Talent management: The future has started, yesterday

Following on from the chief editor’s reflections from Singapore Maritime Week 2019 in which he railed about weak leadership among today’s c-suite of shipowners, today, Axel Knudsen, a talent optimisation consultant, and Andy Lane from CTI Consultancy explore these reflections further.

We remember with great admiration, the sadly departed Jacques Saade, Chang Yung-Fa and Maersk McKinney Moller (to name a few), who pioneered the emerging container transportation industry into what it is today. They had special abilities and skills, which were highly appropriate and effective in their time.

The industry has matured, and the challenges ahead are different to those of the past. What got us here will not get us there. Or as Einstein put it: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

The future has already started. The industry has wasted too much time in the quest to survive. We are in extra-time, and this is a knock-out tournament. As senior leaders we need to recalibrate to a work-force which sees the world differently to how we did decades ago. Job-for-life is firmly in the past, the work-force of today will jump employers and industries much faster than in the past if they are not satisfied or fulfilled. Talent shortages are predicted, and employers will need to compete additionally with the gig-economy. The battle to attract and retain top talent will only intensify.

Talent acquisition

Earlier this month Randstad released the initial conclusions of a survey of 2,500 Singaporean (The Maritime Capital of the World) employees, who were asked to name organisations which they dream of working for. In a list of the top 75 organisations, with the exception of PSA International, no other company whose primary business purpose is maritime freight transport features.

Two weeks ago, Sea-Intelligence ran their periodic review of shipping line performance on Glassdoor. This did reveal a slight (5.1%) increase in “employee satisfaction” across the board but not for three of the five largest shipping lines. Glassdoor ratings will continue to increase in importance as the war for talent hots-up.

Talent retention

As presented at the Sea-Asia conference by Faststream, a survey of 2,000 people in January reveals, “… two-thirds of respondents said they are planning or considering changing jobs in the next two years.” Yet we already know that replacing employees, or worse still “wrong hires”, involves huge cost.

Talent acquisition and retention will be largely influenced by how effective an organisation’s leadership is in terms of attaining employee engagement. Presently many industries are not so proficient at this:

In Predictive Index’s latest paper, it is reported that only about 20% of employees report being actively engaged at work. Our definition of actively engaged is “an employee who voluntarily contributes discretionary energy to their job”. That means that 80% of your bench-strength is not presently optimised.

Gallup has for years revealed through their surveys that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement enjoy 20% higher profitability and experience earnings per share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors.

The argument for the virtues of employee engagement is rather compelling, and we are yet to ever witness contrary findings from empirical research or study. Engaged employees will also create greater organisational agility and adaptability, to leverage the expected torrent of disruptive technology into competitive advantages. The formula for longevity therefore is: Technology X Talent. If either is close to zero so will be the outcome.

So why is it so difficult to increase employee engagement? Do we intimately and empirically know the level of employee engagement within our organisation? When was the last time we cross-checked? Are the peasants revolting, or is it more likely leadership deficiency?

We are convinced that it is the latter, that leadership excellence drives employee engagement. The good news is, leaders can be developed, and this starts with self-awareness and acknowledgement that the best is yet to be. If there is a will, there is also a way. Leadership excellence needs to be at the top of the overall strategy, and constantly and consistently championed from the board-room down. This is not a diet, it is a lifestyle – and it needs to rapidly permeate your organisational culture.

The last train to the talent battlefield is in the station, jump on before it leaves.

We realise that in 900 words we have merely scratched the surface of this vital subject. We will write a sequel or two to drill a little deeper. Hopefully the train will still be there.

We more than welcome your feedback and thoughts, and we can be found easily on LinkedIn.

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