• Service: Advisory
  • Type: Press release
  • Date: 6/2/2014

Companies must redraw battle lines to win the new war for talent: KPMG survey 

When The War for Talent1 was published in 2001, Apple had just released its first iPod®, the world population was 6.2 billion people and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was below 10,000 points. Today, the war for talent, which faltered with the financial crisis, is back with a vengeance. However, as a new survey of KPMG People & Change consultants reveals, there are some key differences this time around.

“In 2001, the focus was on attracting and retaining ‘high potential’ and ‘high performing’ employees. It’s an approach that has become deeply engrained for many companies,” said Robert Bolton, co-leader of KPMG’s Global HR Center of Excellence. “In 2014, however, 66 percent of respondents are telling us it’s much more important for organizations to have a holistic approach to talent management that addresses the needs of all employees.”

The survey results signify a dramatic shift in HR methodology, brought about by a confluence of factors, including a broad-based shortage of skilled workers, the effects of increased globalization, competitive pressures resulting from improving economies and the changing career expectations of younger skilled workers.

“These findings should serve as a wake-up call to HR managers who may still be clinging to outdated approaches to talent management,” said Bolton. “Addressing skill shortages throughout the entire organization, and not just at the most senior levels, should be a top priority in 2014 and will become critical over the next two years.”

Bolton also found little evidence that the practices outlined in The War for Talent are actually contributing to improved business performance. “An analysis of the 106 original adopters of the ‘war for talent’ approach found that 13 years later, only 25 percent of those organizations can be categorized as performing well in their marketplaces,” said Bolton. “In addition, a third of those companies have ceased to exist altogether.”2

According to Bolton, there are a number of actions companies can take to give themselves an edge in the ongoing war for talent. “One thing many leading companies are doing is putting powerful new data analysis capabilities to work to help gauge their performance and fine-tune their people practices over time,” said Bolton. “There’s a real opportunity for companies to create a differentiated approach for the HR function, one that is a demonstrable driver for the business. Those companies that seize this opportunity stand to benefit, while those who take a narrow approach risk losing far more than simply the war for talent.”

KPMG International gathered input from 335 People & Change consultants from 47 countries as part of the survey, which took place between March and April of 2014.


Brenda Paul

Senior Manager, KPMG International

+1 416-777-3963

About KPMG International

KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 155 countries and have more than 155,000 people working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.



1Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones and Beth Axelrod, The War for Talent (Harvard Business School Press, 2001).

2Survey by AM Azure of the organizations featured in The War for Talent analyzing 100 plus firms to evaluate current corporate performance in 2013.

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War for talent – time to change direction

war for talent
In a recent global survey most respondents agreed there is a new war for talent, and this war is different than in the past.

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