This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

February 1, 2006

Small is Big: Workforce Focus

Economic development professionals know that job growth comes from small business, not large employers. While attracting a new facility from a well-known corporation is good for community morale and certainly has positive economic impact, nurturing small and mid-sized business can generate more jobs with greater stability.

Over the years, we have experienced substantial layoffs by large companies. When hundreds or thousands of people lose their jobs unexpectedly because of corporate restructuring, new technology, outsourcing, offshoring, or poor management, the ripple effect can be dramatic. Smaller employers are also forced into layoff situations from time to time, often caused by sudden drops in business from large company customers. They tend to avoid laying off people, however; each team member is more important to the smaller employer. Attitudes toward human capital are understandably different in smaller organizations.

That attitude, and the opportunity to play a more significant role, appeals to people who want to be involved, who seek meaningful work, who want to make a difference. Mix in today’s emerging values centered on life-work balance, personal engagement with work, and being able to choose where you work, and smaller employers become very attractive. Result: those companies will be able to employ high-caliber talent that was not as available in the past. Superstars who sought glamorous jobs in major corporations will show a preference for smaller companies instead.

This shift, just at the beginning stage, will be exciting and challenging for smaller employers. They will have access to top talent---in most cases without having to engage outside recruiters---and will not have to pay exorbitant salaries to get them. The smaller company opportunities will be an offsetting compensation. At the same time, selecting the right people to bring on board---at the right time and for the right reasons---will be beyond the capability of many of these employers. Managing them will be almost overwhelming---like having wild stallions pulling a wagon designed for farm-bred horses.

Expect smaller employers to retain search firms and other outside consultants to help select and manage strong new employees coming out of an eager talent pool.

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