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
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.