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Keeping talent when hiring starts again

Inevitably there will be a recovery and, just as inevitably, there will be a dislocation of talent as companies that have cut staffing to match demand have to restock their workforce to handle the uptick in business.  While this is the typical post-recession scenario, the dynamics are likely to be more extreme this time around because workers have been more badly shaken.

Not only have the job losses been large, but they happened quickly and seemed to strike virtually every corner of the economy and every kind of organization—no matter how strong or successful we thought it was.  People at every rung of the socioeconomic ladder and every level of professional attainment have been affected.  If they haven’t lost jobs themselves, they know someone who has.  This time, it feels like no place is safe.  The hunger for a better, more stable job is being exacerbated by the financial beating individuals and families have taken.  The Cleveland Federal Reserve says the net worth of U.S. households fell 18 percent last year, dropping by over $11 trillion or almost a full year’s U.S. GDP.  Workers who have scrapped their retirement plans may be glad to have a job right now, but they’ll be more open to greener grass when the job market opens again.

My colleague Lisa Rose just published an Emerging Trends piece on what companies can do today to help them retain employees when the downsizing wave reverses course.  Lisa’s advice is to be very clear about the organization’s vision for the post-recovery future, to treat employees as adults by being open and direct and to market the organization internally.  Employees who are going to continue investing their time in your organization want to understand why that’s a good decision and what they’re working toward. 

I’d add to that the importance of leadership visibility and interaction.  A CEO I know recently took a road trip to meet and speak with staff throughout his 25,000-person organization.  Afterward, he told me how surprised he was by how clearly important it was to his employees. He went into the trip concerned because he had no new information to share and discovered that the real value was in sharing his attention and his confidence in the future.

And confidence is what every employee needs—confidence that your company will still be their best bet when other opportunities come along.

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