• Stephen Kuhn

Tackling Talent Troubles



The global talent market is in crisis. From cybersecurity to trucking, labor is in short supply and getting more expensive by the month. I’ve heard tell of $5,000 signing bonuses for $30,000 jobs, and unskilled hourly labor advertised on billboards for $28 per hour.


And for knowledge workers – an ever-growing percentage of the labor market – the challenge is especially acute. Covid has accelerated the untethering of these workers from the office, and this has led to increased global competition for talent. This is part of the drive leading 40% of the global workforce to consider leaving their employer this year.


And a new study estimates that 100 million global low-wage workers will need to find a different occupation by 2030, no doubt in part due to technological unemployment.

As the world gets flatter and flatter, startups and growth-stage companies alike are now having to compete with the likes of Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others who can outspend them all day long. Signing bonuses and recruiting fees are fatter and fatter.

So what are poor lower- to mid-market CEOs to do? They can’t compete on compensation. Equity is certainly a tried-and-true tool, but it has limitations – especially with talent so focused on current compensation rather than some puffy promise for the future.

My experience in speaking with many hundreds of CEOs over the past 18 months tells me that some of the answer lies in company culture and the evolving relationship between companies and workers. “Workers who can get up to speed quickly on organizational culture and workflows will be more productive sooner, whether they are entirely new or being moved to new roles,” according to a Deloitte study.

But what is your culture? While ping pong and pool tables are no longer de rigeur, I suggest CEOs carefully consider the following:

  • communicating clearly and carefully what’s expected of them and what they can expect in return

  • share transparently as must information as possible – both good and especially the bad

  • listening carefully to all employees up and down the entire management chain

  • making employees feel heard

  • offering them real opportunities for advancement


This is an important topic, rich with opportunity for discussion. What tips and tricks are you using to attract and retain talent? We’ll be announcing a CEO Roundtable on Talent soon and welcome your participation.



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