Angela Baron takes a look at how employers should tackle the skills shortage to attract – and keep hold of – the high-flyers that their business really needs.
What exactly is the war for talent?
It is how to find, attract and retain the people your company needs to grow and meet the increasing demands of the global economy, and it has kept many a personnel manager from their sleep over the past few years. As a result, we have seen a mushrooming of innovative strategies not just to get people but to keep them and fight off competition for their skills.

Employers have been increasingly keen to accede to demands for a better work–life balance, flexible working and enhanced reward packages. They have struggled to make the workplace as accommodating as possible with gyms, concierge services (so the esteemed employees do not have to wrestle with the meaner aspects of life such as dry cleaning or shopping) and relaxation zones. They have also gone to great lengths to cultivate and manage the careers of their high-flyers, offering them numerous opportunities to enhance their skills and employability.

Is this situation likely to change?
The shortage of talented individuals in the technology sector at least, has started to ease, with the shake-out of highly skilled people from some of the big players who have been hit by a downturn in their markets. However, we are still not attracting enough young people into the types of career that will ensure a steady supply of skilled individuals in the future.

Science, engineering and technology degrees are often shunned in favour of media or arts courses that are seen to lead to more glamorous and interesting careers. As it looks likely that the high-tech sector will continue to grow, this problem is unlikely to go away.

The employer that thinks it is time to start squeezing the last drop of blood for their salary cheque may find life is not that simple

How could a recession affect staffing?
If the cold wind of recession does start to be felt, hopefully employers will be able to draw upon their experiences of the 1990s. Too apparent a willingness to hand out the P45s when the going gets tough proves a handicap in the race for talented staff when things start to pick up.

The brightest and the best individuals, who exhibit all the qualities of leadership, teambuilding, innovation and entrepreneurship that companies are so desperate for, will always find jobs. If they believe their employer is not committed to them, they will leave – and they won't come back.

The people who are left will be those who find it more difficult to get alternative jobs. What inevitably happens is that companies lose the people they want to keep and keep the ones they could comfortably lose.