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Keeping an Eye on the Talent - Report and Conference

01 June 2016 | Updated 01 January 1970

A new priced report (or free to attendees of the next Quora conference on June 8) studies the correlations between knowledge worker productivity, employee engagement and talent retention. It is written by John Blackwell. A précis appears below. 


Why knowledge workers?

The service sector, predominantly staffed by knowledge workers, now represents over 77 per cent of overall UK GDP.

The services sector is the single fastest growing industry sector with the Bank of England forecasting sector growth of 3 per cent in the coming year.

There are huge challenges in attracting and retaining knowledge workers.


Cause and effect

Talent challenges include an aging and retiring workforce, availability of talent and addressing the gender imbalance. It's broadly estimated that there will be a 50 per cent gap between retirees and new talent entering the labour market over the next decade.

Attracting, recruiting, and retaining knowledge workers requires a complete overhaul of management practices - retooling management capabilities.

In the face of the changing nature of work, workplace design needs considerable fresh scrutiny, especially regarding noise, daylight and provision of quiet space.

Lastly, the provision of nutrition needs a complete rethink. The unfounded three square meals a day dating back to mediaeval times inadequately supports today's knowledge worker demands. It needs to be ditched in favour of eating frequent, portion controlled small meals focused on nutritional value.



While there are plenty of academic studies that explore the individual challenges of employee engagement or talent retention or even a few studies that look into the challenge of knowledge worker productivity, in this study we wanted to undertake a comprehensive quantitative study considering the correlations between all of these factors – knowledge worker productivity, employee engagement and talent retention.

We focused on knowledge workers – people whose job typically involves handling or using information and ‘thinking for a living’ because pre-conceived wisdoms frequently say that it’s impossible to measure their productivity and this is simply not correct.

Despite all the advances in technology, property space design and HR interventions over the last decade productivity has slumped. 63 per cent per cent of CEOs state that the availability of talent is a serious challenge to future growth.



With over 2,800 people responding to our study, we gained a huge insight into what’s actually happening across today’s knowledge worker workplace and how organisations should address the challenges.

The most immediately notable finding from our data sample was the gender balance. There was a 62 per cent male to 38 per cent female representation but the gender balance drops off alarmingly as seniority rises. By the time people reach the ‘top management’ main board level, the male to female ratio has dwindled to a lowly 79 per cent male to 21 per cent female representation.

Progressively, women have increasingly dominated the output to the point where close to 70% of graduates in the UK are now women. For organisations looking to recruit the best talent, clearly this female contingent is a crucial resource. Yet, what message is being sent out by organisations that present such humiliating barriers to the boardroom?


Challenges of an aging workforce

Another group that deserves attention in developed economies is workers over 55 years of age. In 1990, about 10 per cent of the workforce was over 55. By 2010 that share had risen to 26 per cent and by 2030, the proportion of older workers (over 55) is projected to exceed 50 per cent according to the ONS.

Given lengthening life spans, many of these people are likely to need to keep working past traditional retirement age to save more for retirement. The OECD suggests that less than a third of developed economy workforce in the enormous so-called ‘baby boomer’ generation (typically people born between 1946 to 1964), which is now reaching retirement age, have adequate retirement savings – something that has been considerably exacerbated by the financial crisis of recent years.

Older workers can substantially help narrow the skill gap. As the UK DWPs report states, in many developed economies, stagnant population growth will mean that there are not enough young workers to replace retirees, which could create acute shortages in workforce availability.

The UK is running out of workers. In the next 10 years, the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) projects that job vacancies will be 13.5 million with only 7 million young people coming out of school and joining the workforce during that time period. That leaves half of this job need left unfilled – a bridge must be found somewhere and quickly.

For your full copy 43-page detailed report, please contact Quora Consulting via

Article written by John Blackwell | Published 01 June 2016


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