Wednesday, August 10, 2005

I Guess We'll Just Keep Trying 'Til We Get It Right

Saw an interesting piece of survey data on what was also an interesting site (at least to me) called Chief Learning Officer. The annual survey was conducted by Accenture who, after surveying 425 "senior executives" at what they say were at many of the world's largest companies, came up with a list of what they say are the issues of greatest concern to senior management.

If you are only into "short lists" the top two items were:

1. Attracting and retaining skilled staff, and
2. Changing organizational culture and employee attitudes.

The other eight were certainly worthy of being on the list, but I was struck by the first two.

First, and maybe this is my age showing through, but almost since day one, way back in 1961 when I showed up for work as a Personnel and Industrial Relations Trainee (remember those terms - Personnel and Industrial Relations? Sounds like high button shoes now.) at the Winchester Western Division of Olin, the priorities for the company were items 1 and 2 on the Accenture list! Indeed, on the day that I reported to work to start what I guess is now called "my career", there were over 700 people lined up outside who I would guess felt they were potential "skilled staff". After just a few months on the job, and wandering around a manufacturing plant of some 3,000 production and maintenance workers, I started to understand why many of those who were initially hired didn't end up on the "retained" list, and why it was that people talked about things like changing the "culture" and employee "attitudes."

Second, and as we all stand back and observe an employment market that seems to be really starting some sustained movement back toward a sellers market, I was thinking of our own survey data that speaks to the same issues. The skilled staff was there, but when you asked people about the culture in which they found themselves and their attitudes, what came back was a resounding 61% who told us they were unhappy campers and an astounding 77% who said they planned to do something about how they felt.

With those kinds of numbers, I am not surprised to see what turned out to be the top two items on Accenture's survey. Almost 70% of ExecuNet's current membership is made up of executives who are currently employed and as I looked at the numbers, I couldn't help but think that many worked for the same companies whose management responded to the survey.

So here I am some 44 years into what I would loosely refer to as a "career" and saying to myself, there is an awful lot of work still there for somebody, because clearly we have yet to break the code.

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