Your company prides itself on hiring the best.You consider your company a great place to work. Youpay well and provide what you consider tobe generous benefits. You train yourworkers, helping them to develop new skillsto keep up with changing conditions in themarketplace. But even with all your efforts,you've found that your best employees areproving increasingly difficult to keep. Youfind that your most talented colleagues areleaving for other companies and your humanresources department is finding it more andmore difficult to fill vacancies at every levelof your organization, even as your companyspends more and more on search firms.

No, you are not in the middle of a baddream. Consulting firm McKinsey &Company will tell you that you are in themiddle of a war, a war for talent. McKinseyconsultant Edward G. Michaels III presentedthe results of his firm's research into theissue of how companies are struggling toattract and retain talented executives at aconference on Leadership Capabilities forWinning Companies held in Philadelphia andsponsored by Wharton's Center for HumanResources and the Center for Leadershipand Change Management. McKinsey is not afirm that tends toward hyperbole; itsresearch and analysis led to the conclusionthat businesses are in the thick of battle fortalent and that battle promises to intensifyin the future.

McKinsey's study, which has appeared inthe McKinsey Quarterly, focused on 77 largeU.S. companies in various industries. Theteam's focus was on the human resourcesdepartment within each company and whattheir talent-building philosophies, practices,and challenges were. The team alsosurveyed nearly 400 corporate officers and6,000 executives from the top ranks ofthese companies. In addition, the groupconducted case studies of 20 companiesthat were perceived to have considerabletalent. The study concluded, "What wefound should be a call to arms for corporateAmerica. Companies are about to beengaged in a war for senior executive talentthat will remain a defining characteristic oftheir competitive landscape for decades tocome." The report's even more troublingconclusion was that "most companies areill-prepared, and even the best arevulnerable."