Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Follow the Money

So on the 26th of September, BusinessWeek’s cover story was about super talent leaving Microsoft and the implications that this had for lots of other companies around and about. With that as a backdrop, I suppose I should not have been surprised to see that their cover story for the October 10th issue had a headline that screamed: “STARSEARCH, How to recruit, train, and hold great people. What works, what doesn’t?” Since one of the stats in the story indicated that only 25% of the largest 500 companies are confident that their current talent pool is sufficient, it almost made me feel that the advice offered by the article would be too little too late for the other 75% who apparently either don’t get it in general, or maybe they haven’t had the chance to react to the September 26th issue yet and are just waking up to the fact that many of their “A” players might be thinking about looking for greener pastures. Here at ExecuNet, we have been seeing big time indicators of this feeling for many, many months.

The fact that the vast majority of U.S. companies are still, at least according to this article, trying to figure out how to effectively manage their human capital, while a very unsettling thought, was not what really threw me for a loop. I have to admit that what really got to me was a section of the piece that was called Talent Over Time. It was a table of sorts that listed 15 of what BW called “innovations and fads” of talent management. It started in 1881 with the founding of a business education program at the University of Pennsylvania funded by Joseph Wharton, and ends with the latest “answer” for the training of “hi pots” called “Action Learning” led by such Fortune 500 stalwarts as J&J, IBM, and GE. Why did this throw me for such a loop? Because as I reviewed the list of 15, I realized that I have been part of the business world for 8 of the15 benchmarks. It was a very funny feeling to say the least.

Once I got over that shock (actually I didn’t get over it, I just repressed it) it made me reflect on how I had seen some of these “innovations and fads” play out over the course of my own experience. As I read through the article, and most especially the advice it offered to companies and managers about what not to do, I kept thinking to myself that the only thing that I had seen over the years that really seemed to have an impact was to tie a major portion of a manager’s bonus to the management of his/her staff. By major, I mean like 30%. It got people’s attention. I think it still does.

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