News broke this week that US unemployment reached a new low in April, falling to 3.6 percent. Who would have thought, in October of 2009 when unemployment peaked at 10 percent, that we’d ever see this sort of robust hiring?
All I can say is that 2009 was bleak for a lot of people, and it left a lot of scars.
I still see those scars in some organizations who continue policies and approaches they put into place then.
But what got you there won’t get you where you need to go. In light of what is, in fact, nearly functional full-employment for professionals, most organizations have to get smarter on how they treat their people.
In 2009, it seemed like there were forty or fifty out-of-work people in line for every job available. They would take anything – anything! – to keep themselves afloat, and some took significant pay cuts. Today, the unemployment rate tells us that there are too few people for the available jobs, so the surefire way to attract talent is to do everything you can do to take care of them.
This means your human resources function has to be on the ball and in the game. They have to focus on finding talent who will not be looking, and they have to be empowered to make solid, significant offers to the right people.
Your HR team also has to advocate for people who are doing really well in their jobs within the organization. If you don’t promote, grow and reward your top performers, you will lose them to an organization that will.
Where I live, Washington, DC, Amazon is coming into the market as an employer. They have committed to creating 25,000 new jobs at an average salary of $150,000. Average. This will put tremendous pressure on other employers in the area to up their game.
Imagine: You’ve got a great IT manager on your team who makes everything run smoothly. But you’ve held back raises for two years and routinely asked her to work on weekends and evenings when things get hairy. That talented woman? If she lives in the DC area, she’s already sent her resume to Amazon because she knows she’ll make more money doing more interesting work. And if she lives somewhere else, she might be making a plan to move.
She leaves – who are you going to find to replace her? It’s not going to be easy since there aren’t forty or fifty people in line for that opening, trust me. If you wait to see what resumes you collect from your online posting, there might be one. Who’s been out of work off and on for their entire career, and not entirely an ideal candidate.
When I raise this issue with some leaders, they tell me that their team is so happy and so committed to mission that their people would never leave. Never! In a million years.
Oh, but they will. For more pay, more opportunity, saner working hours, better bosses and more interesting work.
I’m already seeing it in my own clients.
So, to survive – I’m not even talking about thriving here – organizations have to begin to futureproof.
- Compensate people fairly. Give raises. Give bonuses. Extend raises and bonuses beyond the C-suite to every single person within the organization.
- Open up hiring to people who don’t look like you and don’t think like you. Diversity and inclusion leads to innovation. Innovation leads to success.
- Stop paying your people for 40 hour workweeks and asking them to put in 60 hour workweeks. Those people will be among the first to leave.
- Focus on creating an outstanding HR function within your organization, one that’s focused less on admin and more on strategy, recruitment and retention.
- Jettison bad bosses. You know who they are – you simply lack the will to either manage them to better behavior or let them go. Truth is, either they go or everyone else will.
- Provide professional development for junior people in the organization. Because once you fire the bad bosses, you’ll need someone good to step in and do a great job.
- Say thank you. The vast majority of working professionals want their sacrifices – the missed family events, the crunch times, the difficult choices – to matter. When you see commitment in your team, acknowledge it and express your gratitude. It goes a long way toward creating a cohesive team.
There are particular challenges managing organizations when there is functional full-employment. In many ways, the Great Recession created an employers market where salaries could be trimmed and overhead reduced.
Those days are gone.
Today, right now, it’s a talented and skilled candidates market. Are you prepared to everything you can to manage that reality?