They might claim that talent management is a top priority, but British management simply isn't doing what it takes to nurture their people and could be facing a critical shortage of star performers within three to five years.
A study by recruitment outsourcing specialist Capital Consulting and Cranfield School of Management has found there is a clear gap between rhetoric and reality when it comes to talent management in Britain.
While they talk a good talk about the war for talent, but the reality is that most are unprepared to spend what's needed to nurture and groom their top performers or, even when they do see it as a priority, fail to get sufficient back-up from their bosses.
And it's a gap that rapidly needs to be closed, as the economic pincers of a changing global economy, skills shortages and an ageing workforce could start to pinch within five years.
While six out of 10 firms are only too happy to emphasise how talent management is essential to their bottom line, just four out of 10 actually go to the trouble of strategically managing their star talent.
The main barriers holding managers back from implementing talent management strategies are a lack of financial investment, cited by half the managers polled, and insufficient senior management support (40 per cent), the poll found.
Jeremy Tipper, group managing director of Capital Consulting, said: "Businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the growing importance of attracting the best available talent from the marketplace, but often fall short when it comes to following through on development, retention and allowing talented people to reach their potential."
The changing nature of global economies and the demographics that were leading to a shrinking talent pool entering the workforce would begin to hit home over the next three to five years, he predicted.
"Acquiring and keeping people is already very important, and will only become more so. How good you are at managing talent will become a crucial factor in whether you are a winner or a loser in terms of competitive advantage," he stressed.
"Creating an effective talent management framework has the potential to make HR directors the organisational heroes because of the ever growing impact it will have on business performance and the bottom line," he added.
Even those who practised what they preached too often came up short, the report concluded.
Fewer than half of organisations had published their talent management strategy internally, one in five did not link it to their business plan and just 15 per cent measured return on investment.
Innovation was also in short supply, with the likes of sabbaticals and overseas assignments taking a back seat to conventional courses and on-the-job training as methods for developing future leaders, said Cranfield.
Dr Emma Parry, research fellow at Cranfield, said the report needed to serve as a wake-up call to employers.
"The 'disconnect' between what senior managers are saying and what they are doing is very worrying. It's clear that, in the main, their actions have not caught up with their rhetoric when it comes to talent management," she warned.