How to Build a Competitive Talent Advantage

How can your company attract and retain the best talent? Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Talent Innovation, says it’s crucial to recognize upfront that “our career model is hopelessly dated.” In many ways, the corporate world is still stuck in the 1960s and 1970s, she says, but both the demographics and the needs of the workforce have changed dramatically. So what are the most successful companies doing?

First, they’re re-evaluating the trend toward “extreme jobs” that require punishing hours and 24/7 availability. “What we’re finding is that many cohorts of people would really like to take some kind of a break,” says Hewlett. “It’s nothing to do with childcare anymore; it’s because of the extraordinary weight and scope of a job these days. In our research on the extreme workplace, we identified a trend toward ‘brownout.’ It’s not burnout; people aren’t literally collapsing in front of you. But there’s significant physical distress and a sense of being below par in what you can deliver, because you’re depleted.”

In addition to greater workplace flexibility – from flextime to job-sharing to telecommuting – Hewlett suggests another possible solution: offering unpaid sabbaticals, which she calls “odysseys.” Increasingly, she says, people “need a break of three months, or six months, to refresh your soul. It’s not just not having conference calls at 11 o’clock at night, but a refreshing of the spirit that’s needed. It’s a massive opportunity for people to invest in themselves again.”

Second, Hewlett notes that the best companies are increasingly understanding and embracing demographic change. “If you take the global talent pipeline – that’s everyone in the world with a BA degree – only 17% of the pool is Caucasian males,” she says, while 83% are women or people of color. “We have a whole different set of opportunities in front of us, and we’ve got to figure out how to leverage our talent pool much better.”

As Hewlett discussed in her recent book Winning the War for Talent in Emerging Markets: Why Women Are the Solution, despite the West’s penchant for “equal opportunity” rhetoric, some of the greatest strides for female executives have come in the developing world. “There are winners and losers in this game,” says Hewlett, “and one reason [the talent pool] doesn’t shift very quickly is, if you take seriously the mandate that you have to get this rich diversity into your leadership groups, it means your best friends, your sons, your neighbors, and maybe you will lose out, because in the mature world, it’s a flat-lined economy. It’s very difficult to shift power when it’s a static universe – a zero-sum game.” Meanwhile, the growth in emerging markets is, at least for now, lifting all boats: “One reason why 15% of CEOs in India are now female is because there are so many opportunities, you can be generous. You can give all kinds of opportunities to highly able women because it’s not encroaching on your stuff; it’s new stuff. Power is never given up easily.”

Indeed, says Hewlett, “the default thing to do, unless there are tremendous forces that encourage you to do something else, is to tap on the shoulder someone whom you’re the most comfortable with. So if you grew up in Greenwich, it’ll be someone who belongs to the same club, someone who’s also white and male – that’s the person you’ll trust most readily, and the person you’ll imagine will have your back. But if you had an Asian woman in charge, she’ll do the same thing; it’s the human instinct, not a problem just white guys have.”

Unfortunately, however, that human instinct may be preventing us from tapping the best talent and leveraging real business opportunities. “Our business case rests on innovation,” says Hewlett. “The power of diversity on teams unlocks innovation and drives growth, and that’s why a leader might find the courage and the clarity to shift what power looks like at his or her company.”

What is your company doing to attract and retain talent? Are you embracing flextime, sabbaticals, or other “work-life balance” strategies? How are you harnessing the power of diversity?

A version of this article was first published on Forbes on 8/20/12

photo credit: 20160120_104606 via photopin (license)

Are Dream Jobs A Reality? #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Charles Purdy, one of #TChat’s moderators, on MonsterThinking Blog

The term “dream job” means different things to each of us — and for many job seekers right now, a dream job would be any job.

But when most people talk about their dream job, they’re talking about the elusive position that engages their passions and interests, is well suited to their skills, challenges their intellect (but isn’t too challenging), and integrates well into their life.

In our dream jobs, our bosses are wise mentors who recognize our unique brilliance. Our coworkers are competent and witty. And our paychecks are … at least decent (in study after study, salary is a surprisingly minor factor in career or job satisfaction).

The question is whether we should hold out for our dream jobs, or simply settle for the job that’s good enough. Is it wise to settle into a job that, say, pays well but doesn’t engage your creativity in the way you’d like?

Scores upon scores of self-help authors say that perfection can be achieved in a career — but that just isn’t the reality most of us live in. Who’s right? And if dream jobs really are possible, for all of us, how do we go out and get them?

We’ll be exploring these questions, and their implications for the evolving world of work, in tonight’s #TChat: “Dream Job or Pipe Dream: Are Dream Jobs A Reality?”

Join moderator Charles Purdy (Twitter: @monstercareers), Monster’s career advice and job search expert along with #TChat co-hosts @meghanmbiro @kevinwgrossman @monster_works and @focus tonight on Twitter at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT and let us know: are dream jobs a reality?

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading (07.19.11)

To help prepare, and inform, your participation in tonight’s conversation (or even if you can’t make it), here are the questions we’ll be discussing, along with some recommended reading designed to give you background – and perspective – on dream jobs and how they fit into the larger picture of job search, career planning and talent acquisition.

Q1. Some elements of “dream jobs” are universal (like pay). What are some of your personal/unique elements?

Read: Six Tips for Landing Your Dream Job by Alexandra Levit

Q2. Do you think the idea of “dream jobs” is good or bad for job seekers – does it encourage or discourage them?

Read: How to Get the Job You Really Want by John Sumser

Q3. A first step to finding a dream job is defining that term. What are your self-assessment tips?

Read: Making Sure Your Next Job Is the Best Fit by Caroline M.L. Potter

Q4. How much of the responsibility for creating “dream jobs” is the employer’s, company’s, or boss’s?

Read: Use Company Culture To Attract and Retain Candidates by Dr. Steven Hunt

Q5.  How does one’s conception of a “dream job” change or effect career decisions?

Read: Cool Jobs: 10 Interesting Jobs & Their Average Salaries by Dona DeZube

Q6. Finally: do dream jobs really exist?  If not, what’s the reality?

Read:Your Dream Job is Out There by Charles Purdy

Visit for more great information on #TChat, as well as other great resources on careers and hiring.

As a partner in #TChat, Monster’s social media team supports #TChat’s mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate — the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”