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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, January 14, 2018 1:00 am

Finding talent a struggle for many employers

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Untapped potential has a cost.

Few new initiatives. Unmet goals. Overworked teams.

A “Talent Economy” newsletter article from Jan. 2 outlined creative ways to find talent, which is a struggle for many employers in a tight labor market with low unemployment. 

The article was one of at least two that landed in my inbox within the first week of the year about how employers can add or develop talent. 

Creative strategies, according to the article, could include hiding recruiting messages on websites, hinting that an employer is always interested in top talent. Another strategy may involve embracing the “gig economy” by working more with freelancers. They just might be the next good full-time hire.

An email two days later from “Talent Impact” suggested more of an internal strategy. The people with the skills you need may already be on board. 

“Countless articles have been written about how to develop office workers, mid-level managers and executives,” said in brief labeled “Elevating All,” which was a tease to a more in-depth report. “Yet one workforce segment often isn't included in those conversations: frontline workers. And this worker segment is ripe for development.”

The report describes frontline workers as those in industries that traditionally have high turnover and suggests employers who offer educational assistance may find people capable of far more than they were initially hired for.

Whether through formal, external classes and training or making the effort to customize internal development programs, I think it's worth every leader taking time this year to assess who might be underperforming simply because they haven't been stretched, asked, or trained.

CEO turnover

The number of chief executive officer changes at U.S.-based companies hit 95 in December, virtually the same as the 94 CEO exits announced in November, according to a report last week from global outplacement consultancy and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

The Chicago firm said the December tally raised the year-end total to 1,160 exits, but that was the lowest annual total since 2004 when 663 CEO changes were announced. 

Last year's departures were down 7 percent from the 1,248 announced in 2016, the firm said. December's total was 4 percent lower than December 2016, when 99 CEO exits were announced.

“The uncertainty surrounding the tax and health care bills, coupled with a tight labor market, kept companies from making any major leadership changes in 2017,” John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in a news release.

“In fact, most of the leaders who did leave their roles last year stayed with the company in some capacity, typically as a board member or other C-level executive,” he added.

A force for change

Wesley Middleton might have taken a bit of risk in titling the book he released in December: “Violent Leadership.” It's an attention grabber, though, since most people recognize true leadership involves grace and humility – anything but violence. The book's subtitle is “Be a Force for Change. Disrupt. Innovate. Energize.”

Violent leadership refers to “a distinctive type of leadership that is passionate, innovative, and takes things by force,” Middleton, whose background is accounting, says in a news release about the book. “It is a positive and energetic pursuit of purpose and success.”

Chapters in the book address topics including the importance of submission and why it pays to seek out and welcome honest criticism, especially from younger staffers; how to overcome aversion to risk, stretching your capacity to take chances and to stop fearing – and penalizing – failure. The book also addresses the pitfalls of wearing too many hats and how to build “an effective village of servers, solvers, and advisers.”

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/