Fat Smoker principles: Update on the war for talent
post # 437 — September 25, 2007 — a Managing, Strategy and the Fat Smoker post
Yesterday’s WSJ had a great column by Carol Hymowitz entitled” “Best Way to Save: Analyze Why Talent Is Going Out The Door”.
The lessons weren’t new: turnover costs a lot; people quit because they don’t feel well treated by those immediately above them; people seek opportunities to learn and grow; you should analyze who’s leaving and why.
The fact that this wisdom is not new doesn’t detract from its truth, but it does bring us back to the challenge of why organizations don’t act on it. If we know there’s a shortage of talent, why haven’t we changed as much as we know we should in adapting to that marketplace reality?
In my consulting work, this is a common topic. A few themes tend to emerge:
a) It’s still true that professional organizations are trying to attract, motivate and retain those they recruit through “add-on” programs like HR, flex-time, paying people more, etc. These are all good ideas, but none of them get to the core of actually improving how people are managed day to day by senior people.
b) Senior people feel they are still subject to the same measures and systems as before (ie a focus on revenues and client service) and good people management, in spite of what firms say to them, is still a weak thrid priority.
c) What is more, senior people continue to avoid and even resent the need to “manage” more. They weren’t mentored, coached or supervised well on THEIR way up the ladder, and they haven’t really internalized the need to treat the next generation differently.
d) There is a widespread misunderstanding that good management means being “soft.” In fact, holding on to the best and the brightest is NOT about making the firm less demanding: it is about making sure that the organization provides fast-track learning opportunties and (as Ms. Hymowitz pointed out) opportunities for people to take on lots of extra responsibility early. That DOESN’T challenge the business model of the firm (as some senior people fear) but it DOES challenge the security of the senior people. It means they must be willing to delegate more, and keep moving on to new things themselves, so that they are not the bottleneck to achievement.
I find that discussing point (d) is difficult, but is the key to bringing about real changes of behavior in managing people.