Winning the War for Talent in Malaysia 2.0 HR Matters Magazine Issue 24 : October 2013
Talent | HR Matters
inning the war for
talent 2.0 in Malaysia
By Professor Sattar Bawany
In 1997, a groundbreaking McKinsey study
exposed the ‘war for talent’ as a strategic
business challenge and a critical driver of
corporate performance. Then, when the dotcom bubble burst and the economy cooled,
many assumed the war for talent was over.
Subsequently in 2001, the authors of the
original study revealed that, because of
enduring economic and social forces, the
war for talent will persist for the next two
decades. McKinsey & Company consultants
to talent management. They describe how
to: create a winning EVP (employee value
proposition) that will make your company
uniquely attractive to talent; move beyond
recruiting hype to build a long-term
recruiting strategy; use job experiences,
coaching and mentoring to cultivate the
potential in managers; and strengthen
your talent pool by investing in A-players,
developing B-players and acting decisively
Central to this approach is a pervasive
talent mindset - a deep conviction shared
vital for achievement of business growth
and to build organisational competencies,
which represent a competitive advantage.
The loss of needed talent is costly because
of the resultant bidding up of market salaries
for experienced hires to replace them,
the costs of recruiting and assimilating
new talent, the lost investment in talent
development, and the hidden costs of lost
productivity, lost sales opportunities and
strained customer relationships.
Can companies win the ‘war for talent’?
Will we be able to define and implement a
The increasing trend of growing leaders from within is based on a
dawning realisation that a popular alternative for acquiring talent—
poaching key people from competitors—ultimately leads to frustration.
Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and
Beth Axelrod argued that winning the war
for leadership talent is about much more
than frenzied recruiting tactics. It’s about the
timeless principles of attracting, developing
and retaining highly talented managers
- applied in bold new ways. And it’s about
recognising the strategic importance of
human capital because of the enormous
value that better talent creates.
The outcome of the study is applicable to
Malaysian companies as it was fortified
by five years of in-depth research on how
companies manage leadership talent including surveys of 13,000 executives at
more than 120 companies and case studies
of 27 leading companies - the authors
propose a fundamentally new approach
The Malaysian Context
retention strategy that will give us the stable,
committed, capable workforce required to
achieve a competitive business advantage?
Consulting firm and research organisation
reports, published books and articles
and internal company retention studies
suggest that everyone is following the same
overall plan. How will this approach give a
company an edge?
Few, if any, organisations today have an
adequate supply of talent. Gaps exist at the
top of the organisation, in the first to midlevel
leadership ranks and at the front lines.
In today’s tight labour market in Malaysia,
companies are facing intense competition
for talent – and are giving increased
attention to ways to retain talent rather than
rely on costly replacement and retraining.
Retention of talent with critical skill sets is
Talent is an increasingly scarce resource,
so it must be managed to the fullest effect.
During the current economic downturn we
may experience a short ceasefire in the war
for talent, but we’re all seeing new pressures
by leaders throughout the company that
competitive advantage comes from having
better talent at all levels. Using practical
examples from companies such as GE,
The Home Depot, PerkinElmer, Amgen, and
Enron, the authors outline five imperatives
that every leader - from CEO to unit manager
- must act on to build a stronger talent pool.
Written by recognised authorities on the
topic, this is the definitive strategic guide on
how to win the war for talent.
Talent | HR Matters
put on the talent running our organisations.
Are today’s leaders able to do more with less? The A-players
can, and there should be a strategic emphasis on keeping those
leaders—and developing their successors. Many organisations are
reducing their workforces, but let’s be careful not to cut so deep that
talent is scarce when the economy rebounds.
The supply of leadership talent is critical to any organisation’s
prosperity and is, therefore, a central element of talent management.
The increasing trend of growing leaders from within is based
on a dawning realisation that a popular alternative for acquiring
talent—poaching key people from competitors—ultimately leads
to frustration. Outstanding leaders who can ‘ramp up’ quickly are
hard to find, increasingly expensive, and even when successfully
recruited, tend to move from company to company. So the best
approach, usually, is to develop systems and processes to identify
available leadership talent.
Many studies have shown that an important factor for commitment
and retention is the effectiveness of immediate management.
Employees say it is an important element of the work environment;
research shows it highly correlated with commitment and retention
scores, and employees cite poor management as a key reason
for leaving a company. Accordingly, there have been many books
focused on manager effectiveness. One big seller was First, Break
All The Rules, reporting on the Gallup Organisation’s findings and
recommendations for better management of people.
Integrated Talent Management System
So, what do we mean by talent management? In the broadest
possible terms, it is the strategic and tactical management of the
flow of talent through an organisation. Its purpose is to assure that
the supply of talent is available to align the right people with the right
jobs at the right time based on strategic business objectives. The
term ‘talent management’ is often used to denote e-recruitment and
automated applicant tracking systems. This emphasis on staffing
and recruiting is more appropriately called the talent acquisition
phase of the talent management cycle (see Figure 1), an important
but preliminary step in the overall process.
The Talent Management Cycle includes the proactive analysis and
planning to assure long-term strategic development and deployment
of critical leadership and other resources through systematic
identification, assessment, planning and developmental action.
The Talent Management Cycle is composed of several essential
1. Talent Acquisition: Proactively recruiting world-class, diverse
leadership talent and providing on-boarding support for them to
accelerate their assimilation into their roles;
2. Talent Development: Developing and executing learning and
development programmes, processes & assessment tools to grow
current and future leaders;
3. Performance Management: The process of creating a work
environment in which people can perform to the best of their
Talent Management Strategy
Figure 1: CEE Talent Management Cycle
Vision, Mission, Strategy and Values
4. Succession Planning: This is critical towards developing a
leadership pipeline or assuring near-term leadership continuity
by thoughtful consideration of the availability, readiness, and
development of internal talent (including High Potentials) to
assume critical ‘priority’ leadership roles; and
5. Organisational Results: Achieving favourable and desired
results is obviously the ultimate outcome expected out of any
effective integrated talent management system. However, it
is a lagging indicator and business leaders will have to focus
on the organisational climate which will have an impact on the
other elements of the Talent Management Cycle as explained
earlier. The flow of effective communication and the systems of
recognition and rewards are integral parts of the climate which
influence the talent’s performance effecting productivity, creativity
and in driving results with the right impact. The climate is impacted
by a values-driven leadership team.
Your organisation can create a new product and it is easily copied.
Lower your prices and competitors will follow. Go after a lucrative
market and someone is there right after you, careful to avoid
making your initial mistakes. But replicating a high-quality, highly
engaged workforce is nearly impossible. The ability to effectively
hire, retain, deploy and engage talent—at all levels—is really the
only true competitive advantage an organisation possesses.
Professor Sattar Bawany is the CEO of the Centre for Executive
Education (CEE) and Strategic Advisor of IPMA (International
Professional Managers Association).
For more details, visit www.ipma.com.sg/cee.php.