David and Goliath Emerge with the Poaching of Talent

Two articles today in the Wall Street Journal made me realize the transformational age we are entering. The first is a front page article entitled “Uber Lures Robot Gurus From Carnegie Mellon.” pilferingThe article discloses how Uber is poaching researchers, scientists and engineers directly from Carnegie Mellon, whittling away at their National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC) to fill positions as they push towards driverless vehicles. There is a frustration expressed by a few within the NREC as to why Uber didn’t try to partner with or develop a more strategic partnership so as not to lure away the individuals in question. From Uber’s perspective (which is pure speculation on my part since there was no comment); why should they? From a negotiation point, what would they have gained? Isn’t it easier to bring people into an already creative, refreshing and invigorating environment to unleash their creative potential, as opposed to keeping them in a more bureaucratic and repressed organizational structure?

The second article is “New Media Pull Talent Away From Ad Agencies.”  Again, the article discusses the lure enticing talent from traditional ad agency businesses to more creative and innovative content businesses such as BuzzFeed, Google, Facebook, and other, similar content rich companies.

Reading between the lines, people are leaving staid, entrenched, bureaucratic companies for enhanced creative freedom, flexible schedules and, in some cases (although not all), more money. As most research points out, if people are not being paid a decent salary to support their family, they’ll leave for money. But once the basics are met, there is so much more that incents and rewards people into staying with a company, and the reality is that we currently have bastions of outdated, calcified monoliths that don’t meet the growing needs of a highly diverse and changing society. I was asked the other day, “What do you think will happen if my company doesn’t address the millennial issue?” Personally, I don’t think it’s just a millennial issue. I think we are in a huge societal transition, and all companies need to figure out what it will take to retool, adjust and escape their prevailing malaise.

Yes, there are some reading this that will share, “Well that’s just not my company. We’ve always been like this, and there’s no need to change.” I’ll bet you that Carnegie Mellon’s NREC was saying the same thing a year ago, and look where they are now. Arduous tasks like having to hire a whole new workforce, falling behind on contracts, and the looming possibility of declining grants are the repercussions of denial that “it won’t happen to us” attitudes will cause to run rampant.

There will always be those businesses that are limping along, trying to remain just under the radar of extinction. But if you want a thriving business, one that reaps the benefits of creative innovation and vibrates with healthy diversity throughout the societal microcosm, realize you are in competition with the Ubers, Zappos and BuzzFeeds of this world. Regardless of the product or service you champion, the talent wars are heating up for people who have too long been suffocating under companies and leaders that are buffered by a ‘too big to fail’ notion. It reminds me of the David and Goliath story. Monoliths will not be toppled by competitors beating them at their own game. They will be forced to change because competitors will suck them dry of talent that’s been under their nose all along.

So what do you do? Well, change is inevitable. The choice you have is whether you embrace the concepts of creative freedom, flexible adjustments to meet societal changes, and valuing people for what they have to offer or not. A jumping off point; ask people what changes they want to see and then act upon them – immediately!

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