One of the best litmus tests in the recruiting and staffing world as to whether or not we are in "recovery" is the number of referrals people send our way. This number has been on a very steady increase for the past 5 weeks, at least. Granted, there are a number of indicators of a job market recovery, but this one is certainly near the very top of the list.
Primarily because when people start to send you their friends names and numbers and not only their own, it shows a degree of confidence that you will be able to find them AND their friend a job - this doesn't happen when the market is "lean". During the lean times people are more apt to send you their resume only as they fend for themselves.
Secondly, hiring is heating up and many companies are hiring in quantity. People are looking for work and letting their friends know that they are looking. In other words, people are less scared to publicize that they are interested in looking around.
Finally, I contend that people are ready for more of a challenge and more opportunity and many companies have yet to make the move find themselves in the unfortunate predicament of backfilling spots that have been occupied for years. In these cases, when one tenured employee leaves, they are bombarded on their way out the door with requests from others who want them to "take me with you!"
This market is getting better and we are grateful for the amount of referrals. We all want those to keep coming as it can only mean a positive recovery is in the works!
I asked someone I have known for many years to articulate a recent conversation we had for my blog. He was kind enough to oblige and here are his thoughts.
Shoulda been my name
'Cause you can look right through me
Walk right by me
And never know I'm there...”
Anyone who has seen the musical Chicago will remember these lyrics and the character of Amos Hart, Roxie’s nebbish husband, who sang the song. You, too, can achieve a Mister Cellophane persona without any substantive action on your part. All it takes is that you get terminated from your job.
Service and product suppliers who used to beg for face time to tell you how they could save you millions and who tried every imaginable trick to get on your calendar now cannot find your number to call you back. They promise to get together for coffee when their “schedule frees up” which, apparently, never happens. I understand that their business is selling and now I have no budget with which to buy, but maintaining the relationship for future business should also be a priority.
Business colleagues who shared professional panels and groups with you now can’t send an email or make an introduction on your behalf.
A colleague was a LinkedIn first connection to the internal recruiter at a company that had posted a position I was interested in pursuing. Now, this guy and I weren’t good friends, but we have worked on a very large project together so I thought that he might be comfortable providing an introduction to the recruiter. I emailed him and asked for assistance and when he replied that he would be glad to help I provided him with an introductory bio to include in his email to the recruiter. At that point, he fell off the face of the earth and was never heard of again. That’s the only possible explanation. Follow up emails to him were ignored.
Recently an opportunity came up at a great company where I had five quality connections to the senior team. FIVE. You know where this is going. Four of the five promised to intercede on my behalf and then went dark. They may have done something; maybe not. I have no way of knowing. The fifth, the CIO of a large corporation who had been in a CIO group with me never responded to my emails. These were all professional colleagues I had worked with and broken bread with and I was sure to provide each one with an out; every email included “if you are comfortable doing so (and it is OK if you are not)…” I would have been fine for them to come back and pass on the request. I’ve done so with others when my connection to the target wasn’t close or recent.
Of course, there are exceptions to this. But the fact that they are exceptions proves the point. I have had some serious above-the-call-of-duty assistance from people – past suppliers, recruiters and colleagues – and I thank them profusely each time. I know how easy it is NOT to help and so appreciate it every time they take their valuable time to try to help.
What turns an unemployed executive into a leper? Are these colleagues simply bottom-dwelling scum-sucking pigs? No. Well, maybe one or two, but the rest are good, well- meaning people who for one reason or another either drop the relationship completely or fail to help after promising to do so. I understand that their job isn’t to find me a job. I understand that some people believe that unemployment is contagious. I understand that unless you have been in my shoes you may not fathom the urgency or importance to me of that meeting or that email.
There is a simple solution to this. Be honest. If you don’t want to help or can’t help on a particular opportunity, say so. If you say that you are going to help, do so. It isn’t complicated. And, as stated earlier, there will be no hard feelings if you are unable to help. However, if you fall into the category of those people to whom I have become Mr. Cellophane, I have a very good and long memory.
My own thoughts are this. I come up short daily with my candidates – as hard as I may try, there aren’t enough hours in the day to follow-up with everyone who needs to be followed up with. There is, however, one discussion that I don’t fear having with people and that goes something like this – “I am not your best resource, but am happy to be here if you have any questions or if you see something out there I might be able to help you with. At this stage, though, I would be wasting your time and mine by saying that I can help you.” We all know people like the gentleman who shared this story with me – we all deserve the respect of knowing where we stand.
As we all know, the job market in the technology industry was seriously hurt by the economic collapse. When the economy sank into recession, many undercapitalized technology companies went bankrupt, and many businesses that did survive the downturn stopped hiring. For a short time, technology companies regained bargaining power over potential employees, who were desperate to find (or keep) any available work.
Times change quickly in the technology world. Although many industries are still struggling to recover from the effects of the weak economy, technology companies are growing rapidly again. With many companies flush with cash, highly valued employees are beginning to receive considerable attention from businesses that are seeking to hire top talent. Oftentimes, this involves making generous offers to people who are already employed elsewhere.
