Talent battles are fought in businesses, but will only be won in ecosystems - main image
March 28th, 2017 by Ida Banek

Talent battles are fought in businesses, but will only be won in ecosystems

It was the spring of 1998 and I was in Florence, Italy. Green behind my ears when it came to business understanding and proud to attend the European Talent Management Conference named “The war for talent”. The only war I’ve experienced by that time was the one across the Balkan countries in the early nineties – but since I survived that one, I felt ready for another one in the business sphere. Eighteen years later, the war for talent has not stopped, it has only gone digital.

Success in an increasingly digital world demands a wider range of skills, new ways of thinking and a broader talent pool. Yet, in recent years we witness a skill shortage and a reduced supply of talent in almost all businesses. That is why leadership and HR teams have started to build innovative avenues for talent attraction in underused demographic groups, outside relevant industries and across borders. Even though those efforts improved the talent inflow and diversity representation, diversity by itself proved not to be enough.

A well-known example confirming the above statement is the non-balanced representation of women in leadership roles. Executive teams in boardrooms have been sitting with ambitious target percentages for years, but the chairs reserved for female executives in that same room remain vacant. Gender diversity in executive roles is a growing issue and despite my appreciation for all the efforts around this complex subject, I can accept neither that trend nor the outcomes achieved over the years.

Leaders need to move from diversity alone to capture the real potential that comes from inclusion. They need to create a culture that sets ideas free, encourages different opinions and rewards diversity. In such inclusive cultures employees feel invited to speak up, share bold ideas and show ownership for the realization of a common strategy. In that culture people feel proud to be different, they are highly engaged and committed to the shared vision and they successfully thrive in their careers.

Building a solid pipeline of future leaders with the skills to manage a complex and inclusive organization remains a high priority on leadership agendas. This includes the aspiration to build a rich succession pool of female talents with immediate readiness for higher levels of responsibility. However, how to build an environment that is transparent, respectful and supportive enough to reach that vision  remains unknown for many. Recent examples from Amazon, Apple and Intel report that they have closed the gender pay gap. That is an important milestone and a strong step in the right direction, but organizations will keep on fighting the gender disparity for as long as they don’t approach it holistically. A holistic approach should actively engage parents, teachers, media, managers and women themselves into the ecosystem that is accountable for the long-awaited transformation in the C-suites. We need to look deeper into existing organizational cultures and we need to learn more from biological, anthropological and cultural elements that impact women’s behaviors. Only then will we be able to support females’ development appropriately and encourage them to thrive in their career aspirations.

For me, this is like taking a yellow brick road to the Land of Oz. Just like with Dorothy and her friends, that journey should take us from ignorance to knowledge, from fear to courage and from blame games to accountability. We need to stop looking for the powerful Wizard and remind ourselves to utilize the power of: passion, courage and determination in order to succeed in our mission. 

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