As economy recovers, talent will jump
Managers and business owners who have taken advantage of the downturn to unnecessarily squeeze their employees beware: the balance of power is shifting back in favor of the employee.
It’s not yet 1999, when start-ups in San Francisco’s trendy South of Market neighborhood were giving away convertible BMWs to attract new talent and just about anyone with a pulse could demand – and frequently win – a raise.
However, there is growing evidence that the sky is brightening for the American worker, who for the past three years has been mostly preoccupied with staying employed amid a sinking economy and bleak prospects for new jobs. Indeed, if the current economy continues its recovery, employees may soon find themselves sliding back into the driver’s seats of their careers and lives.
Greater Des Moines’ economy has added about 5,900 nonfarm jobs in the 12 months ended in November, according to Iowa Workforce Development, which tracks labor information for the state. There were 294,100 people working in Greater Des Moines last month, the organization said. Across the nation, the unemployment rate continues to drop.
Just as we’ve seen parents duking it out in retail stores over getting this year’s latest must-have toys, employees could increasingly find themselves battling over desirable workers. The winner in all of this is, of course, that creature who recruiters and human resource professionals like to call the talented employee. Some companies are already girding for the fight. The Wall Street Journal reported on Nov. 25 that U.S. Bancorp, WPP Group PLC and HealthSouth Corp. are shortening the amount of time that employees must be on the job before being able to contribute to retirement plans. Those companies now let workers join corporate plans after working as little as 90 days.
Such changes remove the barriers employees encounter when considering a job change, and make their companies more inviting. Recruiters, the folks who make a living by helping firms poach workers from rivals, say that business is picking up, and that the future looks bright for the industry. Barbara Polson, branch manager for Robert Half International in West Des Moines, has these ominous words for employers:
“Those top people in your company are probably getting calls from recruiters,” she said. “As the economy starts to improve, the number of people available for jobs is going to decrease. And once the Baby Boomers start to retire, that’s going to take another big chunk of job seekers out of the market.”
To protect themselves, companies need to have a strong recruiting plan in place and they need to re-evaluate reward structures for valued employees.
Specifically, Polson said movement among mortgage-related companies has been strong but will likely slow as interest rates rise and the number of people who refinance dwindles. Manufacturers, however, are beginning to add jobs again, she said. And the insurance and financial services companies are growing healthier.
“We’re seeing a lot of movement among not-for-profit companies and more on the marketing and public relations side of things,” she said.