Talent Contagion, Disengagement, and Cathedrals of Hope

Talent Contagion

Talent, like money, is no longer flowing freely from one organization to another. In Europe today, we are seeing huge difficulties in persuading people of talent to move to new jobs. The reason is the same as it is in the finance sector, namely a lack of confidence.

Banks won’t lend money to other banks because they are fearful their loan recipients won’t be there tomorrow. Talent has the same concern. They think to themselves: “I am in a job, I have my contract of employment, I have my employment rights (admittedly more generous in Europe) and I know who I’m dealing with. Why take a chance and move to a new job.”

So, despite the worst recession in 50 years, we continue to experience profound skill shortages in many areas and a huge slow down/stagnation in the recruitment sector. That said, job boards are seeing growth, in-house recruiters are busy, and recruitment consultancies are seeing more business (or so they say). What’s it all mean? Finding talent is as tough as it ever was.


Every report you read highlights that we have a global workforce that is “disengaged.” These reports then go on to predict that we will see unprecedented levels of staff turnover when the global economies pick up and confidence returns.

Interestingly, organizations seem to be tuned into this situation. Indeed, we are now seeing high levels of investment in engagement strategies, employee learning and development and talent management programs. No one knows if these programs will have any effect whatsoever, but I suspect they won’t.

So, the question I would pose to job boards is: are we ready for the opportunity? How do we capitalize on the disengagement phenomenon to free up and provide our customers with the top talent they will need to grow and to fill the vacancies created by their own departing (and disengaged) employees?

Cathedrals of Hope

Back in 2007, I ran an event in Amsterdam called The Global Recruitment Conference. I spoke on the topic of job seeker expectations of job boards and described it as a “cathedral of hope. Here’s what I meant: In Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, we built cathedrals to give “hope to those who entered.” The soaring beauty of the buildings was meant to infuse each person with a sense of life’s possibility.

Centuries later, the builders of the Moscow Subway System and Grand Central Station in New York City sought to achieve a similar goal. They invested in those projects, in the case of the Moscow Subway, to show workers how the state could improve their lives and, in the case of Grand Central, to provide a setting that would give something back to the workers who travel through it every day.

Today, people come to a job board or a career portal with a similar expectation. They want to find a job and improve their lot in life or to advance their prospects and improve their employment opportunities. In either case they come to us with an expectation. They come to us for hope. The question I would pose, therefore, is: are we delivering on their expectations?


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