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Dr. Curtis L. Odom Headshot

And the Leverage Goes to the Talented

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Recently I had the opportunity to hear Dan Pink speak at an event. Something he said has been banging around in my mind for days trying to escape to my blog:

"Organizations need talent more than talent needs organizations."

I heard Dan say this and I looked at my colleague sitting beside me and had the proverbial light bulb turn on inside my head. It is not necessarily a new way of thinking about talent, but it is a clean way.

And if you are in the talent business at a large organization it has to shake you to the core a bit. You do not have the leverage the way you used to have when you are trying to bring people into your organization or stopping them from leaving your organization. Your leverage is gone!

Organizations gave up a good deal of their leverage when the opted for more flexibility with their workforce. Roles were no longer safe from the chopping block. Employee loyalty was no longer rewarded or recognized. It was the business and the profit that mattered. You know the story, roles off-shored and organizations went flat, less people, less overhead, more profits.

But the tides are turning. Once the stability of organizational life went, so too did loyalty. You wanted flexibility, you have it now. It is so flexible in fact that the company can do just fine without you.

My guess is that in the late 80s and 90s nobody could have predicted it to take on this extreme. Organizations still have the capital, resources and wherewithal to do great things. But technology has leveled the playing field.

If you are talented and you have an idea, you do not need direct organizational support to make it happen. You can go alone. And people are, and get this, they are enjoying it. I in fact happen to one of them. But you already knew that if you have been reading along.

According to a report by MBO Partners, the rate of independent workers has gone up 5.5 per cent in the last year. No doubt some of that has to do with layoffs and restructuring, but do not expect independents to return to organizations when the economy turns. MBO also projects that by 2020 the independent workers will account for more than 50 per cent of the private workforce.

So if you are in the talent management or talent acquisition business and you are making a case for why talent should consider coming to you, it better be a good one. Because you are swimming against a tide of forces where it may soon be difficult to just stay afloat.