As a former professional baseball player, I revel in the fanfare of the Major League Baseball Playoffs and World Series. After 162 games, usually the teams with the most talent have found their way to the top for a chance to be World Champions. I’ve found it to be that way in business as well. Like the consistently successful sport teams, the business organizations that successfully acquire, retain and develop the most talented people usually win the day.

Interestingly, as I talk daily with the leaders of corporate America, one theme runs true and unmistakable: talent is at the top of everyone’s agenda. In Fortune 500 companies, the mid market and even small companies, CEO’s are rallying their executive teams to find, keep and develop top talent. Acquiring, retaining and developing the brightest and the best is no longer a strategy delegated to the Human Resources function. It is being consistently elevated as a strategic expectation for each company executive.

With a dramatic shortage of qualified people being projected by the U.S. Department of Labor between now and the end of the decade (10 million jobs will go unfilled), every company’s leadership must accept the fact that top talent will be a scarce resource. Leaders must devise and, more importantly, execute effective talent acquisition strategies. Becoming recognized as an employer of choice will become critical for companies to attract and retain the people necessary for their businesses to flourish. More creative and innovative recruiting strategies will be required. These new strategies will include: leveraging technology more effectively; outsourcing transactional aspects of the recruiting and hiring process to trusted partners; and developing an effective employment brand. Being able to successfully capture talented “passive” candidates will become a core competency for organizations that want their share of the viable talent.

Capturing talent is only half of the battle. Smart leaders recognize that retention and further development of talented people is not only strategically important, but very beneficial as well. They realize the churning of talent is wasteful, expensive and demoralizing to an organization. It stifles the positive momentum and energy of a company. The reputation for churning your people also becomes a barrier for an organization to attract talent.

To retain people effectively, a company’s vision must be compelling and inspiring. Leadership must act with consistent integrity to engender employee trust and facilitate an “ownership mentality.” Work must be engaging, challenging and meaningful. Support systems such as recognition and reward structures, performance management systems and employee development processes must be evaluated, improved and aligned properly for win-win for the company and the employees. People need to know that performance is aligned with compensation and career opportunities.

The performance of highly talented people can make a remarkable difference in the performance of their companies. They generate creative and innovative ways to better serve their customers. They develop more streamlined and cost-effective business processes. They find ways to help their companies win in their respective markets and financially as well. They bring tremendous positive energy to those around them and help raise the bar as they remind everyone of what is possible.

Business success now and in the future belongs to CEO’s who understand the true value of acquiring, retaining and developing their top talent. Anyone who underestimates the impact of this significant business issue will destine the business, big or small, for failure long term. Ultimately, CEO success will depend on leadership resolve and execution.

In the end, organizations that don’t remain proactive and ahead of the competition with regard to their talent management processes won’t have to worry about the upcoming talent shortage, because it doesn’t take talent to lose the game.

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