Talent more scarce than customers?

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It is interesting to learn that Chinese companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find the technical, functional and managerial talent they need to sustain their break-neck growth. We have seen the ‘war for talent’ raging amongst organizations in already mature economies for many years, and I guess it was inevitable that China would hit this wall before long. Which raises an intriguing question …

Organizations’ growth rates are in principle limited by their ability to win and retain key resources, and we have implicitly assumed in the past that the ultimate ‘scarce resource’ is customers. In market after market, firms compete to win and retain customers and to grow their purchase rate. But maybe for many firms that is an illusion? They have great products or services, can provide them at appealling prices, and have no trouble at all winning customers. But … can they attract and retain the people they need to develop, sell, deliver and support those products and services?

It would be ironic if it turned out that competitive rivalry for many firms had little to do with the demand-market, and much more to do with the market for labour supply. And don’t imagine that this only applies to the super-skilled specialists – I recently heard of a fast-food chain planning to bus large numbers of people from one region to another, and put them up in paid-for accommodation, just because they couldn’t find enough minimum-skill people to staff their restaurants.

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