energizing breakthrough performance

Human Resource Futurity in the Federal Sector – Does the Government Have a Fighting Chance in the Talent Wars?

by Ronald A. Gunn, Strategic Futures principal

Thanks to Dr. George Cooper and the folks at the USDA Cooperate State Research, Education, and Extension Service for the opportunity to have been of service in May, 2000 at their conference held in Baltimore. Dr. Cooper and his colleagues engaged Strategic Futures® to assist with focusing on what must be done to win the Talent Wars. With labor demand exceeding supply, all enterprises are scrambling to win and keep quality personnel. In the public sector, for example, more than a third of all federal employees are already eligible for retirement. To be blunt, approaches which worked in the past aren’t going to cut it in the future. This brief article seeks to sound the alarm and suggest some broad approaches for entering battle.

Changing Worker Expectations

Take a look and you will see many quality articles concerning the present and future scramble for human talent. Read Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Wired, Training & Development, Futurist, and others, or just take a look at the publications of the Society for Human Resource Management and you will conclude quickly that human resource management is a pressing top-level leadership issue. If Y2K computer threats turned out to be a sheep in wolf’s clothing, the Talent Wars may turn out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. What’s more, the recruitment and retention of talent is not just "HR’s problem" anymore…it’s everyone’s concern.

In the next fifteen years, there will be 15% fewer Americans in the 35- to 45-year old age range than there are now. The workforce is aging and its face is changing as the labor force participation rates of women and nonwhite populations continue to rise. Indeed, the temporary workforce continues to grow with about one-sixth of the workforce now functioning as "free agents." The bargaining power of the workforce is rising as the shift to knowledge work presses forward.

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