Attention Talented Employees: As the Economy Improves, Proceed to the Nearest Exit

Nov 2010
Issue 11


Congratulations! You are the Chief People Officer of your organization, and you have survived (or at least are still surviving) the country’s biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. You have likely had a rough couple of years. First, you were asked by your organization to take a hard look at payroll costs. You have structured furloughs, changed or eliminated employee bonuses, creatively designed reduced work schedules, and most painfully you had to make hard decisions about laying off a portion of your workforce.

That was rough. But wait, there’s more. The organization also needed to reduce overhead. So your own Talent organization came under the microscope. You were asked to justify the expense associated with various programs that were put into place during the growth years of 2002 through 2008. You had to look at whether you should outsource or off-shore some of your HR processes. You cut training because field operations simply has no appetite for taking anyone away from productive work, and of course travel budgets have been slashed. And, if you are like most, you have almost entirely shut down recruiting.

It is a good thing the holidays are coming because you deserve a break and so do your people. But ponder this for a moment. . .

While you and the rest of the Leadership Team were doing what you needed to do to keep the company afloat, something has been going on within the ranks of your talented workforce, and that something may have already put your organization’s future at risk.

Consider this:

  • Most companies, when hiring, look to recruit professionals who are already employed even though currently there are certainly qualified people who are unemployed. The thinking is, correct or not, that it’s really the best talent that has been retained.
  • With the advent of LinkedIn and other networking sites for professionals, savvy recruiters can easily seek out individuals in key roles. Through LinkedIn alone, a recruiter knows the educational background, work history, current responsibilities, and where to find the candidates they are chasing. They even have methods of “trolling” on these sites to find candidates. The employed don’t need to know a recruiter or be referred to a recruiter to have already been screened for great opportunities in other companies.
  • Not surprisingly, during a recession, voluntary turnover goes down. But, also during the recession, ambitious professionals have been planning their next move. Because of cuts made, most workers have been handling a heavier workload with fewer human and financial resources. If they cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel in their current organization, they likely have already set a target timeframe for their departure.
  • Experienced professionals nearing retirement when the recession hit put their plans on hold when their retirement accounts took a severe hit. With the market starting to recover, these individuals are adjusting their plans, looking at ways to cut retirement spending, and considering options for a reduced stream of income, such as teaching at universities, doing contract work, or pursuing a completely different career path. These professionals represent much of the knowledge capital in an organization or division.

Bottom line: As soon as a few more signs of recovery start flickering on the horizon, a significant percentage of your most talented and knowledgeable workforce may be poised to make a speedy exit.

What You Can Do

  • Reassess your succession plans. Have you identified key roles in the organization, and have you identified individuals who have the potential to fill that role in the future? With restructuring, much of this could have changed. Your talent needs to know the opportunities your organization can offer them.
  • Examine your talent development framework. Do you know the leadership and functional competencies that individuals in your organization need to have to move the company forward? With changes in your organization, in the industry, and in the competitive landscape, competencies that were sufficient in the past may not be in the future. Your talent should know the competencies they need to grow and move up in the organization.
  • Assess formal and informal learning opportunities. Do you have the developmental solutions in place to grow the capabilities of your people and to keep high performers engaged and moving upward? You may not be able to invest in classroom training but there are many less expensive ways to provide formal (e-learning, webcasts, etc.) and informal development (coaching, job shadowing, etc.). Talented people demand continuous learning, and your organization needs to grow their capabilities to thrive.
  • Ready your recruiting organization. Have you taken advantage of the current “employers market” to tighten up your recruiting processes? Are you recruiting against a high performance profile and using the right assessment approach (behavioral interviewing, on-line testing, structured technical interviews, etc.)

If you would like to discuss strategies, processes, and programs that inspire a positive relationship between the organization and its workforce, contact Roycee Kerr (214-802-0349) with the St. Charles Consulting Group. In all of our performance solution work, we strive to balance the organization’s business needs with approaches that help employees thrive and grow.e

Next month

How to become a better learner

We’ve talked in the past about the importance of agility in managing the incessant barrage of challenges that today’s knowledge workers face. Well – back to basics – how do you describe an agile individual? It’s someone who learns fast, decides well, and acts effectively. That begs the next question: how does someone get better at being agile? In our view, the answer begins with becoming a better learner. With that in mind, we’ll discuss the learnability of learning in our next issue of the Free-Range Learning News.