The People Chase

LONDON – When it comes to talent, CEOs agree: while there have never been so many educated and mobile people in the world, recruiting the right ones – and getting them to where they are needed most – is more difficult than ever.

This challenge comes up time and again in my conversations with business leaders around the world. And it was also one of the key findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers’ recent Global CEO Survey. Over half of the CEOs surveyed by PwC – and 62% in the Asia-Pacific region, home to the world’s largest workforce and fastest-growing economies – said that being unable to find key skills could hurt their ability to grow.

The reason is a chronic skills gaps and a mismatch between supply and demand. The rise of emerging markets is creating jobs in places where it is hard to find the right people. International and local competition for workers who do have the right skills is growing increasingly intense. New kinds of jobs are being created – in old and new industries – for which many recent university graduates are poorly equipped. And the demand is not limited to technical know-how; companies are looking for international experience, wide-ranging “soft” skills, and adaptability.

Meanwhile, demographic trends, particularly in developed economies, are causing the workforce to shrink and giving rise to a new generation of employees with different expectations. The labor pool is getting smaller as people age and birth rates fall. And highly demanding young people, weaned on technology, have a much different perspective on work, flexibility, and rewards. Retention is also a major problem in many countries, particularly in emerging markets. Spiraling compensation is partly to blame for job-hopping, but loyalty is falling for other reasons as well.