CAUTION: A slowing economy doesn’t release top talent

Today’s post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member John Frehse.Here he discusses why a slowing economy doesn’t release top talent for you.

Talented employees are a precious resource. The Container Store has a famous mantra: Three good employees are equal to one great employee. I agree with them. Great employees contribute more, promote a positive culture, and drive extreme results. Unfortunately, they are also becoming harder and harder to find.

The problem with talented employees is that they are always in demand. As global markets retract, the need for talent may actually increase as companies require a higher level of performance from fewer employees. This may cause the supply of available great employees to shrink, creating wage pressures and trapped revenue for those that cannot function without them.

Great employees are dedicated and rarely available in the free market for hire. They must be lured away from companies that place a high value on them. When negative market trends appear, they are the last to be considered for layoff. What does happen is medium to low performing employees become greater in supply and this does not improve hiring situations for companies in need of talent.

Challenges upskilling and large skills gaps are already clearly defined in areas such as manufacturing and technology, but this may only get worse.

It would be an incredible advantage if your company was better than the rest of the marketplace at identifying and hiring talent. As technology catches up with the marketplace for great employees, it has become easier to identify talented employees (and to hire them away from companies who do not fully appreciate them). Visibility into individual employee thought leadership, project work, and general accomplishments is on display on LinkedIn and other platforms, and more hourly employees are participating than ever before.

Because of sites like Glassdoor and social media in general, talented employees also have more visibility into the true culture of companies in their field of interest than they ever have before. It is easier to identify the great companies but also the underperformers. This visibility into areas of compensation, culture, and total rewards is allowing employees to find the right employer. Companies talking the talk but not walking the walk are getting punished both on social media and business sites. Transparency is allowing talented workers a job mobility they have not always enjoyed. This will only increase as technology improves this visibility into the truth.

So, what can be done? The first step is to look within your own company and be honest about the culture. Too many organizations suffer from the Pollyanna effect. This is when companies ignore realities and refuse to discuss internal challenges (which all companies have). Instead, they promote a false narrative about how everything is perfect. No company is without challenges, and employees know the truth. Not addressing this truth perpetuates a broken culture and this will inevitably spill out into public view.

2 thoughts on “CAUTION: A slowing economy doesn’t release top talent

  1. Well said, John. With the economy surging as long as it has been, people forget the dark side of downturns. Your strongest contributors are the ones you fight to keep. And presented with other voices, they only stay if you’ve you’ve built a foundation of trust.

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