Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Fun, Profits, and Causes

There is so much hype these days around the renewed war for talent that it becomes more and more difficult to find someone who you really feel has something to say that "sticks with you."

Those who recently attended IACPR's (International Association of Corporate & Professional Recruiters) national conference in NYC, however, had the chance to hear a keynote address given by Greg Lucier, the CEO of Invitrogen, a 5,000 employee company and leading player in the world of life sciences. Lucier is also an alum of GE, which might help explain why IACPR asked him to talk about talent acquisition and retention or as he titled his talk, "Which Talent Issues Keep CEOs Up At Night."

While I was not able to attend the conference myself, several of our staff did, and as a member of IACPR, I got a chance to read Greg's speech in the association's September newsletter. I wish I could have heard it live.

He made so many points that rang true, e.g. "...The first is that nobody really wants to work for a company, they want to work for a cause -- something bigger than they are that will make them feel good about where they work and spend so much of their time. The second is that the truism -- working for a cause not a company -- is radically changing the workforce of today from one that was in search of excess, to one that is in search of meaning, that wants to give back. Events like 911, global terrorism, the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina have left an indelible mark on all of us. Today's workforce wants to be committed to something more than just profits." "...And my theory is that great companies stand for a principle, and great people will want to flock to them." We hear comments from our members that speak to this issue on a daily basis when they talk to us about what's next in their lives.

Another point that Lucier made that hit me was when he not only was speaking about a company culture, but also about a company "...having merchandise that also stands for something." Not to sound too parochial about, but it made me think about what ExecuNet was all about. People so often want to put us in the "commercial job board" space when in fact, that really isn't what we are about. Sure, we have very senior-level executive jobs, have been for 18 years, but that is only one element of what we are all about. If job postings were all we were about, we'd be out there scraping and publishing along with the rest of them, but we learned long ago that ads, even hundreds and hundreds of them in one big pot, is not how most executives make changes in their professional work lives. They make them via real relationships that are built on trust over time. So, what we set out to do was to build a community that allowed executives to come together with each other (and if they wanted to) with the search community in what we call "in confidence and with confidence."

Lastly, Lucier also threw out a wonderful phrase that I thought captured the essence of what would draw people to any organization as well as help keep them there once they were on board. The phrase was "...reputation (what you do when people are watching and integrity (what you do when they aren't)." The point being, of course, that the former, if it's good can only come from living by the latter.

How many of us as leaders have been asked the following question by someone considering either buying our product or service or considering joining our organization: "How do you measure your success?"

I have to admit that it made me smile inside because our answer has always been "by reputation."

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