October 27, 2008

Leading During Lean Times When company leaders talk about the importance of finding the right people and doing their level best to keep them, do their actions match their words? Probably not. At least not when many organizations are struggling to make budget as they are now. Adecco released a recent survey which is both expected and disturbing. Based on responses from executives, it points out that during an economic downturn, executives’ first two priorities are generating revenue and pursuing growth opportunities (translation: finding additional hidden sources of revenue). Recruiting and retaining top talent, which ranks first during periods of economic growth, drops all the way to sixth place. So is talent management something executives should only devote their time to when the balance sheet is healthy? It might be cause for cynicism, but if people are important to the operation, they should be important regardless of economic conditions. Executives also revealed the gap between skills that are considered important and those that are rewarded. Leaders are expected to inspire and motivate people in addition to being great communicators. However, according to the survey, they are rewarded for financial acumen and decision making, two skills that have little to do with managing people. Tension between managing financial performance and managing a staff has always existed. With heightened expectations from investors, being a leader is even more difficult today. A leader who inspires all who surround her but is unable to control profligate spending impulses is likely to be ousted after two quarters of poor financial performance. Finding the right balance between people and profit margin is the hallmark of a great leader. The survey is just another reminder that most organizations haven’t found it yet.

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The T+D blog covers training, learning, business, and technology topics as well as relevant content from ASTD (the American Society for Training and Development) publications and services.

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