Loyalty, shmoyalty

The current job market is decidedly confusing. While headlines are filled with stories of massive layoffs and abrupt bankruptcies, CIOs in the US still struggle to find and retain skilled employees.

          The current job market is decidedly confusing. While headlines are filled with stories of massive layoffs and abrupt bankruptcies, CIOs in the US still struggle to find and retain skilled employees.

          According to Peter Cappelli, director of the Centre for Human Resources at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in Philadelphia, the labour situation coupled with web-based recruiting and job listings is changing how people view their career, their employer and how they go about conducting job searches.

          Speaking late last year to HR executives at a forum, "Managing in Tough Times: Perspectives on Leadership and Change," Cappelli noted that talent management is still one of the top challenges for employers. With top performers in an organisation contributing anywhere from five to 22 times more value to their company than midlevel or low performers, managers have to do a better job of both identifying and compensating them.

          In general, companies pay their best employees only 10% to 15% more than the laggards, says Cappelli. It doesn't take a serious number cruncher to figure out that a competitor can offer top people a hefty pay raise to entice them to jump ship and still stay in the black.

          For most people, long-term employee loyalty has gone the way of the 40-hour work week. With millions posting their résumé on job boards like Monster.com and Dice.com, it's a lot easier for companies to find the top talent and lure them away. Hence, managers looking to attract and retain the most valued employees need to do a better job of selling both their company as a place to work and their jobs as a place to further one's career, Cappelli says. Among his top picks for companies doing it right are Amgen, Booz-Allen & Hamilton, and McKinsey & Co.

          Today's employees are more inclined to proactively take charge of their own career, he adds. Companies that market themselves with that in mind may have an advantage when it comes to landing and keeping the best of the best.

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