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Bull, bear—does it really matter?

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //January 27, 2011//

Bull, bear—does it really matter?

Kathleen Quinn Votaw //January 27, 2011//

The one thing economists seem to agree on is that people who already have jobs will get pay increases or bonuses this year. (Keep your checkbook ready.) But there are conflicting data in the news about how many companies actually plan to hire in 2011- and I’m not sure that it really matters. Whether it’s a bull or bear jobs market, companies that continually nurture their people will always maintain the competitive edge.

A jobless recovery in Colorado

National data from Empsight International’s survey of 142 Fortune 500 companies show that 39 percent forecast headcount increases of one to five percent. The American Bankers Association predicts that private companies in the U.S. will add 2.1 million jobs in the coming year.

The jobs outlook for Colorado is not so rosy, according to economist Alan Beaulieu, President of the Institute for Trend Research, who spoke at the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) in Denver early in January. He told us that, although Colorado is number four in the country in overall economic recovery, we lag behind much of the rest of the nation in jobs recovery (and economists at Wells Fargo concur). In fact, Beaulieu predicts a jobless recovery in our state in the coming year.

In contrast, my own Colorado mid-market clients say they plan to hire this year; some are already hiring. And, in a 4th-quarter survey of its clients, Denver’s SDR Ventures found that 75.9 percent plan to hire this year.

We’ll soon see what 2011 brings for Colorado and the country as a whole.

Either way, protect what you’ve got

The point I want to make is this: There is currently a wealth of talent waiting to be hired, and in this economy companies often don’t have to pay higher salaries to get the people they want. That’s exciting news for companies about to relaunch. What about your talent? Have you taken good care of them during the recession? Or are your people waiting to be hired by the competition?

Companies that have focused more on cutting costs than nurturing their people the last few years will find their best people leaving as soon as the time is right, and the best talent turning down their offers.
It’s not too late to refocus and create an environment in which people are happy and proud to work.

A lesson from the best company

Why do many of the same companies appear year after year on the best-of-the-best lists in terms of places to work, customer service, and profitability? In every case, these companies communicate effectively, especially their leaders. Communication is the foundation of cultures that attract and retain the best talent.

As Erin Liberman Moran of Great Place to Work Institute puts it: “What we’ve learned is that, in the best companies-and we study them pretty extensively-their leaders are communicating directly, openly and honestly with their employees, particularly when they’re delivering tough messages.” The Institute recently named SAS ( the Fortune Best Companies number one employer for the second year in a row, citing communication as key to its continued success. (SAS, by the way, boasts a 4 percent turnover rate in an industry where turnover averages about 22 percent.)

Think about the value of communication as you return to growth mode. In the average company, the CEO and executive team in general, have an accurate perception of external factors like market needs and competitors’ capabilities, but they are often clueless about what’s going on inside the organization. What motivates your employees to do their best? What changes would the people on the ground make to improve your products, processes or service? Why do employees stay with you, or what would make them want to leave?

Finding the answers to these and other key questions in an open, and fearless, environment is the best way to nurture your employees, attract the right talent and promote informed decision-making as you return to growth mode. And it costs little or nothing.

Whether we stay a little longer in a bear market, or become more bullish, make sure that you’ve created an environment that attracts and retains the talent you need to succeed.
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Kathleen Quinn Votaw is founder and CEO of TalenTrust, a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) firm that helps companies accelerate their growth by hiring exceptional talent. TalenTrust LLC is located in Golden, CO. Kathleen is president of the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG), Denver. Reach Kathleen at [email protected] or 303-838-3334 x5.