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New War on Talent

An Aberration of the Recession

The recession brought about dramatic changes in the traditional contract between employer and employee according to findings in the Global Workforce Study. The story released in March 2010 surveyed 20,000 employees.

Of the nearly 1,100 U.S. participants, job security ranked above on-the-job advancement. The survey indicated that the recession has prompted employers to lower expectations of career and retirement opportunities. Stability ranked number 1 on their list. The study also noted that the average expected age of retirement is 67; that is five years later than the expected retirement age elsewhere around the world.

The profound shift for both employees and employers alike is that this trend indicates that employees feel increasingly isolated in any support from securing health care, to managing their career, to planning a successful retirement. The sense of abandonment by corporate America and government permeates the workforce. Among U.S workers:

  • 40 percent said working for two or three organizations throughout their career is the most appealing career model.
  • 39 percent would prefer to be employed at one organization their entire work life.
  • 20 percent would prefer changing organizations whenever a better opportunity arrived.
  • 56 percent of the U.S. workers think that availability of jobs will not change significantly over the next 12 months.
  • 28 percent said there will be significantly fewer jobs available in the next 12 months.
  • 15 percent said there will be significantly more jobs available in the next 12 months.

Most U.S. workers want stability at a cost that was not considered a decade ago.

“People really do want to burrow in at the very time when employment has become much more contingent [on]… ‘if we can afford you, if the demand is there, and you continue to perform well then we want you here,’” Max Caldwell, a leader in the company’s talent and rewards business, told SHRM Online. “People have this instinct they want to hang onto their organization at the same time employers have demonstrated…that the fundamental contract is different.”

“In fact, 43 percent of U.S. workers think that they have to leave their organization to advance in their career, nearly the same percentage (44 percent) has no plans to leave.”

“Employees may be settling in for the ling haul, perhaps staying with an employer for decades,” the report found, representing a change for employer who have been talking about the “war for talent.”

It’s a different kind of war than what HR professionals and others have been talking about, Caldwell said, voicing his concern “that organizations are gearing up to fight the wrong war.”

Instead of a war to attract top talent, he said organizations should be waging a war to hold on to critical talent.

“People are tired; they are holding onto the organization in a sense because they feel risk averse. You have this recipe for a sort of stagnation and lack of motivation, and that to us is the new war on talent.”

The challenge is to engage and motivate this large group of people who are recession fatigued, he pointed out. Organizations need to create self-reliance among employees to have them take charge of their retirement and health benefits, and personal wellness, enhancing skills and advancement, he added.

Companies budget for training whether they have a trainer in house or if they outsource the work. The trend may develop that suits the company that includes access to programs or people who can mentor, help structure and monitor employees’ financial goals, retirement goals and life goals might very well be the companies that retain their best talent and through example and referral attract the best new talent.

At the end of the day it’s always about the dream. Companies that help employees keep their dreams alive keep those employees.