The War for Talent

Today we have a guest post from Susan Popoola. Susan is an HR Specialist at Conning Towers which specializes in HR Transformation and Talent Management.  Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain which explores Disatisfaction, Disengagement and Diversity within Britain is her second published book.

The War for Talent

Are you aware that there is actually a global war going on at the moment? Because of the recession and the high unemployment rates that exist at this point in time, it’s not immediately apparent but there is currently a global war for talent which will become very apparent by the time we truly get to the end of the recession.

But even now if you look closely and talk to a number of different businesses you will see the signs of it. You will constantly hear employers talking about the need for young people coming into the workplace to have employability skills. Whilst the British NHS is still highly run/supported by a significant number of doctors and nurses originating from Africa and Asia, at the same time there are an increasing number of nurses working within the NHS who are, or are thinking of, migrating to places such as Canada and Australia, due to the better pay and working conditions offered in such countries.

Furthermore, I recently had a conversation with the Managing Director of a small but very successful technology firm. Inadvertently we also spoke about the challenges that he was facing in getting people with the skills that he needed for his business. He further explained that he had got where he was because people had seen the potential in him and offered him opportunities that he hadn’t always had the ready skills for, but had supported his development in order to effectively fulfill the role in question. Taking account of this he pointed out that he was more than willing to cross-train individuals, but had been struggling to fill two particular roles for over six months, even though he had done direct searches, recruitment agencies and even the job centre.

This led me to contact a Government Minister and point out my observations and make suggestions on possible solutions. In a nutshell, I would like to see a government skills database in place that highlights skills requirements at a local, regional and national basis, the idea being that employers would enter their key skill requirements into the database.

My dialogue with the Minister is ongoing, but it leads me further to what I see as a blanket argument that currently exists about immigration which does not take a real account of both business and economic needs, together with future implications.

As it stands we’ve lost a lot of manufacturing jobs to overseas countries. Not too long ago we had the HSBC talking about relocating to Hong Kong. Further to this we have recently adopted an immigration policy that will make it increasingly difficult for multinationals to send expatriate managers from other countries to the UK to set up, run or work within offices within the UK. There is a risk with this that such organisations may choose to limit their operations within the UK.

At the same time there are policies being proposed/put in place to minimise the number of foreign students that come to study within the UK. I find this somewhat ironic for two reasons. In the first instance, we recently had the student demonstrations over university fees which have been described as a necessity due to the deficit in university funding. At the same time I recently spoken to a young South African lady who told me that for the course that she really wanted to study, at her university of choice, she had been told that it would cost her up to £50,000 per annum as a foreign student. I would venture to say that a local student wouldn’t pay up to a fifth of this, even with the changes to university fees. Even if you see this as an extreme case, there is still a marked gap between the fees that local and foreign students pay and we are therefore losing out on crucial funding with a knock on impact on local students caused by the narrowness of our thinking on immigration.

It’s possible that some may argue that the advantage gained from overseas students fees may be lost by such students staying within the Britain for a period to work. I on the other hand would argue that there is something positive in helping to develop individuals who then use their essential skills to contribute to the UK economy before returning to their home country. This is specifically true as foreign students are more likely to study courses in core subject areas whereby they come out with qualifications critical to the economy. It also helps to develop and retain a deep connection between Britain and the students home countries.

And before you say it, yes there is a high graduate unemployment rate of 20% at this point in time, but I believe most employers would go for the UK Graduate if he or she had the same to offer as the foreign graduate.

I guess the counter argument to this would be that their home countries have an equal if not greater need for jobs. My point of view would be – what if such people were able to set up a company in the UK as the case may also be and then go on to set up offices within their home country such that everybody wins and obtains the optimal outcome?

Susan Popoola is an HR Specialist at Conning Towers which specializes in HR Transformation and Talent Management.  Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain which explores Disatisfaction, Disengagement and Diversity within Britain is her second published book.