The 21st century global ‘War for Talent’, according to Carlos Ghosn

By August 09, 2016
Talents collaborateurs

The digital transition now taking place among manufacturing giants is leading to another kind of battle – the struggle to recruit top talent. Below we take a close look at this situation.

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and CEO of Renault and Nissan, published a post on LinkedIn in late June, in which he underlined the importance of recruiting highly talented people. He predicted that it would be Renault Nissan’s ability to attract highly skilled people that would make it a winner on the global battlefield. He also pointed out that Renault Nissan’s rivals in this area would not necessarily be its traditional competitors, but rather the web giants.

Tug-of-war between manufacturers and web giants?

Carlos Ghosn describes a vast global market in intelligence, energy and engineering ability that transcends industry sectors, nations, languages, generations and gender. And today, he argues, the main job of a CEO is to create an organisation that is able to spot and attract the necessary talent from all over the world, whether you have to go out and get them from a large company in Brazil, from a university in China or from a small business in India. And the Silicon Valley giants, plus the Alibabas and the Samsungs are all involved in this ‘global war for talent’.

There is of course nothing new in this idea. It was already being discussed around fifteen years ago at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos. The Forum agreed that intelligence – mental or physical – would become the new most-sought-after raw material in tomorrow’s world.  And it is interesting to note that up to that point everyone assumed that the only existing global market for talent was for top sports stars and the CEOs of major corporations, such as Carlos Ghosn himself.

So, given that this argument has often been used to justify the eye-watering salaries paid to these high flyers and that the Renault-Nissan Alliance boss is one of the highest-paid, he catches us slightly off balance when he says that the real global market is now all about hiring highly talented employees. He thus shows us his role in a completely different light – that of an ambassador promoting the appeal of his firm, one who ensures that skilled people are recruited and facilitates their deployment. And all this is possible because he has succeeded in building a motivating business environment that is full of challenges but also enjoyable on a daily basis.

Not that easy, though…

The challenge of recruiting and retaining talent has certainly been clearly grasped by the web giants. They pamper their employees with top-notch canteens, sports centres equipped with the latest technology and halls full of table football and ping-pong tables. And while in his article Carlos Ghosn does not fall into the trap of trying to out-do the web giants and their campuses, he nevertheless creates a vision for potential recruits when he writes about potential international careers, mentions the startup that has been created inside the Renault Nissan Alliance and spells out the skills the company needs: “expertise in software and cloud engineering, data analytics, machine learning and systems architecture”. He also reminds his readers of the important place of Open Innovation with Renault Nissan’s partners and suppliers, with a view to building a better world. In other words, all the ingredients are there to make this presentation from the boss of a manufacturing corporation, which might well be none too attractive to the Millennial generation, seem more like the words of a Sergey Brin or Elon Musk.

However, one final question remains to be answered. What will happen to all those who cannot compete in this ‘war for talent’? Are they condemned to be stuck in junior positions, invisible, under-paid, ‘the wretched of the Earth 4.0’, squeezed between the Leonardo da Vinci of tomorrow’s company and the artificial intelligence-driven robots they have designed in order to increase global productivity?
Are we now on the way to creating a world divided into two camps such as Fritz Lang imagined in his 1920s science-fiction film Metropolis: those who have the economic power, the entrepreneurial spirit, intellectual or manual, and those who perform the tasks that people have not wished to or been able to robotise, because they are more profitable when carried out by a human being?

Personal branding useful for individuals and businesses?

This sombre vision of tomorrow’s world is fortunately not the only possible view. There is another view which is much more positive but which implies radical change. This consists simply in believing in our fellow human beings and pointing out that a) everybody has talent and b) talent has a value. What we have to do is find out where our talents lie and have the courage to use them. The working population, even those on permanent employment contracts, have not really encouraged this way of thinking.

It is really all about finding one’s own place, and evolving from there, without necessarily asking oneself whether the job that we are doing is allowing us to use our skills to the full, and whether those skills could not be used better elsewhere or in a different way. You will by now have recognised the concept of ‘personal branding’, which is becoming widespread in the United States.

This is a very profound question because it challenges the organisations of today, in which the group dynamic dominates, and even often entirely suppresses, individual aspirations than offering a choice and seeking to forge an alliance between a talented individual and collective needs.
This point also underlies what Carlos Ghosn is talking about: a new world, made faster by digital technology, which enables people to advertise their skills worldwide. A real break from the traditional village, where you learned a trade and practised it close to the place where you live, and a radical shift towards the ‘global village’ predicted by Marshall McLuhan.

As long as we can accept the whole idea of being open, mobile, and innovative, this really could be a wonderful opportunity for all our children going forward.

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