Does anyone remember “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus”? The 1992 best-selling book (over 50 million copies sold), written by American author and relationship counselor John Gray,*used distant planets—Mars and Venus—as a metaphor to discuss just how differently men and women think and act. Gray asserted that most common relationship problems between men and women are a result of “fundamental psychological differences between the sexes” and that “each sex can be understood in terms of the distinct ways they respond to stress and stressful situations.”
Recently, I saw a graphic on LinkedIn that shows attributes and preferences of “Today’s Employee.” That graphic got me thinking just how divergent senior corporate leaders and employees have often become in today’s business world and how distant these two “planets” (if we can use this same metaphor) appear.
The world is evolving globally every day. In the midst of this extraordinary change, businesses are relentlessly challenged to grow; exceed expectations of both their customers and stakeholders; remain relevant to their target audiences; attract, hire, and retain a talented workforce; AND be profitable. At the same time, candidates are selective: they want flexibility in where, when, and how they work; they want competitive compensation and benefits; they want to be trained and developed; they want work that gives them “meaning”; and they want work that offers mobility. Add to this the fact that 10,000–11,000 baby boomers will be leaving or transitioning out of the workforce every day for the next 10 years. Government agencies, companies, and associations are losing valuable leadership and human capital as key management roles are left to be filled. Within the next seven years, millennials will compose a greater share of the workforce than boomers. CEOs and other C-level leaders concede, however, that many in this age category are not ready to step up to key leadership roles within organizations, but leadership is key to accomplishing the tasks with which all of these organizations are pressed to grow and function effectively. Tall orders for both parties.
Just as John Gray observed in the relationships between men and women, employers and workers must acknowledge their different perspectives, be open to change, and seek to understand each other. In my work as an executive recruiter, I find that making sure both my clients and candidates clearly understand each other’s specific needs is key. Say my client seeks to move his business plan forward by the addition (or replacement) of a leader within the organization. That involves many considerations—why the position is open, skill sets and experience specifically needed, culture match, management style, etc. At the same time, that must be matched with a candidate who has the expertise, has valid reasons for making a change, finds that the timing is right, feels that taking on this role is a logical “next step” professionally, is open to relocation, etc. What I do NOT see is a real ongoing emphasis by companies today to build an “employer brand.” They spend great sums of money selling their products and services and their value proposition—what makes them different and why people should do business with them. Building an employer brand is communicating to the candidate world why their organization is a great place to work and what that organization offers to workers who join it.
In attracting, hiring, onboarding, training, developing, and retaining key executives today, leadership still starts at the top. Clarity and transparency in the communication among all employees of the company’s goals and what is required to accomplish those goals is absolutely required. At the same time, top leaders must also communicate everyone’s role in the accomplishment of these goals and changes that have to be made, and hold everyone accountable, including themselves. How senior management delivers that ongoing message to everyone in the organization helps everyone to understand their role. In the and candidate-driven market we have today, leadership must also learn to adapt to what workers want. Candidates have choices. LinkedIn posted earlier this year that almost 90 percent of all candidates today are open to discussing making a change (leaving their company). This this can present difficulties on either side of the equation.
Moving forward, talent acquisition, talent management, training and development, and global mobility folks must all be talking and strategically coordinating on an ongoing basis within any organization to identify, bring to the table, hire, and retain key players. A YouTube video by Big Think, in partnership with Mercer, visually illustrates how candidates today are “creative, adaptive, and temporary.” The fight for great talent is just that—a fight. What is YOUR organization doing to win the “talent fight” against YOUR competitors?
* Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships (HarperCollins, 1992).