As the economy continues to improve, more companies are being put in the awkward position of making a counteroffer to employees who have received an offer from a competitor. Even technology giants are not immune from this trend; in recent years, Google has been forced to defend its turf against primary “talent competitors” like Facebook and LinkedIn, both of whom actively recruit each other’s employees. In one shocking instance, Google gave one of its engineers $3.5 million in stock to keep him from accepting a job offer from Facebook.
If a $200 billion company like Google must go to such lengths to retain its talent, it would seem as if smaller technology companies would have little hope of keeping their top employees from jumping ship. Even worse, the demand for technology workers is only expected to increase as the decade progresses: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, technology companies will increase their hiring of information technology workers by more than 30 percent over the next five years. If this prediction comes to fruition, counteroffers may become even more common in the future.
However, it is important for technology companies to understand that counteroffers are generally not a good way to retain prized employees. Although companies like Google have the resources to retain 80 percent of their employees who receive another offer, smaller companies are not so lucky. In fact, some studies show that upwards of 80 percent of employees who accepted a counteroffer still left the company within a year.
Therefore, counteroffers are often a counterproductive strategy for employers. Not only do counteroffers fail to keep a company's best employees from leaving, but they will also encourage other employees to seek out job opportunities in order to extort more benefits from their current employer. As a general rule, employers should avoid making counteroffers to their employees and employees should avoid accepting them. Everybody ultimately loses.
Business owners often agonize over the decision to share news with employees, especially when it may have a negative impact on the company. Believing it is their duty to protect the team, managers may try to act as a buffer against information that can discourage productivity. Yet rampant rumors, whether they are true or false, always do more damage than the candid truth because trust is born out of honesty. As a result, transparency is critical if team members are to feel valued and remain invested in the future of the company.
While managers may not want to jeopardize the future of the business, it is important to realize the livelihood of each employee is in your hands. Employees have a right to know about sensitive situations that may affect their employment status. An impending problem may be just the motivation employees need to work more intensely, purposefully and productively, which can dig a company out of a temporary hole. As a recruiter, I hear employees frequently say that "the company is doing so great, but I am seeing none of those rewards" or the flip side of "I sense that they aren't telling us everything and I need to prepare for the worst".
Although frequent, open and honest communication with employees is essential to success, managers must be careful about oversharing. They can become trapped by expectations that every detail will be shared with each breaking development. Unless specifically seeking feedback on how to move forward, information should only be disclosed once a documented plan of action is devised.
When information is released, it must be tailored to the audience. Top management will necessarily receive a detailed report outlining the problem, while employees may only get a condensed summary. C-level executives will be involved in crafting the strategic plan, while middle managers may lead team brainstorming sessions to identify supporting goals for the new corporate objectives.
Realize that not all employees handle information the same. Age, personality, family status and culture play enormous roles in how news is received. Although most employees appreciate open communication, some can interpret good news to mean they are not receiving their due share. Others may decide bad news means it is time to update their resumes. This may cause the company to lose talent at a crucial time when everyone is needed to save the company.
Strong businesses are created through honest communication, which means telling the truth is the best policy. When details are not shared, the company looks like it is hiding something. Yet negative news has the power to derail productivity. Striking the right balance is critical to keeping a team motivated and empowered. I contend that in 2012, being intentional about the way we communicate will help us lead through what is going to be a strong uptick and retain our best and brightest employees.
As the economy continues to come back with as much gusto as it is, our customer's continue to be challenged by retention. We don't ever solicit our own customer's employees, of course, but when we are recruiting from elsewhere, we certainly know what makes someone easier to pull away from their current employer. As mentioned in an earlier post, we are seeing counter offers (rarely, if ever, successful), multiple offers and employees being referred in to new companies after their former teammates have joined the new firm as well.
Lots of things can lead to managers getting "comfortable" with the thought that their employees won't leave them. Here are just a handful of things to think about when it comes to retaining the best on your team.
- The work has to be challenging, not easy, boring or done in 4 hours of an 8 hour work day. Most of the people you want to keep, but who are the hardest to retain are those who are always asking for more to do. Find more for them to do or they will.
- Don’t start believing that there aren't enough options out there and get comfortable with the thought that even if an employee starts looking, their chances of finding something are slim. Not the case! There are lots of tech jobs for highly qualified people - the ones for the people you don't want to lose.
- The thought process of, “We made it through the worst economy ever, how could they leave now?” is not your best bet. If your current employees experienced any layoffs, pay adjustments or bonus rollbacks during the “worst economy” that have yet to be reinstated or explained, you risk losing people because they have yet to be made whole. Their loyalty to you will be dictated by yours to them (and others).
- Offering a “hands-off” management style isn’t always what employees want. Not every employee is built the same. Many employees want to have a more hands-on approach to feel they are wanted and to know they are delivering on the expectations of their manager.
At the end of the day the best approach that anyone can suggest is to ask your employees what will keep them there. When you can establish the communication with your employees that gives them a say in their current role and the future of not only their role, but that of the company, it should go a long way toward retaining them.