Top Talent

Morgan O'Rourke


December 1, 2009

Every company has talented people whose efforts make invaluable contributions to the bottom line. In a recession especially, it is these people that companies end up relying on the most to stay afloat. But too often, when times are tough, employers take their best people for granted, and the only concern they have when it comes to their staff is how many should be laid off to meet budgetary goals.

This mindset is justified by conventional wisdom that suggests that employees will be so grateful to have a job that they will willingly put in extra time and effort regardless of how they are treated. As economist Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy, points out, this is a strategy that can lead to disaster.

According to research, companies see more attrition after mass layoffs than they do from the layoffs themselves, as disillusioned employees seeking a better environment are eagerly snapped up by competitors who are looking for talent. On top of that, the vast majority of employees that survive the cuts tend to completely disengage and report feeling "demoralized," "paralyzed" and "demotivated." In essence, layoffs are frequently a short-term solution that creates a long-term problem.

The trick is for employers to stop neglecting their top talent and find ways to keep them continually motivated. Hewlett offers a variety of interesting ways that companies can accomplish this goal, and as a result, Top Talent is a thought-provoking lesson for employers that says retaining quality personnel will pay dividends and may actually be the best strategy for future success.

Morgan O’Rourke is editor in chief of Risk Management and director of publications for the Risk & Insurance Management Society, Inc. (RIMS)