Dear Enterprise Leaders, You’re Screwed. Here’s Why.
Dear Enterprise Leader,
I’ve got some terrible news for you. Your best talent isn’t good enough to compete. Better talent is at work right across town, in an over-crowded garage at the house of some tiny firm’s founder.
Unlike your mammoth offices, this garage is full of energy, excitement, and – here’s the worst part for you – it’s full of absolute brilliance, the type of brilliance your own company was attracting just a few years ago, at the depth of the recession.
Buddy, you’re screwed. Chances are, it’s all over but the crying.
Your company is big, has a whole lot of customers, and an absolutely astonishing amount of cash. That’s all great, without question.
So what on earth am I carrying on about?
They’ve been so vanillafied that they have no flavor
In today’s business environment, each of those benefits I listed is actually a liability, that’s what.
You’re big – cumbersome. While new, little companies can turn on a dime, your bureaucratic processes allow you to change course about as quickly and gracefully as a fully loaded cargo ship on a water-ski slalom.
Worse, by the time all of your committees and layers of management put new ideas through their paces, they’ve been so vanillafied that they have no flavor: they’re safe, when today’s hyper-competitive world demands bold.
You have a lot of customers: good news, right? Not when all of your customers hate you. And let’s be honest, the only reason you haven’t adopted Net Promoter Score is that you don’t want your stockholders to learn what you already know: that it’s damned hard to find a promoter among your maltreated and ornery customers.
You’ve got contracts? Contracts expire, and as they do, the customers you tricked or bullied into signing will be only too happy to talk to that little garage firm across town.
You’re cash rich: yea!!! Right? Not when your employees resent you for it as they do. They know full well what reserves you have on tap, and what lavish bonuses you dole out to your C-level cronies every year.
Meanwhile, their own wages have stagnated for far too long; they’ve endured layoffs of their friends and had to absorb two, three, or more people’s workloads. As with your customers, you don’t ask your employees about their engagement for a very good reason: you already know, and you don’t want your board to get wind of it.
Time was when you could read those bullets and laugh smugly, while ordering another round of layoffs and another new jet. But with the recession behind most of us, and with the costs associated with starting a company at unprecedentedly low levels, new companies are popping up all over the place. These startups have energy and excitement, as startups often do.
Order another round of layoffs and another new jet
They also have one more feature that maybe wasn’t so important back when you were cutting your teeth in business a generation ago: they have much of the best talent available, anywhere.
The economy of the Twenty-Teens is motored by talent rather than by geography or capital or scale or defensive patents or anything else that used to matter last time you checked.
Talent is such a vital component of business that the following sentence should be tattooed backwards on every leader’s forehead, for them to read in the mirror several times each day:
He who wins the war for talent wins it all.
Are you winning the war for talent? Are you even fighting in that war? Or are you playing by last century’s playbook? – And I do mean playing, while those inspired, engaged, ingenious folks in the garage across town aren’t playing around at all: they’re fighting, and they’re winning.
It’s an important question, because if you don’t figure out how to attract and keep fewer bureaucrats while adding and retaining more talented staff, you truly are screwed.
Continue reading our New Leadership series with Time to Embrace the Millennial Overachiever
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