In we have an ongoing debate on the issue of retaining today’s talent (we call them Bright Young Things). Some of us say you can (although not like it used to be) and some of us say you can’t. I belong to the ‘you can’t’ lobby. I do feel like I’m outnumbered, because when I look at who’s writing what, inside and outside of our business, they’re mostly taking a ‘you can’ stand, albeit differently to how it was done before.
I could lose some friends here (both inside and out) but I think that any consultant that says it can be done can’t be trusted, because they’ve been hired based on the fact that they say ‚we can help retain your talent that’s leaking through all the holes that you just don’t seem to be able to patch.‛ Right now there’s an opportunity a mile wide for any consultant with an answer, to walk through and generate enormous fees. Let’s face it, losing your talent is hurting more and more each and every day.

We can almost blame some of the pain on the success of authors/researchers like Jim Collins and Jerry Porras of ‘Built to Last’ fame. They discovered that companies that were ‘built to last’ promoted their leaders from within. In fact their evidence was overwhelming in favour of that type of strategy. Their book (Built to Last) was a global hit and we all bought into it big time. Everyone purchased several copies for all of their top people, and they even had visioning retreats, where they hired expensive consultants to create strategies to be implemented post-haste. But it’s a strategy that doesn’t work when the people you ear-marked for promotion just left, and those that are hanging around are the one’s you were hoping would leave through a process of natural attrition.
So why do I say ‘you can’t’? It’s really very simple. The rules of the game have changed. We quickly forget, mostly due to some incomplete knowledge of history, that the old game centered around the transaction of security for loyalty. Companies of yesteryear were able to offer life-time employment and in return all they asked for was loyalty. In fact if you were considered one of the talented few 50 years ago, you didn’t have to keep your CV up to date. You didn’t even have to keep your CV. As long as you were loyal, towed the company line, turned in some reasonable performance, yada yada, you had a career path to retirement pretty much guaranteed.
But all that changed. Here is a short list of those changes:

  • During the 1990’s ‘Business Efficiency’ swept through the world and in its wake followed downsizing and rightsizing in every industry, through every level. No one was left untouched by the long reach of this new revolution.
  • The world got all global on us. Borders began to drop, and mobility increased. The notion of working anywhere in the world gained popularity, and young people (especially) began to try out this new way of operating. The cost of travel also started to drop (dramatically), and the number of flights available, as well as the number of destinations increased enormously.
  • Competition increased and the demand for talent grew to new heights.
  • Today’s talent has entered a business environment where they know that security isn’t found within a business structure. So they’re looking after themselves in a manner not encountered before.
  • Even ‘Built to Last’ devotes a chapter to the ‘New Economy’ where they outline it as:
    • Freedom and self-direction in your work
    • Purpose and contribution through your work
    • Wealth creation by your work
    • A new type of workplace for your work ( addition)

The challenge all businesses face today is what to do with their Bright Young Things? They can’t look at them through the lens of the old paradigm. The sooner they get their mind around the new environment/economy the better off they’re going to be. The questions that need to be asked have less to do with retention and more to do with ‘how to get the best out of who they have with them today?’.
There’s going to be a shake up in the way we put our businesses together. It’s like fax machines and e-mail 5-10 years ago. You knew you had to get one, it was just when you made the decision?
There are lots of items that need to be put onto the table for discussion. We need to re-look at what we’ve built our organizations on traditionally, and see what needs to be thrown out, what needs to be added, and what needs to be edited in order to journey into the future as a sustainable and successful company.
And for goodness sake, if you’re going to read the books written on what made companies and leaders successful historically, then realize that that’s exactly what they’re about‌ past success. New times, new environments, new employees and new customers call for reading about the new successes being discovered each and every day.
And if you’re struggling to find that sort of reading material, drop me an e-mail at [email protected] or check out our blog for book summaries.

TomorrowToday Global