Lessons From the War For Talent
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Where were you when the “War for Talent” was in full swing?
I know exactly where I was – in Silicon
Valley interviewing executives about best practices in
recruitment and retention for a book I was writing, called “The Human
Side of High Tech: Lessons from the Technology Frontier.”
For the past few years most companies have stopped worrying about
retention because the tight job market tight has employees staying put
and feeling lucky to have a job. Any job.
But as the economy rebounds, the retention issue will resurface. And,
if the past is any predictor of the future, the impact will be most
notable in the ranks of your best and brightest.
Back in 1999, when I was first researching this topic, dot-com
competition was forcing formerly stodgy institutions to be more
responsive to the changing needs of valued employees. Then, the most
sought-after new workers were Generation Xers -- techno-savvy,
self-assured, and job-hopping in numbers never before seen by their
While the most tangible lure for talent in that booming economy was
money, the most important shifts were in the culture and work
environment required to engage the best and the brightest. The lessons
I learned over a decade ago about how to attract, motivate and retain
talented people were enlightening. Here are a few “talent attractors”
from the past to keep in mind as we look to the future.
For years I have been commenting on the power of meaning to attract and
motivate talented workers. Technology companies were especially
brilliant at letting new hires know - right from the start - that the
work to be done was exciting and important.
Talented techies were more likely to stay with an organization whose
culture reflected their own values - and more likely to leave companies
where there was a cultural misalignment. That's why the mantra of savvy
Silicon Valley managers soon became “Hire for the culture. Train for
Communication in a high-tech startup was open and immediate, with a
candid, “get to the point,” style of delivery. This resonated with
bright employees who wanted to be involved in an authentic dialogue
about where the organization was headed and how their efforts supported
the organization's business strategy.
With job security no longer guaranteed, GenXers demanded “employability
security” -- including classes, training, and job assignments to grow
and develop their abilities. Organizations found it’s risky to invest
in employees who may be temporary (“What if we educate them and they
leave?”), but far riskier not to
(“What if don’t educate them and they stay?”).
The newest generation of employees brought with them an increased
demand for more control of their time -- whether it involved
organizationally structured arrangements such as flextime, flex-place,
part-time or contractual work, or management philosophies and practices
that stressed results over "face time."
In order to keep top performers from leaving the company as soon as
other opportunities arose, high-tech companies learned to identify and
"re-recruit" their most valuable employees. The process of
re-recruiting top talent was an ongoing conversation that began with
leaders knowing the answers to questions like these:
1. Why do the most valuable employees choose to work at your company?
2. What are their career goals?
3. What is their #1 career concern?
4. How valuable are their skills in the market?
5. Do they feel fairly compensated?
6. Are they satisfied with their work - their colleagues - their
7. What do they like/dislike about their current assignment?
8. What do they like/dislike about your management style?
9. What are their personal interests - hobbies - family issues?
10. What rewards would mean the most to them?
The greatest lesson I learned from my research was that the commitment
of the best and the brightest can’t be commanded or controlled. It can
only be invited. The success of high-tech environments was less about
the technology (or even the salaries) and more about
the relationship between individuals and their organizations. And much
of that relationship – forged for the previous generation of high
performers – remains valid for today’s newest workers: Top talent is
attracted to, thrives in, and choose to remain longer in environments
where it is supported, developed, encouraged, and valued.
About the Author
Kinsey Goman, Ph.D.is an international
Keynote speaker on collaborative leadership and the impact of
language in the workplace.
coach to executives to improve their leadership presence and
Leadership blogger for Forbes and author of "The Silent Language of
Leaders: How Body Language Can Help - or Hurt - How You Lead.”
Carol@CarolKinseyGoman.com Authors Google+
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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2010-10-28 13:38:10 in Personal Articles