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Hanging on to top talent in a growing economy: It comes down to two words


The economic crisis we’ve gone through has distorted the workforce marketplace.  There has been a lot of evaluation of resources, ROI, utilization and efficiency — all good things which often are not thought out during good economic times.  A trimming of the hedge, more often than not, is good for the long term. 

On the other hand, sometimes those cuts have meant the downsizing of entire divisions or business  closings where the good talent went out with the not so good talent.  Thousands of very qualified professionals with promising careers found themselves accepting jobs for which they were clearly overqualified. Some had to downplay their accomplishments in order to find a “survival”job. 

This has created a brain heaven for a lot of employers.  They have been able to attract talent that either they would not normally have been able to attract, as is the case with smaller businesses, or were able to afford talent they normally would not be able to afford.  In addition, many employees are still  thinking twice before changing a job that has some degree of security  to purse a dream of career progression no matter how good the potential may be. They rightly fear that the first in will be the first out should the uncertain economy turn sour again.

Of course, true talent will shine no matter the position they find themselves in. They know instinctively that it is not what you do that matters but how you do it, what you learn from it. They are able to turn most circumstances into an opportunity. 

So for now companies are getting top talent for relatively low cost. But what happens when the economy stabilizes and the job market recovers and starts to grow?  What will happen to that talent which employers have been getting used to benefiting from?  Will they become a flight risk and a brain drain from their operations?

For smaller more entrepreneurial environments it will, in my opinion, come down to leadership and mentorship from the owners.   Top talent in my experience has a great need to grow, to spread their wings, to challenge themselves out of their comfort zone.  It is not just about pay.  As business picks up you could offer your top talent more money but most of the time unless the intellectual stimulation is there, money alone will not be enough.  The opportunity to significantly have an active role in the prosperity of the business, by making sure opportunities are created for meaningful contribution and appreciation along with a timely match up of their compensation to that of the market place, can be a perfect opportunity for top talent to continue developing and have a reason to stay in smaller/entrepreneurial environments.  After all, this environment usually provides a greater circle of influence and a wider range of exposure and thus a greater possibility to learn than would be the case with bigger organizations.

For bigger organizations, the key to retaining top talent at perhaps still lower than historical earning potential comes down to leverage.  What does your company and/or brand offer that would make up for a lesser earning potential?  It is sometimes harder for top talent to move up from one pay scale to the next in larger organizations, but there are clear non-monetary benefits that can make a huge difference such as the ability to telecommute, the ability for educational advancement with subsidized career development, and competitive benefits.   Sometimes by making those benefits flexible and customizable —  flexible hours, a brand’s social responsibility, and industry reputation to name a few – is the way to retain top talent.

Identifying and retaining your top talent, your talent capital, should be a strategic priority as important as all other forms of capital such as machinery or working capital.

Leadership and leverage are my two top words, along with respect and significance, for making sure top talent not only feels appreciated but has a reason to stay.

  A paycheck alone will not do it for true top performers, at least not in the long term.

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Carolina Billings

Carolina Billings

Carolina M. Billings is an executive with 15+ year’s leadership experience in the fields of Business Development, Human Resources and Finance. As CFO-CHRO of a multi-million business conglomerate, she performs a truly interdisciplinary role within a portfolio of diverse industries ranging from Supply Chain, Logistics & Distribution, Wealth Management, Furniture Import, Sales & Distribution as well as Interior Design. She champions leadership initiatives as well as empowering and coaching/mentoring others to lead. Developing a hybrid of Finance and Human Resources has enable her to become leading business partner. Her great ability to influence and engage others in the pursuit of goals and objectives makes her a true innovator and change agent. Carolina is currently pursuing her Masters in Interdisciplinary studies with Royal Roads University, She holds Graduate Certificates from Cornell University and Queen’s University in the fields of Change Management and Leadership. She is a Co-Active Professional coach currently doing her practicum towards Certification with ICF. She holds a CHRL designation and a High Honor’s HRM Graduate Certificate. Carolina is the founder of Big Fish Coaching a private practice specializing in personal leadership, career coaching, conflict resolutions and life change management. www.bigfishcoaching.com
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