Like a lot of you, I constantly get emails from search professionals asking for help in locating talent. I always help because you just never know.
This week I got a note about a Vice President for Learning & Development role that was located in the New York City metro area. I immediately thought of two professionals I have known for years. One of them has been with his company for over 10 years. The other was just starting her assignment as VP as I was leaving New York to come to Saudi Arabia over a year ago.
I contacted them both in the hope that they knew of someone in their circles who could help. I assumed that they were gainfully employed but may know of someone in their network.
Their notes back to me came like a slow drip.
What’s going on?
The first was from the one with the long tenure. He was definitely interested because he had been laid off. This was from a man who was known throughout the industry as a top L&D person. To say the least, I was shocked. I did not get into the “whys,” but told him to be sure and mention my name and that I would also follow-up to make sure he gets a good look for the position.
This morning I got up and there was the other response, and yes, she too had been let go as well as the majority of her department. It was one year in, one year out.
What is going on?
I’m the ultimate corporate guy, but I try to tell everyone that job longevity is over. You will never retire, as in days gone by, after multiple years of service.
Not only that, once you are back out on the street the chances are that you might never rise to that perch you used to have ever again. I know people who were let go during the 2008 economic crisis who still have not found their way back to work. The ones that did land, in some cases, were laid off again.
The perch vs the nest
As Millennials and other in the workplace watch from the sidelines, whether it be their parents or family members, we all know of people who have had their lives upended because of corporate decisions.
The dynamics of a corporate career are over and done with. Organizations have created a climate that no one feels safe in anymore. No one can (or should) develop that smug attitude and fall into the comfort zone.
We have also created a workforce that has no trust in anything anymore. We have created a workforce that must be a lot more agile in the way that they look at their current job or career.
I have always envisioned that talented workers will become like ball players. When the time comes, they will go to the highest bidder and that winning bid may not have money as the most important factor. They will be able to shop their services around the industry as free agents. In short, they will not be looking for a nest but will be trying to find a perch.
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Birds that hunt position themselves on a perch to overlook their surroundings. They are constantly vigilant and always on the lookout for their next “opportunity.”
What signal are you emitting?
Organizations will always be making adjustments to their workforce. However, they should be well aware that every time these “corrections” are made, they emit a silent signal to all parties that they have miscalculated, worked the wrong strategy, misread the tea leaves, etc.
With these signals, they do not deliver a message about a great place to work. With these signals, they do not tout that they are a winning organization.
In this time of constant change, we all know that adjustments will have to be made. We also are aware that no one can see inside the crystal ball. However, let it be known that as we enter into these discussions about reductions, layoffs, realignment or whatever you decide to call it, the signals that get delivered to the workforce will begin as the announcement is made.
I recently had a discussion with a CFO colleague at a company I worked at as we were entering this economic “turbulence,” and he told me that “we are in good shape, and we have a horde of cash because we did not overspend when the trough was full.”
This comment reminds me of my father, who was a wealthy guy, but never owned a credit card. He just did not understand why people would use them. “If you don’t have the money, save for it and then buy it,” he said. While that may sound like a dated strategy, it may be one that allows you to make a correction and not at the expense of your future and current workforce.
Surviving a rainy day
Lots of organizations have tenuous finances and can’t survive a rainy day, so the first reaction they have is to let people go. While that may be an option, it should be the last one on the list. Once your brand gets sullied, it takes a hell of a lot of polish to restore it.
My suggestion is to take two things into consideration as the wind rises and you have to adjust the sails: focus on your message and on your personal brand. They are both co-joined for eternity.