Talent Scarcity: How enhanced mobility strategies will help your organization meet future talent needs

Release Date: January 26, 2017
Guest: Steve White, National Leader, Global Mobility Consulting
Running Time: 10:07 minutes

In this podcast, Steve White discusses the challenges that employers are facing relative to talent shortages and how adapting their mobility strategies may provide solutions to the ever-changing talent needs that international organizations face.


Brandi:  Hi, this is Brandi Scales of PwC Canada.

With us today is Steve White, leader of PwC’s Global Mobility Strategy Consulting team. Steve will be discussing the challenges that employers are facing relative to talent shortages and how adapting their mobility strategies may provide solutions to the ever-changing talent needs that international organizations face.

Welcome, Steve.

Steve:  Thanks, Brandi. It’s great to be here!

Brandi:  Steve, we are hearing a great deal about a looming talent scarcity in the coming years. What are some of the issues facing employers when it comes to talent needs and how can mobility offer potential solutions to those challenges?

Steve: That’s a great question Brandi. As you know, we’re facing enormous cultural and economic shifts, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. We’re seeing:

  • tremendous shifts in workforce demographics, that radically affect the ways in which we plan for and deploy labour
  • changes in economic power, as once developing parts of the world are growing in strength
  • technology changes which are rapidly modifying the way business functions, and
  • an increasing recognition that many of the resources we utilize are finite and becoming increasingly scarce.     

These transformational changes are fuelling a global scarcity of talent.  

These changes have shifted the focuses of many industries from being capital intensive to being talent intensive, which naturally is causing great concern to business leaders.

As evidence of this, in PwC’s most recent survey of global CEOs, more than 72% of CEOs told us Talent was their No. 1 threat to growth. It is the most critical issue facing their business.

A further 30% told us talent constraints have impacted their ability to innovate and/or pursue market opportunities, and yet another 24% indicated talent constraints had forced them to delay or cancel key strategic initiatives.

Brandi:  That’s all interesting … Now, you mention talent shortages - but we are frequently hearing about high levels of unemployment. How can this be?

Steve: Talent scarcity is not about having a shortage of people; it’s about having enough of the right skills in the right places at the right cost. 

At a global level, we are truly seeing organizations struggle to succeed because they cannot engage the talent they need.  

  • The Baby Boomer generation is starting to leave the workforce in large numbers
  • The newer generations, the Millennials if you like, are becoming increasingly important and just recently surpassed the Boomers in terms of their numbers and relevance to the global workforce and global consumption power
  • Many countries are already facing talent shortages and a recent study by the World Economic Forum suggests many key economies will face staggering talent shortages within the next 10 years. 

Germany and Brazil, for example, will face significant talent shortages within the next five years. The United States is estimated to have a shortfall of 25 million people by 2030. And Canada is not immune to these challenges, as our current surplus could soon become a deficit of more than 2.5 million people by the year 2030.  

To better prepare for these situations, employers need to start thinking about how they will respond to these emerging challenges, and mobility offers a potential solution.

It is not so much about a lack of talent but an imbalance in where the talent is.  This gives a tremendous advantage to those employers who are forward thinking and know what their emerging talent needs are, where they will find it, and how to mobilize and engage it.

Employers need to be thinking about workforce planning and about mobility in a totally new light.

Brandi:  On that note, Steve, how can organizations develop strategies that reflect the new realities?

Steve: I would suggest there are 5 key things employers should be thinking about.

First and foremost I think employers need a Mindset Shift. They need to stop thinking about managing talent the way we did 20 or 30 years ago. They need to stop looking to fill specific jobs with specific technical skill sets and start building pools of talent that are:

  • adaptable and flexible
  • agile
  • mobile, or capable of being mobile, and
  • able to think critically and creatively

Secondly, employers need to start planning now. The future is already here. Employers need to be building workforce plans that anticipate the significant labour upheaval that is coming.

Thirdly, employers need to embrace technology and technology changes. Technology is and always has been about making life easier even if it doesn’t always feel that way at first. Technology advances may also allow employers to move work to where talent is, or to reduce movement of talent, or to enable mobility in different ways.

Further, employers need to differentiate their companies through Social Responsibility. Workers of today and tomorrow place an incredibly high value on working for companies that share and exhibit values and beliefs similar to their own.  And they are willing to trade financial reward in exchange for such values.

Lastly, employers need to look to Mobility to drive solutions. The talent necessary to build business no longer lives just down the road or around the corner. It is in pockets in various places around the globe and multiple sources are actively looking for it.  More importantly, that talent is looking to be mobile. According to PwC’s Talent Mobility 2020 Report, more that 78% of millennials told us they expect, not would like, but expect at least one global mobility opportunity. No longer do employers need to pay large incentives to get employees to take global assignments, the new generations expect it.

Brandi:  This all sounds very exciting, but I am certain there are some existing barriers to overcome as well.

Steve:  Certainly - there are numerous obstacles to address.

First and foremost, government policies with respect to tax and immigration compliance need to be addressed. While the Talent Scarcity suggests we need to be able to move people more freely, government policies are making that more and more difficult. But this can also be an opportunity if you are open to new ways of doing business. Some employers, for example, are utilizing frequent business travellers and commuter arrangements more often. Opportunities such as talent swaps or technology tools to facilitate “virtual mobility” are also options.

Political events such as the recent Brexit vote or the US Presidential election add uncertainty and will force businesses to re-evaluate their Talent structures and may result in additional mobility challenges.

In addition, the constant challenge of being asked to provide greater outcomes with fewer resources is still among us. Organizations continue to expect greater returns with less investment. And again, this is where leading edge companies will be ahead of the game if they focus on addressing the talent scarcity issue as one of an investment rather than as simply a cost. Effectively using mobility to address your talent needs can produce a much greater return than seeking to find talent in areas where it simply does not exist in large enough volumes.  

Brandi:  Finally, Steve, what advice would you give employers who are or will be soon facing a talent shortage?

Steve:  First and foremost, I would suggest starting early. For most companies, changing the existing internal processes from a reactive administrative function to more of a proactive, forward looking strategic partner will take time. Aligning the business strategy with the talent strategy, and bringing into that mix the mobility strategy, will require time. 

Two - act holistically. This is not something that HR or the business units can manage alone.  This is the very future of the organization and therefore requires input from all stakeholders. Don’t wait to be invited to the table. If you are responsible for Talent or for Mobility and you are not being asked to contribute to the overall business strategy, request an invitation and come prepared to demonstrate how you can bring value to the future of your organization.

Examine how technology can help or potentially disrupt your business and develop the necessary strategies to address this.

Lastly, rethink your approach to Mobility. The vast majority of Mobility programs that we see today were essentially developed in the 60’s or 70’s for a completely different employee population and a completely different business environment.

Most importantly, employers need to start bringing together the various parts of the business - operations, tax, finance, HR, talent management and mobility - and start to build strategies for the business to succeed. Mobility must be considered an integral part of the businesses success going forward.

Brandi:  Thank you for joining us today, Steve, and providing insights on the importance of developing strategies and processes to meet the emerging talent needs of the future.  

Steve:  Thanks, Brandi. It’s been a pleasure!

Brandi:  For any questions, Steve’s contact details are available alongside this podcast and at www.pwc.com/ca/gms, then follow the link to our Global Mobility Strategy Consulting page.

Steve White

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Steve White

Steve White

Global Mobility Strategy Consulting Leader

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