THINKPIECE: In today's job market, companies must focus on keeping,not seeking, talent

In the go-go 90's, the chase for talented workers saw companies

diligently upgrading their compensation packages, programs and perks in

order to attract and keep stars. But with layoffs and fierce

cost-cutting on the rise, coupled with the market's emphasis on

efficiency and profits, one could argue the pendulum is swinging back

towards employers.

But even if we're witnessing a power shift, there are several reasons

why things will never return to the days when employers called all the


Most under-30 workers only know one way of operating. They will continue

to thrive in a transient work environment where free agency is the norm

and job changes are taken for granted - even encouraged. Notwithstanding

a change in the economic and employment climate, these young workers

will never exhibit the nesting behavior prevalent in previous


And despite all the talk of recession and job cuts, unemployment is

still at historically low levels, and many companies still face a

shortage of talented employees. As during the boom years, companies will

face the unfortunate reality that the best workers are typically the

most likely to jump ship.

Even companies making massive work force cuts, such as General Electric,

will have to focus more than ever on their remaining employees - working

to foster morale and commitment so that the people who are left remain

focused, engaged and productive.

Finally, intellectual capital will continue to be a driving force in the

emerging economy, where people and ideas remain key assets for many


Regardless of what happens to the economy, it's unlikely that the

employee/employer pact will return to the pre-boom era of 'company knows

best,' just as it's unlikely the business sector will go back to the

slower, more predictable days pre-dating the emergence of the Internet.

In fact, as the economy continues to struggle, solid employee relations

will play a key role in a company's overall success.

To succeed, companies must sustain - or even expand - their efforts to

engage workers through proactive, two-way communication and progressive

employee programs and policies.

As companies reduce their work forces, their focus must shift from

hiring new people to retaining key players. It is precisely during

periods of economic turmoil that companies should expand their focus on

employees and seek to keep their top performers by promoting

progressive, worker-friendly programs and policies.

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