Last year, I wrote on our South African sister company’s blog about a looming talent exodus. Nothing has happened in the preceding twelve months to change my mind. The recession is going to last longer than I thought it would (at least in Europe and the USA), but what is going to start happening very soon is that your best and brightest staff are going to be receiving phone calls from head hunters. And they’re likely to leave.

We’ve been talking almost since the recession began about a talent exodus. Our view has been that as soon as the economy begins recovering and companies start hiring again, there is going to be a tidal wave of staff movement. It should be obvious why this will happen.

Firstly, people have been overworked, and often abused, by their employers during the downturn. Imagine, for example, what it must be like to work for BP, when your boss announced his retirement last year at age 53 and was given a £ 600,000 a year pension for the rest of his life. You will be paying for that pension out of your salary – which has not increased in two years – nor will you get a bonus this year.

Most other company examples are less extreme, but the same outcome exists – people are ready to look around at other options. The Baby Boomers don’t seem to have learnt anything during the recession – they’re still in it for themselves, and if you’re one of the foot soldiers or middle managers further down the organisation, you’re probably feeling pretty screwed over.

Secondly, when companies begin expanding and looking for new talent, they will not favour the currently unemployed. They will prefer to hire new staff from other companies, and they will not be constrained by industry boundaries either. So, your staff will be getting head hunter calls soon, and most will be willing to take the calls.

According to last year’s Deloitte LLP’s fourth annual Ethics & Workplace Survey, one-third of employed Americans plan to look for a new job when the economy gets better. Of this group of respondents, 48% cite a loss of trust in their employer and 46% say that a lack of transparent communication from their company’s leadership are their reasons for looking for new employment at the end of the recession.

2011 surveys by Towers Watson and Blessing White provide similar insights.

It’s not too late to do something about this now! But you need to start now. And you need to recognise that new approaches will be required. This issue should be top priority and the head of every management agenda for the next year! If it’s not on your leader’s radar, your company is in big trouble.

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