skill requirements change, and the business environment shifts.

And with all these considered, do you have what it takes to win the war for talent? Are you equipped with the right tools to stay in the fight?

Let’s look at how you can prepare yourselves in the never-ending war for talent.

How to Win the Talent War

#1—Set the right mindset

First things first, a change of mindset is required: “I accept that the war will continue and that I may not always win, but what I can change is where I choose to fight the war and the tools I use”. As mentioned before, the talent war is getting increasingly intense and will continue this way. This is something that we cannot change and have no control over. Therefore, focusing on what we can change instead will help us move forward to the next step in the strategy.

#2—Battle at the right field

Changing where you battle is one option. Online, networks, referrals, campus recruitment, talent boards, coffee shops – the possibilities are endless. The challenge with where you fight for talent is that you will always be competing in the same spaces as your competitors. At the same time, you are no longer the owner of the battlefield and candidates dictate where you seek their services. Moving along with them will also get you targeted pools of talent.

#3—Use valid and scientifically proven tools

If the battlefield is out of your control, then the tools you use become your differentiator. Make no mistake, valid and reliable tools are an essential starting point. Deploying science-based psychometric assessments, and assessing a range of job-relevant competenciesskills, and behaviors is the foundation to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness.

Deploying science-based psychometric assessments, and assessing a range of job-relevant competencies, skills, and behaviors is the foundation to maximize your efficiency and effectiveness.

#4—Build a seamless and engaging experience

How you deploy those tools mentioned above is a separate question. Speed and scalability are essential while ensuring that candidates have the best possible experience. With talent becoming or remaining mobile and seeking flexibility, your tools need to replicate this expectation. Sure, assessments should be delivered on any device and be available on demand. And yes, asynchronous engagement is a given. But it is much more than that. How you deploy these tools is key to success, and that also means providing candidates with a rich and engaging experience in a seamless and clear workflow as well as delivering speed and differentiation. The last part – speed and differentiation – matters a lot. Candidates need to understand who is competing for their skills and your brand must be central to your (repeat, your) war.

#5—Ensure a continuous integration of your people data

War is not a moment in time. No matter how effective your recruitment and selection process is, it is the integration of the data and the ongoing application that deliver sustainable success. Insights begin with bringing together data, be it personality assessment, experiences, skills, motivation, or values. No battle ever allows for perfect information, but having more data certainly provides for a better view – and that view is important. Data visualization, real-time data visualization, with the flexibility to apply different lenses is key to insight.

#6—Use the information wisely

Information is currency, and currency has applications across a variety of use cases. Too often we discard the information we have after we have used it to win a battle, forgetting that it contributes to success in the war. The insights you need to successfully change as the battlefield evolves; data flows from one point to another, from talent acquisition through to talent management—it is these two strategic imperatives that were the basis for the war for talent to begin: recruitment and retention. The war continues. The integrated data you have at hand must provide real-time, insight-led decisions, in order to provide your people answers.

An organization’s ability to attract and retain talent is fundamental in the talent war. For more than 30 years, the fight has shown no sign of getting less intense. And make no mistake, the war will continue, businesses will change, talent will evolve, and skills will come and go. What will not change, however, is that data-driven people insights are the tools of success in this ongoing war for talent.

Contact us to learn how we can help you win the war for talent with our science-backed solutions, expert consulting and training, and 40+ years of experience.

headshot brandon pleaner


Brandon Pleaner

Brandon is an experienced learning and development leader and registered psychologist with a demonstrated history of working across industry sectors and geographic territories. Skilled in designing innovative solutions to talent and development challenges across the employee lifecycle. He is passionately focused on the development and leadership of employees, having a deep appreciation for the challenges of business development, and talent growth, with a history of assisting organization create and implement sustainable development plans that move beyond traditional models.

Explore SHL’s Wide Range of Solutions

With our platform of pre-configured talent acquisition and talent management solutions, maximize the potential of your company’s greatest asset—your people.

See Our Solutions