Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Perks Matter

I have no clue how many surveys have been run in the just the past 5-10 years on the subject of what happens as the employment market turns from one favoring the buyers vs. one where the sellers have the leverage.

While we are not there yet, "barring injury" as they say, overall we seem slowly but surely (thank goodness) to be headed in that direction. I know, I know, that could change by dinner time, but I still prefer to think of it in positive terms.

As this happens, organizations might want to dust off some of those surveys and remind themselves that after bucks and benefits, what matters, especially to the GenXers (and indeed) lots of Boomers as well.

In the stats that have come across my desk in recent years, one "perk" that keeps coming up again and again and is usually at or near the top of the list is work schedule flexibility.  That stat by itself comes as no surprise.  What does make me scratch my head, however, is that many bosses still think that "by the book" structure is still what makes the world go round.

Any company or manager on the planet who has not yet gotten the word that as our economy has continued to gain traction the GenXers (and yes, a good percentage of the Boomers as well) are starting to vote with their feet in a big way must not have their EKG machines turned on.

Here at galactic headquarters we see these things manifesting themselves in any number of ways as the senior-level executives who make up our community report to us on what is often an hourly basis things like: people "landing" at a significantly higher rate; new members who report their status as "currently employed and thinking about making a change" to name a couple. They are, of course, responding to what they see in terms of the increased demand (e.g. our postings from recruiters year over year continue to be up.

So my question is this: If all those who say they are making a change because they want to find a work environment and/or a culture that is more in tune with their "wants," to what degree do they "get it?" Do they "get it" enough to really work to transform the cultures of the organizations to which they are going so that they meet the real needs of those already there and as part of which and as members of the executive team, they will be trying to recruit and retain?

If one examines the behavior of organizations in the past as they have attempted to adapt to the changing values of differing generations, it explains all too clearly why when it is a seller’s market that retention is always a big time issue. And the "war for talent" stats notwithstanding, it ain't just about numbers of warm bodies available.

There is in all this, it seems to me, both lesson and "learning." The companies who have not made addressing retention issues a strategic priority must be made up of people who believe the old saying: "History is something that happens to other people."

It would be my hope that in today's environment where we have the chance to apply both lessons and "learnings" that companies will be more inclined to view it as Alphonse De Lamartine put it: "History teaches everything including the future."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Currency of Networking

When retained executive search finally emerged onto the scene in the U.S. the names that really became the face of the industry were those of Tom Neff at Spencer Stuart and Gerry Roche of Heidrick & Struggles.  They were the mega stars of CEO searches. 

Their names became so well known in part, because of the high profile competition between the two.  They were in two of the top firms and they were the points of the spear when it came to the most senior searches.  It was something that was fun to follow.

I can recall reading many articles that were focused on one or both of these icons, and one in particular that was in Fortune some years ago called Clash of the Corporate Kingmakers stuck with me then and still does because it talked a great deal about how Roche had built his practice.  I thought it was another important example of just how important networking is both personally as well as professionally.

One of the aspects of the story that really struck me was when it was pointed out that even with people who turned him down, Gerry continued to make a real effort to build a relationship, and the key way in which he did so was by using the universal currency of effective networking (information) and giving it freely and with no strings attached.  We talk to ExecuNet members about this all the time.

One could argue, I suppose, given that Roche effectively worked only at the most senior level of the Fortune 500 that every player in that space would want to be his "friend." Could well be true once he became the face of Heidrick, but certainly that was not the case when he was building what his practice became. The relationships he built over the years came back time and again to help him as the years went on until he retired in '09.

Bottom line, when I read the article it reminded me yet once again that effective networking is a process not a pick up, put down activity.  Said differently, and I can't recall where I saw this phrase but I thought it captured the core of what truly effective networking is all about:

There's a difference between doing something part time, full time, and all the time.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Six-Figure Learnings: I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

Six-Figure Learnings: I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

I'll Take Networking for $1000 Alex

No matter how cynical we can sometimes become the fact is, at least for me (and I certainly have developed my fair share of cynicism over time) when it comes to a new year you can't help but reflect on what has been, what might be to come, and what has changed. 

As we start a new year at ExecuNet, I can assure you, in between reading the crystal ball pieces written by all the bulls or bears telling us what to expect in 2012, I spent a fair amount of time over the last couple of weeks thinking about the career management world as well.

In the years we have been around, it doesn't seem possible that when we began in 1988 if you heard the phrase the Internet you would have thought it was a term from a Stephan King novel or an ad for the latest teen horror movie.  You could almost hear the voice-over booming "Time was running out; they we trapped in the never-ending web of The Internet!"  Talk about change!

Also as one does when thinking about the past, present, future and changes, I also reflected on some of the things that over time really haven't changed and for some crazy reason it brought to mind how many times I have been called by a reporter or writer who was doing a piece on career management and how the main focus of the story so often was and still is on the what a  Jeopardy clue might describe as "makes every job changer want to barf."  Answer: what is networking.

It felt like I have been talking to friends, members, reporters, writers, recruiters, and coaches about this subject for almost as long as I can remember.  Indeed, as this subject was crawling across my mind's radar screen, I was reminded of a conversation I had some years ago with a reporter from the WSJ who somehow tracked me down on my cell phone one Saturday.  It took me a while to get focused on what he was calling about because all I could think about was how the hell he got my cell number. 

Once I started to actually listen to him, he explained he wrote a column called CUBICLE CULTURE.  The column is still going strong today.

In any case, turns out he was writing about networking as a job search or business development technique, and the net of it (no pun intended) was that he wondered if it really was effective in this day and age or just something that technology and hype had created to annoy the heck out of people. We talked for quite a while, and at one point he gave me the following example which he was using in the piece and wanted my thoughts:

"...At another event, she was deep in conversation with an old friend when a fresh-faced young man starting out in financial services interrupted, introduced himself and then, after a long silence, came clean: "Well, can I get your business cards?" he asked them. "My boss told me I could only come to this event if I collect a certain number of business cards."

My answer was "That's not a relationship. It's a scavenger hunt!" and it reminded me yet again of how simplistic a world we live in, and how we are all looking for instant answers and how it is that so many people go through life worried about what's in it for them.  A attitude in life that is off-putting to say the least, and one which in the context of career management is the personification of a formula for guaranteed failure.

Turns out he liked the sound bite analogy of the scavenger hunt, but when the article was published what he didn't include in the column was what I tried to explain after I had made my flippant comment which was that there is "networking" and there is "effective networking" and the reason the word often makes the hair stand up on the back of people's necks (probably more PC than "barf" I guess) is because of the example he gave. It is the stereotypical image that many people have of what networking is when they hear the word.  They think the goal is number of business cards collected as opposed to relationships established.

What I wish he had the time to tell people is that "effective networking", at least based on my personal experience as well as the 24 years of involvement with ExecuNet is really about an attitude of simply being willing to help someone else without worrying about any quid pro quo, and actions whose cumulative effect is to equate your name with trust, or as Karen Armon, who facilitates our networking meetings in the Denver metro area likes to say, "Give first and results will follow."

She couldn't be more right.