Talent shortage

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2006
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Talent shortage

Marketplace Staff Nov 7, 2006
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TEXT OF COMMENTARY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Having talent can open a lot of doors. Not having it can make it very difficult for businesses to operate much less succeed. A lot of companies are finding that out. Commentator Adrian Wooldridge says there just isn’t enough of it to go around.


ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE: It tough to find good talent these days. So tough that Google has plastered the main highway through Silicon Valley with billboards featuring complicated mathematical equations. If you can solve them, you’re invited to apply for the job.

And Google’s not alone. Roughly two-thirds of all senior human resource managers fret over company-wide talent shortages, according to a major corporate survey earlier this year.

Companies are taking longer and longer to fill vacancies, and they’re making do with second-fiddle employees. Meanwhile, one in three employees report other firms are busy trying to lure them away.

The demand for talent-intensive skills is increasing relentlessly. The consulting firm Accenture calculates that “intangible assets” which is a fancy way of saying “smart people with sharp judgment” have ballooned from 20 percent of the value of companies back in 1980 to 70 percent today.

Meantime, the retirement of the Baby Boom generation means that companies are about to lose lots of experienced workers. And they find it harder to get their hands on replacements.

The unemployment rate among American graduates is about 2 percent. And don’t think those billions of people in the developing world are the answer.

There’s a big difference between willing hands and trained brains. Chinese and Indian companies have taken not just to paying Western-level salaries for senior people, but also to importing senior people from abroad.

This will be a difficult time for companies. They will have to work harder at recruiting talent and think smarter about managing it.

But it could be a golden age for talent itself. You will be able to negotiate everything from a better work-life balance to a better pay packet.

So if you’ve been wondering whether to ask for that pay raise, here is a simple bit of advice: Go ahead and do it.

THOMAS: Adrian Wooldridge is Washington bureau chief for The Economist Magazine. And in Los Angeles, I’m Mark Austin Thomas. Thanks for joining us. Have a great day.

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