We are in the midst of one of the strongest economic expansions in history. So, why are we all so anxious? Perhaps, as my friend, Brian Hickey of Morgan Stanley cautions, “I’m always looking for the single snowflake that could cause the avalanche.”
The “noise” comes from all parts of the world – ideological battles between the president and congress, military confrontations, economic upheavals, and failures of social safety nets are 24/7 emotional and intellectual drains. As a business leader, it makes it difficult, if not impossible, to have confidence in short- or long-term strategies.
At times like this, the healthiest approach is to focus on things we can control.
It is important to think about employment trends and employee attitudes. Having observed various economic cycles during the last 20 years, most of us are now experiencing the first “full employment economy.” Senior executives are developing an understanding of how organizations of the future will succeed.
When talent is scarce, the development of human capital is a strategic imperative. Your company faces significant risks if you aren’t factoring in the following implications:
- Employees who are not even looking for a new job are being plucked out of organizations by search firms and competitors
- Targets are typically your top performers at senior leadership levels who influence short- and long-term business results
- Company loyalty is rare among Millennials and GenX’rs unless you give them a reason to fully engage in your company’s mission and purpose
- Your most important role is to engage, retain and develop your people
How to Lead in a Full Economy
CEO’s are responsible not only for attracting top talent, but also in finding ways to retain them. This is no longer the job of HR leaders. The entire senior management team should be measured — and held accountable for — building an organization and a culture that makes people want to be part of it.
Increasing employee engagement and loyalty isn’t easy. Today’s workforce is seeking more flexibility and independence. They want a sense of purpose and meaning. They want to be recognized. They want to make an impact. Taking a fresh look at policies can go a long way. Job-hopping and high turnover are typical hallmarks of leaders who are unwilling or unable to accommodate this new breed of worker.
How to Work in a Full Employment Economy
When I coach clients, they often ask questions about how best to navigate this environment. It can be tricky. Although they are perfectly happy where they are, I caution them to continue to build their networks and return calls to executive recruiters. You are in a position of strength when you have a job, but times and circumstances will change. Everyone will face a career transition sometime in the future, and these relationships will be invaluable. And that is when you should call us to be your transition partner.
Return that call from the recruiter, learn more about what he or she is looking for and consider taking the interview. Even if the role isn’t right for you, be a source and recommend someone else in your network. This simple, courteous, and thoughtful response will serve you well when you most need it. Having these important relationships in place will give you a huge leg up on competition when everyone else is scrambling to stand out with search firms when the economy turns downward.
How to Find Work in a Full Economy
Executives in the midst of a career transition actually benefit from a full employment economy but only if they are visible, engaged, informed, and relevant. Explore civic and other volunteer leadership roles. Attend workshops and seminars. Get in leadership shape. Write a LinkedIn blog to position yourself as a thought leader. We have learned that people on the sidelines have extraordinary insight into what is really happening in an industry because they are out of the day-to-day fray and can be more objective. When traditional candidates are difficult to find, companies are much more open to hiring mature, experienced executives who know what they are doing.
As an executive coach and expert in executive career transition, staying sharp and maintaining one’s edge is more than an occasional effort; it must be a disciplined lifestyle.