Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Power to the Sellers!

There are all kinds of signs, and have been for many months now, that the law of supply-and-demand is starting to surface once again in the executive jobs market place. Our own data has reported it and our monthly surveys with the search community also reflects the trend. And when the supply-and-demand pendulum starts to swing, the executive's search for the "better" executive job heats up. Translation: The "A" players are headed out looking for, as they say in the NFL, "respect."

If you checked out the cover story in this week's issue of BusinessWeek, the focus is on the departures of key players from Microsoft, simply serving to underscore the level of dissatisfaction among the executive ranks. One of the ways we see the manifestation of the BW headline "We're Outta Here" is when we look at the make up of our membership as the economic times shift. A couple of years ago, roughly 30% of our membership was made up of people who described themselves as "employed and monitoring the market." Now, nearly 70% fall into that group.

We have been hearing about the so-called War for Talent ever since the well-known McKinsey study was published way back when. McKinsey was saying, among other things, that for the next 20 years or so, the most critical corporate resource was going to be "talent."

So what else is new? Hasn't that really always been the case? Sure, innovation can help a company gain a competitive advantage, but that doesn't last forever. The only really sustaining competitive advantage any company has is made of the people who work there, and that "advantage" is driven more by their collective attitude than anything else. Golden handcuffs may keep them physically on-site, but it doesn't necessarily keep them mentally engaged.

It is also well documented that it costs far more to replace experience than it does to retain it. Most organizations know very well who their "A” players are. I wonder how many really know or try to find out how those "A" players really feel? If "retention" is really the issue du jour for business today (and I believe it is) then I would suggest that the most critical factors in achieving that objective can be found in the other two "R" words: Respect & Recognition.

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