The “war” for talents

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In the past, companies were faced with a war for talent. Now that has evolved into a war for talents because in this new reality, employers require a much greater specificity of skills than they did previously. As well as individuals with the technical skills that their role requires, firms need people with human qualities such as adaptability and agility which make them more versatile and enable their companies to do more with less.” –Jeffrey Joerres, chairman and CEO, Manpower Inc.

The World Economic Forum (WEF – sounds like a wrestling acronym, doesn’t it?) is holding its annual meeting this week in Davos, Switzerland, and one of the big topics on the table for discussion is how the standard “models for work” across the global need to be completely rethought.

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And if you don’t think that applies to trucking here in the U.S., I’d say you’re flat-out wrong.

Jeffrey Joerres (at right), chairman and CEO of employment consulting firm Manpower Inc., is one of the 2,500 participants at the WEF and he’s got a lot to say on the subject of work – especially as it applies to what he calls a “new war for talents.”

First, the big picture – and it’s a fairly bleak starting point.

The world economy hemorrhaged more than 30 million jobs since 2007, three-quarters of them lost from advanced economies, he notes, and slow job growth is seen as the weakest link in the global recovery, challenging both developed and emerging economies.

Yet at the same time there’s what Joerres dubs an “unparalleled talent scarcity” that’s still growing despite high unemployment; and this, more than anything else in his estimation, will put a brake on economic growth worldwide unless an action is taken now.

[Here’s some more of Joerres thoughts on what the global economic picture might look like this year.]

“The world is adjusting to the fact that there is no reset to normal,” says Joerres. “By 2030, the world will need millions of new employees and millions of dollars of investments in 21st century skills development … and companies must become more agile in how they attract, train and develop their employees, rethinking their work models and people practices to ensure they have the best environment to unlock the creativity, innovation, empathy, passion and intellectual curiosity that sit at the heart of what it means to be human and drive our economies forward.”

As employers seek to do more with less, the people or talent that an organization or country has access to will be more important than ever. In Joerres' words, as the world enters into this new, post-recession reality, talent will become the new "it" factor.

So … how does all of this affect trucking? Well, for starters, trucking is going to be competing for workers like never before – and from a far smaller pool of available workers at that.

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As I’ve noted in this space before, there’s a huge “generational shift” now occurring in this U.S., with 77 million “baby boomers” poised to retire over the next two decades, replaced by only 46 million new workers, according to numbers tracked by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD).

That “generational shift” is nowhere more acute than trucking, where the average age of an owner-operator today is 49.6, while the average age of a company driver hovers around 48.6.

Hiring is on the upswing in the transportation market as a whole, too, according to Manpower’s quarterly hiring survey. The firm’s January–March 2011 Outlook for the transportation and utility sector is positive, with the outlook for hiring a positive 2% for this period.

Overall, Manpower’s adjusted outlook for the first quarter of is plus 9%, up from plus 5% during the same period last year and plus 5% during the fourth quarter last year.

[One area Manpower is closely watching is the “skilled trades” segment of the labor market – a "catch all" term for mainly blue-collar jobs such as carpentry, pipe fitting, truck repair technicians, and the like. There’s been an acute shortage of skilled tradesmen (and women) during the “Great Recession” and Manpower thinks that shortage may only worsen over time.]

But here’s another twist to the story: according to survey conducted by Right Management (a division within Manpower) in December last year, workers are poised for a mass exodus this year is the global economy starts to recover as expected.

According to the firm’s poll of more than 1,400 workers in North America late last year, employees are feeling increasingly restless and intend to leave in droves if opportunities open up in the job market, with 84%of those surveyed saying they plan to look for new jobs in 2011, up from 60% reported sin a similar poll conducted at the end of 2009. On top of that, only 5% now say they intend to remain in their current position, notes Douglas Matthews, president and COO for Right Management (seen below).

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“This finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than projected turnover,” he cautions. “We view it as a barometer of their trust in management or commitment to the job. It’s a workplace equivalent to opinion polling on whether or not ‘this country is moving in the right direction.’ Just as people are questioning their elected leaders in government, so too are workers wondering if their management is up to the challenge of renewed growth or developing a sound strategy moving forward.”

Matthews observes that the prolonged recession, continued job market weakness along with disruptive economic and workforce changes are the underlying factors contributing most to employees’ backlash.

“Employees’ trust has been seriously shaken and there is a general lack of confidence in leaders,” Matthews said, with discontent widespread, but this does not mean an organization’s management is helpless, but nor can it afford to ignore the problem.

“Clearly, if the job market picks up a lot next year many employees are going to take advantage of it, and organizations stand to lose some of their top contributors,” he stresses. “So this is a wake-up call to management.”

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One step management should take, Matthews advises, is to identify star performers and have open and constructive career discussions with them. “High-value employees always have opportunities available to them,” he explains “Know who they are and be sure to take care of them in ways that are meaningful and aligned with the businesses goals.”

(Sounds just like many of the “top driver” and “top technician” recognition programs in place at many trucking and trucking-related companies, doesn’t it?)

Matthews notes that restlessness can also be alleviated by managers being honest and positive with employees. “Provide them with feedback on what they are doing really well and ways to help them improve,” he adds “A mentoring relationship between the manager and employee will build mutual trust and hopefully limit future defections.”

That’s how you keep talent – and operating a big rig safely while making 98% on-time deliveries requires talent, no matter that the U.S. Department of Labor still classifies driving a commercial vehicle as an “unskilled” job.

What's Trucks at Work?

Trucks at Work: Sean Kilcarr comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry.

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