Employers are rightly concerned about today’s “War for Talent.” From high demand roles in short supply to finding people for physical jobs, good economic times create difficult talent shortages.
But what about those employees in high demand? When employers are scrambling, employees win, right?
Out of balance markets come with warning signs. The same is true in talent markets.
Take for example XYZ Company that needs software coders. Maybe XYZ is hiring because business is great. Maybe XYZ is hiring because it cannot keep good people. Maybe XYZ’s need is temporary and layoffs will follow in 12 months.
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Is XYZ a great place to work and to grow skills, or is it a sinkhole lurking around the corner on your career path? How can you know?
It is surprising what little pre-work people do before leaving a good job for a new one. Too much attention is placed on the gain (and removal of pain), while too little is focused on the give-backs and new pains.
My message is not risk avoidance. It is about knowing those risks and estimating the net rewards of a move. A change of employer is so much more than better compensation or escaping a poor manager.
At least two buckets of information deserve your time.
First, do you really understand all the economics of the move? Cash compensation should be straightforward but is sometimes clouded by what-if’s and bonuses. What is the track record on uncertain items? What is the next career step in this company? Is the company profitable? A good employer will show you.
Most employees do NOT understand their benefits package. It can have a big impact. Spend time asking good questions. Make an estimate of the total net change in all current and near-term economic components.
Second, what do you know about life at XYZ Company? No one would take a new role just because it is “cool,” would they? Well, maybe not just for that reason. We see people weigh the cool factor too much, and spend precious little time learning the realities.
The very best way to know what life is like at XYZ is to talk to several people who have done just that: current and former employees. Most companies prevent managers from saying too much about you to a prospective employer. But very few have restrictions on you calling their current or former employees. Call it a “reverse reference.”
In any reverse reference call, assume word may get back to HR. Be honest. Be respectful. Ask important questions about leadership, performance feedback, development opportunities, business prospects and compensation track record. Calling a current or former employee with LinkedIn connections to you is a good source. Both may be more willing to help if you explain you are calling to get a realistic sense of work life at XYZ. Filter out extreme comments and look for patterns.
Spend much more energy researching your next employer than a new car, smartphone or fantasy football team.
Bruce Clarke, J.D., is CEO of CAI, helping more than 1,000 North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability. For more information, visit www.capital.org.