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Home > Blog > Can Big Companies keep their talent?
Out of Our Minds
Friday, August 20, 2004 12:19 PM
Can Big Companies keep their talent?
Anita Sharpe on Business

When Roberta Chinsky Matuson looks back on her 20-year career in human resources, she would do at least one thing differently: 'I wish I had had my children while I was still a human resources director; I was totally clueless. I used to wonder, 'how can someone not get to work on time?' After I had kids, I saw that it was nearly impossible to get two kids out the door quickly.'

Today, as Matuson works with large and small companies on human resources strategies, she sees that little has changed in the flexibility department at Big Business. 'People in their mid-40s are just bailing out of Corporate America because it doesn't work for them anymore.'

That means that great talent is ripe for the picking for small firms that aren't afraid of flexibility. Meanwhile, she counsels large, rule-ridden corporations to bundle vacation, sick days, paid holidays, etc., into one big paid time-off bank 'and let employees be grown ups. It doesn't cost them anything.'

Admittedly, I have little experience in the huge-corporation arena; the Wall Street Journal was as big as it got for me. But as someone who has gotten fabulous work out of people largely by treating them as grown-ups who can make their own schedules and decisions, I'm mystified about why this seems to be such a problem at big companies.


2 comments

Mindwalker - 8/23/2004 2:59:05 PM
Anita, many large companies view them and their employees as 'one big family.' While this sounds nice from the outset, it also brings assumptions. One is that management is 'the parent' (with CEO as 'the father' or 'the mother') and rank-and-file employees are 'the children.' Even organizations that presume they are flat and don't have much of an org chart can fall into this trap.
Jenny - 8/20/2004 1:50:25 PM
I don't think the flexibility problem is limited to big companies. Smaller companies, especially those under 50 employees, often are even less flexible than their BigCo counterparts. But the issues that comprise the flexibility problem are the same regardless of company size. Treating employees like adults involves trust -- your boss has to trust you to show up, do your job, and get along. Flexible companies tend to recruit and hire people they can trust, spending a lot of interview time to determine trustworthiness, because they know not everyone can be trusted. Inflexible companies tend to give short shrift to their hiring process, spending as little time as possible, because they believe that no one can be trusted.

I suppose the difference between a flexible company and an inflexible company is the willingness to determine trustworthiness upfront versus managing untrustworthiness every day.

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