Book Review: Talent Economics – The Fine Line Between Winning and Losing the Global War for Talent

I met Gyan Nagpal a couple of years back, when he was still at Deutsche Bank. Over lunch and a passionate discussion about innovation in HR & Talent practices, he mentioned that he was writing a book and since then, I have been eagerly waiting for it.

I finally got a copy of Talent Economics a few weeks back and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. While there are a number of books on the topic of talent and how companies can compete for talent, I liked Talent Economics because it draws from a large number of data sources to paint a picture of the global talent landscape and ways to navigate it. As Gyan says, “In a world full more connected and wired than ever before, we have more information and fewer answers. This is because a pond full of information can sometimes be less useful than a cup full of insight.”

The book brings together talent management practices and economic analysis in response to the war for talent. At a macro level, the book presents a comprehensive framework for looking at any talent marketplace. These are:

  1. Aggregate talent (driven by total populations)
  2. Replacement & mobility ratios (birth rates and migration trends in an economy)
  3. Age & dependency ratios (labour supply in the future; ratio of employable to unemployable people)
  4. Gender mix (women’s economic participation and their presence at various layers of management)
  5. Generational shifts (generational markers for different countries and their impact on work preferences)
  6. Educational proficiency (quality of education)
  7. Management proficiency (quality of tertiary education and supply for managerial talent)
  8. Governance & sustainability (focus on good governance and long-term social sustainability)

Again, using data from myriad sources, Gyan provides clear applications of his framework to generate deep insights about the markets companies operate in.

The book shifts gears to a micro-talent perspective in the second half, where Gyan outlines ‘must-have’ practices for talent management at the firm level. All great ideas, but I loved the ones about building unconventional talent entry-points. There are great ideas about Mid-Career Internships (allowing mid-career professionals who want a career switch to sample the job),  Returnships (especially for women who take a career break), farming alumni groups and also leveraging “open-source” talent. Another interesting concept is that of Cerebral Engagement, where organisations must assess if the workplace practices are enabling “flow”.

In defining your talent strategy, the book presents 11 continuums (like market opportunity, talent pipeline, pipeline proficiency, talent attraction, organisational structure, business ambition, market share, innovation etc.) to conduct a detailed diagnosis of the current situation and prioritize talent investments.

All in all, a great read and I highly recommend this book for business leaders and HR leaders alike.

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