I’ve gone back into the Management Craft archive, to posts from February 2005. Here’s one called, The Smoke and Mirrors of Great Place to Work Initiatives. Enjoy.
I was talking with Dr. Tony Zeiss, author of Get´em While They´re Hot: How to Attract, Develop, and Retain Peak Performers in the Coming Labor Shortage (thanks to the 1800CEOREAD blog
for turning me on to the book). Dr. Zeiss is also President of Central
Piedmont Community College in North Carolina (the largest college in
NC). Interesting guy….
Dr. Zeiss is up in arms about the coming labor shortage and wants to
issue a wake up call to American Companies. He says we are facing the
greatest labor shortage in the history of America. 10 million worker
shortage by 2011 and also a skills shortage with many people with
One of the suggestions he has for attracting and retaining talent is to build a great reputation as a great place to work.
That got me thinking about how companies become great places to work. The reality runs the gamut:
1. There are a few companies that really "get it" when it comes to being a great place to work.
2. There are many companies that have no real interest in being a great place to work.
3. There are many companies that say they want to be a great place to work but it is largely lip service.
And there are companies between these extremes. Most companies
have their plusses and minuses and few are awful. But if Dr. Zeiss is
right, this will not be good enough as the worker shortage widens.
Most of the companies I have worked for have been #2s or #3s. I have
never worked for a company that really "got it." Many start off with
good intentions, but then the reality sets in. They want to be able to
say they are making this a great place to work, but are either
uninterested or unwilling to take the steps that will affect the way
people feel about their jobs and the company. There´s always some low
hanging fruit that does not require resources or a change in
management´s behavior that gets through OK, but as soon as the real
meaty stuff comes up, the initiatives die.
You see, for many companies, a paradigm shift needs to occur.
Their practices and assumptions are so out of date (some with a fresh
coat of Buzz Words, but little substantive change).
If being a GPTW will be a competitive necessity, I wonder what the tipping point
will be that facilitates more companies making choices they have been
previously unwilling to entertain? My guess is that changing the
context will play a large role.
What will a great place to work look and feel like in 10 years?
Since education, healthcare, and law enforcement are leading the labor
shortage – how will these industries need to change to compete for
talent? Who will want to do these jobs? How will that change our taxes,
health premiums, and services?
Perhaps we need to help CFOs and HR professionals get together and
understand the compelling ROI numbers. They should study and visit
companies that are truly great places to work AND making money hand
over fist AND retaining their best people.
I think the toughest person at the executive staff meeting is going
to need to be the HR professional. To help the company get beyond the
smoke and mirrors of GPTW initiatives, he or she is going to need to be
resolute, uncommonly creative, a master relationship builder, clear,
passionate, and steel tough.
What’s it like where you work? What does great place to work mean for you?