What are the tough trade-offs your association never seems to get quite right? There is no shortage of ways to go wrong. If every organization exists only to serve and leaders by extension exist only to serve those who are serving others, there is one area that rises to the top pretty quickly. In the “risks versus rewards” world of being a leader bringing the right talent, to the right project (or problem) at the right time will rank head and shoulders above all the rest in 2010.
Paul Russell Global Head of Learning and Leadership Development at Google makes the point. “Development can help great people be better—but if I had a dollar to spend, I’d spend 70 cents getting the right person in the door.” Associations face very real challenges in being certain they have the right talent in the right places. A recent announcement by the American Petroleum Institute that it was laying off 40 people was also coupled with an announcement that a “handful of job openings for positions with specialties in new forms of communications: social media, grassroots advocacy and digital outreach” would be available. The long held educator’s axiom—we are educating students for jobs that don’t yet exist— is coming true. Being an SEO specialist has real currency in today’s marketplace, but that job didn’t exist five years ago.
Which brings us to your organization. What talents and skills are essential to the future growth and well-being of your organization? Where will those talents come from? How will you find them or perhaps grow them in 2010? These are serious questions deserving serious discussion time among your leadership team. A Center for Work–Life Policy 2008 survey shows, the number of employees expressing loyalty to employers plunged from 95 percent to 39 percent. Likewise, the Academy of Management Journal found that after a round of layoffs, voluntary attrition spikes by as much as 31 percent. The report suggests that precisely the wrong people — those who have the strongest track records and brightest employment prospects even in a recession—are most likely to leave. Generic “rightsizing” and careless talent management doesn’t make associations stronger, it makes them weaker and more vulnerable. That’s would be exactly the wrong way to start 2010.