Never Steal Anything Small


August 2000

Never Steal Anything Small


“The Hiring Crisis: How to find, keep and motivate employees in the new economy-and steal the best ones from your competitors,” Kayte Vanscoy, Smart Business for the New Economy, June 12, 2000.

It is no surprise to managers that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find qualified talent. As baby boomers leave the high-tech job market, they also leave behind more jobs than there are Gen-Xers ready to fill them. Complicating matters further is a new emerging work ethic that is changing how talent is recruited and how talent is retained.

Due, in part, to downsizing, workers today do not feel the sense of loyalty they once did. Sixty-six percent of college students polled by Challenger, Gray, & Christmas, an outplacement firm, report that they expect to be in their first job for two years or less and view their first job as a stepping stone to a better job.

Additionally, many workers are now willing to take bigger risks with less established companies in the hopes that they will not only get into a desirable work environment but also earn big money with stock options. Many, though, are finding that the long hours and uncertain benefits in understaffed dot coms is not what they expected and are returning to larger companies or starting their own businesses.

As more workers change jobs, the stigma once associated with frequent job changes is going away, and retaining talented workers becomes an issue. Many companies are reorganizing to provide today’s workers’ ideal environment. The key to attracting and retaining this new workforce seems to be flexibility and a flat organizational structure. Workers are looking for flexible work hours, the ability to telecommute, and an organizational structure where they are equal in stature to those with whom they work. As Bruce Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X, put it:

It’s not about `Let’s be cool and nice to people’ and `Let’s make the workplace really interesting’. This is strictly business. What were soft issues are now core business issues, and companies with only one way to get the work done can’t get work done anymore. (Vanscoy, page 97)

This article is full of interesting views from companies as diverse as Reader’s Digest, IBM, and McKinsey and Company. Vanscovy also provides excellent snippets from several books, studies, and private reports. For example, in the book Generations at Work: Managing the Clash of Veterans, Boomers, Xers, and Nexters in Your Workplace, Claire Raines provides a “Top 10 Employer Don’ts” list, which ends with number 1: micromanaging.

Vanscovy also quotes extensively from Tulgan, author of Managing Generation X, on the top reasons why employees leave and how to turn this challenge into an opportunity. A hint here-the top reason is conflict with a manger. Perhaps a pattern is emerging? A pattern predicted by a 1998 McKinsey and Company report that stated “You can win the war for talent, but first you must elevate talent management to a burning corporate priority.”

Southwest Airlines’ vice president for human resources also points out that money is never enough, she says “Buying the talent and paying whatever it takes never works. They never stay.” Vanscovy underscores this point by including the results of a Society for Human Resource Management Benefits Survey.

This survey assumed that companies would offer health benefits, 401(k), and paid vacation; it then asked respondents to list the most important perks. Professional development topped the list at 94 percent, which goes to the heart of a population of workers who see themselves almost as contractors. Relocation benefits (68 percent), dependent-care, flexible spending account (64 percent), casual-dress days (58 percent), and flextime (53 percent) round out the top five.

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