There are two ways to think about an organization’s talent, one that takes a short-term perspective and another that takes a long-term perspective. In choosing which approach is preferable, it’s important to take a deeper look at the evidence and data.
In the first approach, the focus is on deriving as much value from workers as possible within as short a time frame as possible, knowing that an employee is likely to leave within two years. In the other, the long-term perspective, the focus is on a much longer time horizon, in which an employee is expected to learn, grow and develop into a valued long-time employee and future leader.
As recently as 20 years ago, the long-term perspective was in ascendancy. The idea was that employees would fully commit to an organization and, in turn, an organization would fully commit to an employee. It was a natural symbiotic relationship, in which personal growth led to corporate growth. The goal for many of us was to work at a large Fortune 500 company that offered the best benefits and a guaranteed retirement.
That all changed, as companies began to adopt a mentality of cost-cutting, that employees were largely interchangeable, and that maximum productivity needed to be derived within as short a time frame as possible. This placed a premium on appraising employees according to certain metrics, to measuring every input of an employee to maximize performance.
So what do the numbers say?
The data appear to suggest that the long-term perspective pays greater long-term dividends to the organization. That’s because certain approaches – lifelong learning, or a focus on creativity and innovation – can only be truly fostered by taking a long-term perspective. It is almost impossible for today’s modern organization to emphasize creativity and innovation without simultaneously putting in place the long-term framework for innovation and creativity to thrive.
What does a long-term look at talent mean in today’s modern world?
First of all, it means that corporate values matter. Employees, tired of chasing higher compensation, are attracted to organizations that place a premium on values and mission statements. They want to work at companies that care about the environment, or that enable them to live a certain type of lifestyle. That’s especially true of today’s millennial workers, who have a different perspective on the corporate world than their older co-workers.
It also means that a plug-and-play approach to talent, in which corporations look for ways to outsource talent at competitive levels, can also play a role over the long-term. That’s because today’s employees are working at home in the global gig economy, in which short-term assignments and the freedom to work on different client assignments are actually seen as a positive rather than a negative.
The numbers say that employee performance actually increases in direct correlation with how highly an organization values the work of its employees, and how greatly they assist them in pursuing lifelong learning opportunities. This means that, there is perhaps a counter-intuitive finding: a long-term approach to human capital actually has the potential to yield significant results over the short-term as well.
What are your numbers telling you?