Overcoming the Technical Talent Management Challenge: APQC Identifies 19 Best Practices from Recruitment to Retention

APQC study details how Caterpillar, General Mills, IBM, Lockheed Martin, and Schlumberger are leading the race to source, develop, and retain technical talent

(Houston, Texas - May 15, 2012)  APQC, the benchmarking and best practices research firm, has released the results of its latest Collaborative Benchmarking study, Technical Talent Management: Sourcing, Developing, and Retaining Technical Talent.  This study identifies best practices from organizations recognized as leaders in overcoming an acute global shortage of scientific, technology, engineering, and mathematical (STEM) talent.  (Eighty percent of employers in APQC’s Work Force Capabilities 2011 survey had indicated it was difficult or very difficult to secure workers with scientific skills, while sixty-five percent indicated it was difficult or very difficult to secure workers with engineering skills.)

“It is no secret that the world is experiencing a shortage of technical workers.  Across the globe, STEM jobs are growing as a percent of total jobs, such as in the U.S., where one-third of the fastest-growing job categories are in STEM fields.  In addition, demographic trends point toward increasing numbers of retiring workers, who will take with them their knowledge and expertise and leave behind a smaller pool of technical talent,” said Elissa Tucker, SPHR, human capital management knowledge specialist for APQC.  “Through this research we identify what some leading organizations are doing to find, manage, and keep these key employees.”

Dr. William J. Rothwell, SPHR, professor at the Pennsylvania State University and study subject matter expert, added, “Research has repeatedly emphasized that technical workers look for different things from employers during recruitment, development, and knowledge transfer.  This report aims to answer some important questions about managing this strategically important group of workers.”

The five best-practice organizations examined in detail in the study include: Caterpillar, Inc., General Mills, Inc., IBM Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. Space Systems Company (SSC), and Schlumberger Ltd.

As outlined in the full study report, these organizations take a planned approach to talent management, frequently tailoring their investments to the unique needs of technical workers.  The comprehensive, proactive, and customized nature of their programs translates into superior outcomes—most notably, the retention of adequate numbers of high-quality technical workers who are motivated to work hard to achieve business objectives.

Ultimately, the APQC study uncovered 19 best practices for managing technical talent.  The practices, organized according to the phases of the employee life cycle, include:


  1. Dedicate specific job roles or teams to oversee technical talent management.
  2. Select individuals with technical skills to lead technical talent management initiatives.
  3. Use work force planning to link technical talent management strategy with business strategy.
  4. Include work force diversity in the technical talent management strategy.


  1. Craft and communicate an employment brand that appeals to technical workers.
  2. Develop campus recruiting relationships and internship programs as sources of technical talent.
  3. Use technology to recruit technical talent.
  4. Encourage students to pursue technical careers.


  1. Use competency models to guide and assess technical worker performance.
  2. Ground performance conversations with technical employees in facts and data.


  1. Offer flexible career paths, including dual-career ladders.
  2. Provide self-service and/or technology-based tools to assist technical workers in planning for careers at the organization.


  1. Leverage a succession planning process to identify, develop, and promote high-potential technical talent.
  2. Use on-the-job training as the primary mechanism for developing technical talent.


  1. Recognize high-performance technical employees in public ways.
  2. Offer development and advancement opportunities to retain technical employees.
  3. Use work/life balance and flexible work options to retain technical talent.


  1. Offer technical workers multiple ways to exchange expertise.


  1. Make fact-based decisions regarding how to improve technical talent management.

Detailed descriptions of the practices, supported by case studies from the best-practice organizations, may be found in the full research report published by APQC.

About APQC

APQC is a member-based nonprofit and one of the world’s leading proponents of benchmarking, best practices, and knowledge management. Working with more than 500 member organizations worldwide in all industries, APQC provides organizations with the information they need to work smarter, faster, and with greater confidence. Visit www.apqc.org or call +1-713-681-4020 for more information.

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