Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Worry be Happy

Well I have decreed to myself that I don't do jetlag. I've decided its mind over matter and I do mind any possibility of time zone fatigue limiting my ability to work effectively with us because the work we do together matters.

The trip to the US was great at many levels. I enjoyed the gig with such amazingly intelligent and enthusiastic people at Thomson Reuters. I revelled in the opportunity to see an extraordinary play on Broadway, Next To Normal which won its female lead Alice Ridley a Tony Award in 2009 (can you imagine a musical with the central theme being mental illness - extraordinary!) and I marvelled first hand at the glorious optimism of New Yorkers and their hopes for economic recovery. We might have imagined the only thing likely to have cheered up any New Yorker during this difficult economic period was the thought that Londoners did it even worse than they did. Yet there they are looking forward to the recovery they know must eventually come.

As always I was interested in what's hot and what's not. The corporate contacts I spoke with were planning for the future, continuing to invest heavily in leadership and specifically change leadership capability, spending big dollars on coaching and mentoring (with executives and other levels) and some innovative work around resilience which is the most prized commodity being talked around right now.

Some enlightened organisations are no longer waging the so-called competitive "war on talent" (i.e. ruthless pursuit of the most talented) but rather strategically building reputations as nurturers of talent to attract and retain as long as possible before other firms derive the benefit when the stars go somewhere else to shine. The difference in strategy from a marketing point of view is that bidding wars for the best reflect a so-called ‘push’ strategy. Developing a reputation such that the best and the brightest beat a path to your door is a subtle but important distinction and reflects a ‘pull’ strategy. A ‘pull’ strategy means we are less likely to "blow the salary cap" in being forced to pay exorbitant market rates for top people and can reduce costs in recruiting. In either case, depth of talent can create ‘social proof’ (see Robert Cialdini’s work on influence) for others contemplating joining the organisation.

How proactive or reactive is your organisation right now in responding to economic pressures? Have you built enough goodwill such that when things improve, your people will want to stay or will key staff fly the coop as soon as they feel they have an effective choice?