The challenge of people management

I spoke to colleague Jane King in relation to a key management challenge – retaining key or valuable employees in the modern economy. Following is what Ms King had to say.

THERE is no doubt that globalisation is making competition tougher and good people are becoming scarce.

As C Gill says in “Talent Wins”, HR Monthly, April 2000: “In the new economy, competition is global, capital is abundant, ideas develop quickly and cheaply and people are willing to change jobs more often. In that kind of environment, all that matters is talent. Talent wins.

New organisation styles with flatter hierarchies, and incorporating alliances, and networks, require decision making close to the customer. This requires a deep understanding of the business and a commitment to its success at all levels. This is a dilemma for many organisations because years of downsizing and de-layering have eroded the trust relationship between an employer and employee. Like it or not, employees have been taught to look after number one.

In the new world of work, everything has changed. There are fewer full time jobs in large organisations, and those jobs remaining are highly demanding of time and commitment.

More opportunities exist in small to medium enterprises but these opportunities aren’t always clearly defined. Career paths no longer constitute a steady uphill climb into progressively more responsible and complex jobs, but rather represent a lattice structure, in and out of different job markets, full and part-time work, study, and independent or freelancing work, as well as time out of the workforce altogether.

Learning is going to be a lifelong process for all workers. Continual upgrading of skills is a key to adapting to the workplace of the future.

The table (right) shows the latest employment figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In August 2001, 9.2 million Australians were employed, of which 6.6 million were in full-time work, and 2.6 million, or 28 per cent, were in part-time work.

The full-time numbers continue to fall while the part-time numbers continue to rise. In 1987 the part-time employed represented 19 per cent of the total employed and in 1996, 25 per cent of the total employed.

As Charles Handy says in the Bureau’s “Australian Social Trends – 1998” & “Labour Force Australia – Aug 2001, there is a formula driving corporate re-structuring, half times two times three, or half as many people being paid twice as well to do three times as much. The paradox of the new knowledge economy is that at the same time as organisations have weakened the ties of job security and loyalty by down-sizing and retrenchment, they now more than ever depend on human intellectual capital and knowledge. So the very people you need to succeed in the 21st century are likely to take their knowledge and talents elsewhere if they are not recognised and rewarded for their efforts, according to G Savage, Paradoxes of the knowledge era, “Management”, September 1997

In professional and service industries, such as business and financial services, the product is knowledge and the holder of the knowledge is in the individuals in their experience, their learning and their personal traits and skills.

A key measure of success as we move through the 21st century will be the ability of successful organisations to harness this knowledge and ensure the ongoing future of the organisation by enabling knowledge to be shared, passed on and thus grow.

Identifying who the key people are in your organisation is the first important step. They are not always who you first think. Retaining these key people in your organisation will be vital to the ongoing success of your business and will be the major challenge for any manager.

Key people can be segmented into three categories:

p those whom you want to keep indefinitely, because of their inspiring leadership, creative talent etc.;

p those with specific skills required in the short term, which may be in short supply; and

p those who have the potential to develop vital skills, or characteristics that your organisation needs in the future.

Traditional retention strategies involving a poker game style of bid and counter bid, when a key employee announces he or she is leaving, is not going to work any more. The reality of the new marketplace will ultimately ensure that people will continue to move from one employer to another. Successful retention strategies, as well as developing organisation wide policies, will focus on clearly identifying key talent, in terms of both current and future organisational needs, and developing packages that meet their individual needs.

Jane King will present her paper Retaining the best people in tough economic conditions during CPA Week, November 14-15.

Add your comment

BNIQ sponsored byECU School of Business and Law


6th-Australian Institute of Management WA20,000
7th-Murdoch University16,584
8th-South Regional TAFE10,549
9th-Central Regional TAFE10,000
49 tertiary education & training providers ranked by total number of students in WA

Number of Employees

BNiQ Disclaimer