So far I’ve written about citybranding. We know that it is an emergent topic that involves large amounts of thought and practice in the field of communication. And we know that the need for cities to carefully brand themselves comes from the way capital and talent move in a globalised world. Today’s post is about the fact that, in my opinion, it all entails essential communicational changes inside companies.
The credit crunch may have slowed down that movement to a considerable extent, but before the crisis I was already amazed when seeing how talent flew from one place to another, from one company to another. Many friends and acquaintances of mine, single or married, took on the challenge of leaving Barcelona to work in the US, or changed job once every year on average. It wasn’t only people working in IT. The professional profiles ranged from that to business management, publishing, industrial production…
At some point I even wrote an editorial about it in our magazine Comunicas? (translation: Do You Communicate?)but through the lenses of quite a well-known book. You probably have read The Human Factor by Graham Greene. I asked the reader to allow me to spoil the reading by disclosing the ending. In the novel, a man finds himself before a dicotomy in his priorities. He has to chose between being completely faithful to his family or betraying his own country. The situation is especially meaningful because he works in the Foreign Office. His country is both his employer and his social community, all at once – and he betrays it for the sake of being true and loyal to his family.
Outstanding professionals are ultimately more loyal to their professional and personal priorities than to those of the company that employs them. Hence their continuous flight. As I said before, the credit crunch may have slowed down that movement to a considerable extent… but after the crisis, talent will fly again, and even more so.
These dynamics will be reinforced by two important factors. First, it is obvious that among the developed countries, economies emerging and moving away from the crisis will be the ones that best reward talent. On April 8 in Barcelona, European commissioner Androulla Vassiliou said that one in every three new jobs created in the EU between now and 2020 will be a highly-qualified working position.
Second, dynamics such as the competition among cities (read my blogposts on enjoyable Barcelona or pleasant Paris and their governments’ will to boost a knowledge-based economy) will give further reasons for outstanding professionals to fly and give new places a try.
The answer to that phenomenon or, say, to the risk of excellent professionals leaving our companies, lies in the area of internal communication. Managing people means being aware of what their professional concerns and challenges are, and it even means having a glimpse at what those concerns and challenges are at the personal stage. Graham Greene’s book has it that the mismatch between those issues is the reason for the flight, meaning the escape, of the novel’s main characters.
I hear, for instance, that 70% of women end up leaving their professional area of expertise between the age of 30 and 40. The main reason is maternity. Lack of corporate planning and support force them abandon the boat after their maternity leave: an unbearable loss of talent which costs a fortune to both employers and employees. Fortunately initiatives such as maternity coaching are becoming more frequent and allow a ‘maternity transition’ that avoids both business and career disruption.
So we’re talking about a cultural change in business organizations that the Anglo-Saxon economies have addressed a lot more than we have in Europe and in Spain. Generally, Human Resource departments have transformed themselves from being a mere administrative unit to assessing each department leader for the sake of intellectual and human capital management…
…but have they, really? That’s what the usual quote from Dave Ulrich is all about: “HR must give value”. It was a need in the field of internal communication before the crisis, but it will especially make a difference after the credit crunch.