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The Talent Tsunami: 3 Waves that Transfer Power from the Employer to the Employee

The Talent Tsunami: 3 Waves that Transfer Power from the Employer to the Employee

Find, hire and keep the best employees no matter your economic situation.

June 23, 2009

Three waves of change are converging worldwide to create a talent tsunami in the workforce, shifting power from the employer to the talented individual. Those three waves are (1) demographic changes, (2) candidate empowerment, and (3) the increasing value of talented employees relative to other success factors. Recruiters and managers who ignore this tsunami will be swept away; those who take action today will ride high.

Demographic trends

Global trends in population and education form the first wave of change. In the next few years, retiring workers around the world won’t be fully replaced by the workers that follow, thus creating a shortage—the usual number cited is a gap of about three million workers in the coming decade in the U.S alone. Low birth rates across the European Union and the developed countries of the Pacific, as well as the aging of populations across the industrialized world will exacerbate these demographic trends in many world labor markets both now and in the long term.

Numerous business sectors teeter on the edge of crisis even now: acute shortages of people capable of doing specific jobs in health care (for example, nursing, radiology, pharmaceutical), financial services, and technical management fields are driving up salaries and slowing growth.

Underlying these changes is the fact that schools aren’t preparing enough people to fill the high-demand jobs. The number of science and engineering degrees in the United States has actually been on the decline for two decades, while jobs in those fields remain among the fastest growing.

As globalization and international hiring expand, further educational issues arise. Language deficiencies are one obvious barrier to crossing borders. Educational quality also varies widely among countries. A 2005 McKinsey & Co. survey determined that only 13 percent of college graduates in low-wage countries were suitably qualified to work for multinational companies.

Demographic pressures range beyond white-collar professions. Jobs dominated by the baby-boom generation, such as qualified auto mechanics, will experience shortages caused by that group’s general retirement. The trucking industry suffers today from a shortage of 20,000 drivers. Utilities can’t find enough line workers.7 No significant economic sector is exempt from the trend.

Neither rising productivity, nor offshoring, nor bringing new groups into the workforce will be sufficient to prevent the demographic wave sweeping through the labor markets.