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State of Talent Pool: 2008-2011


I have been in the energy search business for two decades and have gone through many cycles. The most prevalent current attitude could be described as “pent up unhappiness.” This comes from several causes: most recently, the GOM Disaster, politics that create uncertainty, huge losses in pension values, and career options that appear to be shrinking. None of these are employer-driven, but there is a “guilty by association” mentality as the motivating force. In addition, many employee retention programs have been dropped, bonus plans have expired, salary increases have been smaller, and in some cases, postponed. Talent turnover in the energy business is at its lowest point in the last three years. This is primarily the result of employees who are responding to a climate of fear and are “hunkered down” (trying to protect what (little) I have left, doing whatever it takes to keep my job). But, times are about to change!

How do we know this? Let’s look at our experience. During an average search executed from 2003 – 2008, our research team might have spoken with 100 – 300+ individuals. During this period, times were good, attitudes were good, and optimism was the norm. We saw that in good times, around 40% – 50% of people have no interest in pursuing a new career. During 2008 – 2009, the percentage moved up to 70%+ who were scared to leave because of “LIFO” thinking (last in, first out in a layoff). However, over the past year, that percentage has dropped to around 5% -10%. Almost every candidate wants to listen to our opportunities. Of course, there are other factors, including average age of talent exceeding 50, qualifying for early retirement, looking for one last good career move, wanting to “hit that homerun” before retirement, etc. The talent pool has become tired of living with a fearful mentality and is willing to consider making a move.

Movement of talent tends to occur in waves. Once in motion, it tends to stay in motion.

Trends we are seeing: the top companies are recruiting selectively for “the best of the best.” These companies know that now is the time to pluck top talent at the most reasonable prices to be seen in quite some time. They are already (like the stock market that moves six months prior to economy) positioning themselves for growth, new business opportunities and potential acquisitions.

We see the wave starting…get ahead of it.