The talent imperative in the global chemical industry
The global chemical industry is currently experiencing intense changes. A slew of new and on-going challenges—from constrained margins and increasing cyclicality, to activist investors and a dramatic decline in new product introductions—are forcing companies to make dramatic shifts in strategy to continue to generate the return on capital that investors have come to expect. What is more, global chemical companies will need to manage these changes in a difficult talent environment marked by a looming wave of retirements and incoming talent that seems to have little interest or awareness of importance of the industry to the economy and society at large.
As these changes continue to unfold and impact the industry, global chemical companies will need to attack markets in new and innovative ways. This will likely require companies to introduce new business models and build the corresponding talent capabilities to support them. Companies will also need to understand their talent needs, both in terms of headcount and skills. A talent acquisition strategy could attract the resources companies demand, as well as offer the employees a value proposition that helps with development and retention.
The talent imperative in the global chemical industry provides several tangible steps that chemical companies can consider to proactively tackle the most pressing issues now rather than reacting to them later, when it may be too late:
- Building collaboration with human resources: To arrive at a new state of talent management, business-side executives will need to collaborate with and receive proactive support from human resources.
- Identifying talent early: Waiting for future talent focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to be in college before beginning recruiting, may be leaving it too late. Programs initiated in high school to build awareness and interest in the chemical industry could be advantageous for the sector.
- Understanding the Millennials: Working to understand the value proposition that makes other industries more attractive to Millennials could be a key differentiator. Also, reinforcing the growing importance of the commercial and marketing functions, as Millennials place a high value on those skills.
- Thinking more broadly on STEM: Thinking beyond borders to engage potential employees and identifying innovative solutions to attract and retain them, could serve as a powerful recruiting model for hiring STEM resources.
- Balancing flexibility with productivity: Finding the right solution to strike the perfect balance of flexibility and productivity, can attribute to attracting and retaining the top talent the chemical organization needs.
A true, thorough, and effective rethink of a talent strategy is certainly a difficult task for any company, but it becomes especially daunting in the global chemical industry. It means a dramatic shift in thinking. It means moving away from a traditional model that carries with it the inertia of a century-old record of success. The global chemical industry is beginning a new and exciting era. The people working in it will be the catalyst to once again make the industry a leader among sectors and an attractive, exciting place to build a career – but only if executives act now to build those few but critical organizational and talent capabilities required to attract, develop, deploy, and retain the people the industry will need.