According to KPMGs 2018 report on CEOs there is renewed confidence in growth in the global economy.  “A majority of US CEOs see 2018 revenue growth as locked in; they are very confident. The EURO zone recovery is now stronger and broader. China is an economic force, growth in India is expected to expand, Brazil and Columbia are expected to grow faster, and African economies such as Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania are experiencing rapid growth.”

The report states that “95% of CEOs see organic growth as the key to drive corporate growth and profitability.”

All of this is happening despite the geopolitical uncertainty and instability in the US and around the world.  The pressure is coming from the technological advances that are transforming businesses and industries, the lack of investments in the past in developing new products and services, shareholder pressure for increased revenue and unrest among workers. 

These factors are forcing organizations to rethink their business models and the people who work for them.  According to McKinsey,” In tumultuous times, a company’s talent is its most valuable and reliable asset.” Thus we are finally hearing the term ‘Talent Driven Companies.’

In the new book Talent Wins, the McKinsey authors state that “In our combined 90 years of advising CEOs and their boards, we have never come across a moment like this, when virtually every CEO we work with is asking the same daunting questions: Are my company’s talent practices still relevant? How can we recruit, deploy, and develop people to deliver greater value to customers – and do so better than the competition?”

The current optimism among CEOs is putting pressure on organizations to strengthen their pool of talent.  Not just any talent, the right talent.  Individuals that can generate new business growth.

Yet despite the fact that talent is now becoming a strategic priority, workers are looking outside these organizations for work that they are passionate about, that has meaning, creates value and aligns with their own personal and professional ideals.  These are goals and aspiration we see among all types of workers, especially intrapreneurs.  

Intrapreneurs that are taking responsibility for their own growth and development.  Intrapreneurs that are reinventing work as we know it. Intrapreneurs that are not willing to accept the status quo.

These Intrapreneurs are restless and are asserting their independence by becoming freelancers, free agents and independent consultants. No longer are organizations competing against other organizations for talent, they are competing against the talent itself.  The growing need for Intrapreneurs and the rise in freelancers is redefining the war for talent.  

The Pew Research Center found that, “Freelancers accounted for $1.4 trillion in economic activity last year.  Entrepreneurship gives people freedom over their work, which also improves well-being. One study of 11,000 graduates from the Wharton School of Business found that those running their own businesses were happier than graduates in other jobs – no matter how much money they made.”

The new war for talent pits organizations against the best and brightest talent.  Intrapreneurs in particular are in high demand.  They are exerting their independence at a time when organizations need them the most. They are looking for work they want, projects they are interested in doing, and organizations that enable and support them in these efforts.

Although the spotlight is now on talent, many organizations may find themselves playing catch up. It’s nice to say you are a talent driven company, it’s much more difficult to actually be one.  The ability to attract, develop and retain the best and brightest may just have gotten a lot harder.  There is a shortage of entrepreneurial talent in most large organizations.  The intrapreneurs who are already in them are often discouraged, disenchanted, and disengaged.

Part of this is a result of neglect in developing entrepreneurial talent needed to deal with a more complex and uncertain business environment. Although this is changing.  Part of it is a reluctance to make the necessary changes required to create an entrepreneurial environment. Part of it is a shift in the demographics of the work force and the emergence of technologically savvy workers wired to think and act differently.  Part of it is not understanding who intrapreneurs are and how they operate. Part of it is a shortage of entrepreneurial leadership at the top of organizations.  

Two key dynamics are making the war for talent more challenging.

Experience for one.  We have a growing pool of intrapreneurs who have over the last decade been building their own entrepreneurial capabilities despite the obstacles that have gotten in their way.  They have been proactive in selecting projects that challenge them and accelerate their learning curve.  They have been building a portfolio of skills and capabilities they can take anywhere. They know what they are capable of doing and are more discerning in the projects they take on.  They know what they need from an organization to be effective and successful.  They are taking the initiative to learn from others like themselves through networking, conferences and workshops.  They are deciding what organizations they want to work with, not the other way around.

Freelance movement is second. The growing trend toward freelance work provides an alternative to the daily grind of a traditional nine to five job.  It provides the independence that many workers crave and the flexibility to control their own destiny.  They are better able to balance their personal and professional life.  They can work on projects that they are interested in pursuing.  They find satisfaction in knowing they are making a difference and having an impact.  Many prefer self-employment to being an employee doing work that does not take advantage of their skills.  Experienced intrapreneurs in particular are comfortable with the trade-offs of being on their own.  They have essentially been on their own, often without the full support of their organizations.

Much of this is a reflection of the growing dissatisfaction among workers seen in the high number of disengaged employees. A lack of understanding of what motivates and engages today’s workers, especially intrapreneurs. Plus there is a shortage of workers to fill key positions.  As a result organizations are being pressured to hire more and more freelancers and consultants.  Many freelancers already partner with Fortune 1000 companies on a project basis, including intrapreneurs that are now out on their own.

All of this is happening at the same time that organizations say they want to be a Talent Driven company.  It’s great to hear that more organizations want to be talent driven but do they really know what that means and what it will take.  If the goal is to leverage talent to achieve organic growth then knowing what talent is needed is key.  Entrepreneurial talent and leadership is what is needed.

The challenge will be bridging the gap between the needs and desires of these workers and the organizations that now need them.  Until that is resolved….

The new war for talent has put talent, especially intrapreneurs in the driver’s seat.

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