Publication Date

November 2000


The purpose of this paper is to examine how firms are competing for scarce human resources in the talent wars. First, the paper makes the distinction between responding to labor shortages with investments in recruiting and retention and directly competing against identified labor market competitors for scarce human resources. It appears firms compete with rivals in the open labor market and in initiating and defending against talent raids. The process of identifying and responding to the tactics of labor market competitors is reviewed for both types of direct competition. Firms tend to respond to rivals’ tactics either by changing the employment relationship with threatened employees or engaging in tactics to influence the behavior of the competing firm. Factors that determine the propensity and type of response to competitor’s tactics are reviewed and integrated. The greater the threat posed by the rival’s tactics the greater the likelihood affected firms will respond with externally as opposed to internally oriented tactics. The greater the skill mobility of threatened employees, the more administrative and financial resources will be invested in the counter-response. Finally, firms use a variety of preemptive tactics to reduce the threat of talent raids. These tactics are listed and explained. The paper concludes with recommendations for firms seeking to gain or protect advantage relative to rivals in the war for talent.


Suggested Citation
Gardner, T. M. (2000). In the trenches at the talent wars: Competitive interaction for scarce human resources - a qualitative study (CAHRS Working Paper #00-18). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University, School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies.