Employers: When This Buyer's Market Ends, What Will You Do?

Last Updated Aug 4, 2009 7:09 PM EDT

Sure, the recessions stinks. But for employers, the silver lining has been that it's created a deeper talent pool. More unemployment = more top-notch people looking to land at your company -- often, at a significant discount.

But what will happen when recovery hits?

According to Jack Welch, many hiring managers are going to get acquainted with an unpleasant reality: They'll be dealing with a newly wary workforce.

"Many people have come to the conclusion that they don't want to work for 'the man' anymore. They want to work for themselves or someone they know and trust...From coast to coast--and through hundreds of e-mails to our Web site and conversations on Twitter--there's a tidal wave of emotion. To be someone else's employee, people are telling us, is to be at someone else's whim. The impact of this growing attitude could be profound. When the economy recovers, most companies might, for the first time, have to deal with a candidate pool that's not particularly excited to work for them."
That's not good news, because last thing most employers want is an apathetic workforce. Real productivity and progress come from people who are engaged and who look forward to getting into the office and tackling new challenges -- people who get positive reinforcement (other than a paycheck) from doing good work.

So brace yourself: Your days of picking from an endless array of skilled and supplicating labor are coming to an end.

How to adjust? Welch says employers need to make their people feel needed and valued. Bureaucracy needs to give way to innovation and an entrepreneurial mindset. Companies should mimic the upsides offered by small companies and embrace candor and informality. And they must realize that their top performers will no longer be content to toil away without reward.

"Perhaps most important, companies will need to understand that when the recovery arrives, stars will no longer wait around to be given the authority to make decisions or to be promoted. The alternative--running their own show--has too much appeal."
I think Welch's views dovetail neatly with what I've often written about engagement, management, and motivation. Treat your team like a valued asset. Make people matter. Care about what they think and feel, and if they're not sharing that as a matter of course, ask them. Help foster work/life balance. Recognize both effort and achievement.

As Welch says, we know the recession will eventually be over.

And when it is, a brave new type of employee will rule the day. And only brave new companies will be able to entice them back.
Read the full post to get Welch's complete take, and share your own opinions in the comments section.
  • CC Holland

    CC Holland is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a number of national magazines. Online, she was a columnist for AnchorDesk.com and writes regularly for Law.com and BNET. On the other side of the journalism desk, she's been a managing editor for ZDNet, CNet, and KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, where she earned an APTRA Best News Web Site award.