Does Talent Matter More Today Than Before?

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Unless you have been living in a cave over the last few years, you have undoubtedly heard about the so-called ongoing ‘the war for talent’. Ensuring that you have the people capable of helping the organization succeed in its objectives has always been a business priority – but it just seems to be more important now. Why?

There are a few reasons why talent being raised so high onto HR’s podium of needs. One of the best potential explanations is that the evolution of scholarship around the term (and therefore practical applications) has evolved significantly. This has led to an expanded view of the role that skills, cultural attributes, stakeholder relations, leadership dynamics, and other intangible assets influence business strategy.

The war for talent isn’t just about securing quality hires ahead of your competitors – it’s also about leveraging the right assets that ultimately impact a wide stakeholder ecology. It’s this holistic environment which is now considerably better understood by many HR and business leaders.

To survey the current talent landscape, Professor Dave Ulrich of the Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan, penned a detailed white paper entitled What’s Next For Managing Talent? (Which you can download for free here). In the paper, Dave explains what the talent landscape of today looks like, and explores three essential questions that HR and business professionals must ask themselves. Does talent matter more today than before? What is the evolution in thinking around talent? And finally, how can leaders better use talent insights to improve personal and organization outcomes?

Why Does Talent Matter so Much Today?

It Matters to Directors

Quite simply, in the contemporary marketplace, talent matters to business directors because it is the currency by which their organization grows and prospers. A broader mandate and definition at an executive level can signify to investors and other external stakeholders that the organization is putting talent at the top of its strategic hierarchy. It matters to directors because a broader definition of talent encompasses the strategic prioritization of; leadership, succession, culture, and risk management as well. It is the asset pool by which the organization thrives, especially at a time when digitization has rendered the existing barriers to business differentiation flatter and often easier to circumvent.

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It Matters to Customers

Somewhat obviously, talent matters to customers because the given employees of an organization are the visible face and human reality of the company. Ulrich suggests that “when a firm brand translates to a leadership brand, leaders create more value for targeted customers as well as employees.” If both leaders and employees are highly engaged, this is known to be a firm indicator of customer engagement. Furthermore, an engaged employee will be much more likely to deliver consistent delight to the consumer, and therefore entrench a positive relationship loop that customers value and intrinsically understand.

It Matters to Investors

Ulrich summarizes that a “higher quality of talent should reflect a greater investor confidence that an organization can deliver intangibles to consistently create financial results.” The leadership and employee quality of an organization is just a part of what drives investor confidence. It can also act as a force multiplier – in the sense that the attributes that also matter to investors (for example; the product/service, financial results, brand, technology, ethical standards) are all linked to talent quality and availability. A organization with a clear grasp of the landscape and how it impacts them is just more likely to be an attractive place to invest.


The short answer is yes, talent matters more today than it did in the past (having said this, I feel the need to state it has always been critical). This largely stems from the way talent is viewed and understood, which has broadened in scope. It matters because what separates organizations today is the way that available talent is leveraged, both internally and externally. Competitors may be able to copy access to financial capital, implement identical operational systems and human processes, they may have access to the same customer base, and possess the same products and services – but they cannot copy talent. Ulrich concludes that your people are the “non-imitable sources of firm uniqueness that deliver value to all stakeholders.”

To learn more about this topic, you can join Dave at The HR Congress in Nice this November 19-20! He will present two new masterclasses; Disrupt Yourself – What it Takes to be a High Performing HR Leader and Creating the Right Culture – The Next Step for Leading HR Professionals. Dave will also present a keynote session entitled Rethinking HR Value Creation in the Age of Disruptions. And don’t forget to download the full white paper!

What’s happening next in The HR Congress universe? The 3rd Digital HR Innovation Summit in The Hague, April 27-28, will feature a selection of sessions that will explore the ongoing implications of digital technologies on HR and the business in general. Make sure you follow The HR Congress LinkedIn page to stay posted on all the latest news, updates and content from the world of work!

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