05 September 2007

Demographics - Management

Twice in the last month I've had conversations around the challenges of retaining talent in this industry.

Obviously, part of the problem is the limited (or perhaps shallow) talent pool combined with the exploding demand for that talent.

In talking with David Lai from Hello Design, one thing we came to agreement on was that there is only so much you can do when faced with this particular challenge at this particular moment in time. When it comes right down to it - everyone leaves. Given this, and given the situation we face, you just need to accept this fact. Instead of treating turnover as a shocking disaster, you need to build relationships with the talent you have - and focus on helping them become more experienced, better and more talented. They can then focus on doing the best they can do for the company and the clients - and their career will take care of itself. In the meantime, you need to develop redundancy to avoid single points of failure - and develop contingency plans for all key employees of the firm. This, of course, means carrying more bench - but if there was ever a time you could afford to do so this is it!

I'm not saying you shouldn't try to keep your good talent - god forbid! Fight for them - but at the same time be prepared for them leaving and make it as pain-free for everyone involved as you possibly can.

At the same time... there is another element to the retention challenge. As a great article in Fast Company recently pointed out, there are profound differences in retaining (and managing) the younger demographic that tends to be the Talent in our organizations.

Brian Rekassis from Goodness Manufacturing pointed this article out to me after we had a long talk about creating Culture, acquiring and retaining Talent and the challenges associated with building a business.

Both Brian and I commented on how our resumes look like we have "career ADD". There are few if any jobs on there with tenures longer than a few years - and the jobs seem to have no logical flow; jumping all over the career map.

This is something that is common with a lot of the folks I know - and I think it is an artifact of both demographics and industry.
"Their world has proven that nothing is a guarantee - from nationwide layoffs to war to soaring divorce rates, they have decided that there's not a lot you can count on. As a result they are not interested in promotion plans for five years from now." -- Fast Company
Given this sort of short-term focus, retaining Talent in our industry becomes even more significant. The combination of competitive pressure and demographic attitudes is non-trivial for a business owner or executive in this industry. So what do we do?

Well... first, as noted above, we need to accept that everyone leaves. And we need to make it clear and explicit with our employees that we know this, and that we're going to invest in their Talent in exchange for them investing their Talent in our business. But there is a great section in the Fast Company article that, to me, points out the path we need to all follow as managers.
"They have great respect for leaders and loyalty. But no, as a rule they don't respect authority "just because." For the younger generations, every ounce of loyalty and respect must be earned. But when it is earned, it is given fiercely." -- Fast Company
This is one of the more true statements I've read in a long time - and it clearly points to one of the failings in our industry (and a huge challenge facing this culture as a whole).

We, as leaders, need to understand that each and every day we go to work to prove ourselves to our employees. We need to understand that we must earn and continue to earn the loyalty and respect of our employees. Our past successes, our gray hairs, our war stories and networks of highly-leveragable contacts and our awards and kudos mean nothing - they are the past.

If we can earn the loyalty of the Talent that we, after all, make our livings from - then we will be able to retain this Talent longer.

And then we will be successful.


Post a Comment

<< Home