Targeting Talent: The War for Talent Rages On—and HR Consulting Needs Skilled Soldiers

Twenty years ago, McKinsey fired a disruptive piece of thought leadership across the bow of traditional human resources (HR) consulting firms. The white…

Eric Krell | August 07, 2017

Twenty years ago, McKinsey fired a disruptive piece of thought leadership across the bow of traditional human resources (HR) consulting firms. The white paper's first subhead —"There is a war for talent, and it will intensify"—was prophetic in more ways than the McKinsey co-authors probably imagined as they examined the talent management processes of 77 large U.S companies in the late 1990s.

The "War for Talent" paper examined how HR departments could address key challenges (primarily demographic, but also economic and technological) that would limit the supply of talent available for executive roles one to two decades down the road. The report also placed traditional HR consultancies on notice. ALM Intelligence Associate Director and Lead for HR Consulting Research Liz DeVito was working for one of the largest traditional HR consulting firms shortly after McKinsey published its report.

"We were really caught off guard—what the heck was a strategy firm doing in our space?" she recalls. "That's when the HR consulting firms started grappling with developing a human capital consulting expertise and capabilities. It wasn't easy because HR consultants had historically focused on benefits, compensation, employee communications, and other traditional HR processes."

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