How to win the war for talent

Jim Chaplin, SRI's Chief Executive Officer, discusses the challenges surrounding talent attraction and retention.

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As we head into 2023, we are seeing an evolving challenge around talent attraction and retention that has the potential to threaten the best of strategic plans.

Senior management teams and boards have spent much of the past three years trying to navigate unchartered waters. Between Covid, an increasingly uncertain economic outlook, a global cost of living crisis, and a volatile political climate, planning for 2023 and beyond is a daunting prospect.

It has been a brutal, relentless, and exhausting time to be leading any organisation. The extent of, and unfamiliarity with, the issues that the global pandemic created, followed by the strength of the bounce back, has provided most senior executives with scant opportunity to pause and reflect, to plan and to strategize.

The Battle for Talent

The Great Resignation, shifting commercial models, and the impact of remote working have added further pressure to leadership in the last few years. Staff turnover, company culture, internal morale, and employee well-being have been further up management’s agendas than ever before.

And, without wanting to be the prophet of doom, the Great Resignation is far from over. In fact, it may only be beginning.

Highly skilled workers remain in hot demand and talented executives continue to have multiple options to enhance their remuneration packages and secure new roles. Hiring bonuses, once reserved for the highest-level executives, are now offered to nearly half of all senior staff as competitors become ever more aggressive in courting talent. Employee expectations for company culture, reward, flexibility, and learning have never been higher – and in many cases, they are not being met.

Adding to the supply and demand imbalance in employment is the high level of burnout in executive teams. A Deloitte survey released in June 22 explored the C-suite’s role in organizational well-being and looked at how an overall poor state of health is affecting retention. The report discovered that 57% of employees and nearly 70% of the C-suite said they are seriously considering quitting their current roles for jobs that better support their well-being.1

Finally, Gen Z, who make up more than a quarter of the workforce, are more focused than ever on working for a company with values that match their own, has a purpose that goes beyond merely making a profit, offers plentiful career development and progression opportunities, and has a strong brand reputation. The bar for companies competing for talent at all levels is rising ever higher.

In all likelihood, we will see the great resignation evolve into the greatest ever battle for talent.

Winning the War

This war for talent is a strategic organisational challenge and a critical driver of performance, but the war can be won by battling on two fronts.

On the first front, fight for better talent. Strong leaders beget strong leaders. In other words, competitive advantage comes from having better talent. And should the economic situation continue to worsen, the need for the best talent is going to become even more pressing.

Leadership teams that accept this argument, prioritise their talent strategy, and take proactive and deliberate steps to ensure they secure a competitive advantage will be best placed to emerge as the winners of this war. Those who rely on personal networks, advertisements and direct applicants will fall behind. Any hint of complacency or on relying on previously successful hiring strategies will be extremely dangerous. The competition will not be standing still.

Second, fortify from the inside. However good a firm’s recruitment is, the wider issue will centre around retention and development. Employers that were historically magnets for bright potential employees will have to work harder than ever to attract them. Proactive, sustained, and innovative strategies will be needed to stay ahead of the competition.

The role of the people function in organisations will be, by necessity, more influential than ever before in 2023. The aspiration must be much broader than to create “a great place to work”. Organisations have to be focused on being the “greatest place to work”. Culture, reward, training, development, and values must constantly evolve to adapt and deliver for existing and new employees within this fast-paced job market in the post-pandemic world.


Need to attract and retain top talent? We’re here to help. Visit us at or email me personally at


1 The C-Suite’s Role in Well-Being, Deloitte Insights, June 22, 2022

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