• Sherry

Did You Say, “You STILL Think People are Replaceable?”

Have you met leaders who secretly believe that talent is replaceable but they don’t say it out loud?

I recently met with two different company executives who shared that given the turnover they see with early careerists, it leaves them no choice but to accept the notion that even more talent will be needed. I think they believe people are replaceable. If this troubles you as much as it troubles me, then read on. It seems the growing demands and pressure on managers today along with all of the real distractions that occur limits time in communicating and developing others.

Are people really expendable at a time when the human side of business has never been more essential to personal and economic success? The Work Institute and the World Economic Forum (Future of Jobs Report) share revealing data on the growing scarcity of high demand jobs and the talent supply gaps that are growing in other functions as well. This is not a new story. Even if you believe that augmenting our work with robots will save us from the human talent demand crunch, there is a growing need for early career and skilled professionals.


Over the past 20 years, I grew our small yet mighty search team to remain competitive and be forward looking as client needs changed. I had my share of up at night worries about having the right people with the right skills at the right time for our clients. Early on we made a commitment to bring in people who had a passion for recruiting and wanted to learn this work. It required development. In that process, I knew that if someone decided to go off and start a new chapter somewhere else with the foundation we provided, I would celebrate them rather than bemoan the loss. Kate Kjeell, my Managing Director and I understood what it meant to value our employees and really listen to what was important to them.


Sometimes we hit the bullseye and other times we didn’t. But every time, we valued the person and respected their decisions. If we had not developed the two way dialogue with talent, we would have lost the race and them as well. Today it takes focus to understand us humans.


I was fortunate to work for great humans who were role models for valuing people. I worked for American Hospital Supply (AHSC) and Baxter – learning from Tony Rucci, now Professor at Ohio State and being influenced by Harry Kraemer, CEO at Baxter and now professor at Kellogg Graduate School of Management. Tony wrote the Harvard business case linking shareholder value to customer satisfaction.


Harry wrote a great book, From Values to Action. He understood about doing the right thing – being a values-based leader who self-reflects and invests in people.


In Harry’s book, he says, “the better your team functions, the better you perform”. If you have a reputation for developing others, the best people want to work for you. From my first day at AHSC through my ten years there, it was clear that the culture valued learning, doing, and being a role-model for early careerists. I was one of those early career folks. I was part of the HR organization and we were accountable for guiding our clients in growing a talent pipeline and reporting on it quarterly. It was serious business.


The puzzle piece that is most fascinating to me today is how do we bring new, smart and curious talent into our companies and ensure they flourish?


Here are my top five ideas:


1) Grow yourself first – Commit to your own development and create a learning plan for you. Who were the greatest influences for you on how you lead? In what situations did you find the most fulfilment in leading? How does this influence the actions you now take to develop others?

2) It’s Not Always about You - Add a new element to your conversation with your worker – This is not a job conversation, it is about who they are and what they desire for professional growth. Early careerists have a keen sense and if they feel you are not being authentic or real, they will be inclined to get what they need and then go.

3) Learn & Do - Gallup studies the shift in worker expectations and they are now reporting development at the top of the list today for what people want. If workers know you are investing in them and holding them accountable for change, they will be more loyal. Simple as that – remember when you felt that way in your career? Select one action this month to demonstrate your commitment to their growth.

4) Have Their Back– People will invest in trusting relationships and “have the back of their team mates.” It costs five times more money to replace an early career talent with 2+years of experience than investing in your current talent.

5) What’s the Story – If you are not clear on why people should come work for you, then you may not be clear on why customers should come your way either. There are two stakeholder groups to consider. Both need a reason to stick with you. If not, this impacts your bottom line and retention of the talent that knows you best. Make sure your workers know why they should not only come and work for you but stay and grow.


Do you believe that people are replaceable? You can go that route, and hope your current teams stay with you and make sure you plan for an increase in your budget for the time, dollars and intensity in finding that new talent.


While you go that way, your competition will develop their people. They are exploring the “inside gig” so that people can experience a range of work inside their own company. They are investing in others so that skills support them adding more value. They have honest conversations to share what is possible and create positive energy about how we all can make a difference. Which path will you take?

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