Where have all the people gone…?

Here’s an email I recently sent to my Houston-based clients. I’m adapting it for a nationwide article to the rest of my clients as well. Though it sounds regional (and in an extreme way, it is), the fact is that competent candidates are getting harder and harder to source nationwide.

More jobs were created in Houston between January 2006 and January 2007 than in any other metropolitan area in the nation, new figures show.

So, that’s great, right?? Maybe yes, maybe no…

A recent article shows Houston outpacing the nation in job creation, posting a 4.4% growth over 2006 (almost 250K new jobs), versus the nation’s ~1%. National unemployment is around 4.5%, while Houston’s is closer to 4.3% and DFW around 4.7%. Houston’s unemployment dropped almost 20% from 2007’s 5.4%.

Hardly 10 years ago, economists called a 6% unemployment rate “full employment.”

250,000 new jobs created in 12 months. These, of course, are in addition to jobs created through death, disability, retirement, and regular attrition/turnover. Business Services grew by almost 50,000 jobs, and Construction by almost 30,000.

Houston remains in the top 5 metropolitan areas for per-capita adjusted personal income.

What does this mean? It means we’re in a growing, vibrant, local economy. Certainly better than the alternatives, yet we cannot ignore how difficult this makes our efforts to source, recruit and retain competent talent. The competition for a dwindling pool of candidates is fiercer today than ever before.

What to do? Crying won’t help; begging is only marginally effective; whining is out, since there’s no unaffected peers with which to whine. Just for starters, I have 3 suggestions:

1. Create a longer-term talent management plan, including hiring, retention, and succession. Don’t wait until it’s operationally critical to start thinking about a new fill, replacement, or promotion.

2. Grow what you’ve got. If you spend the time, effort, and resources to hire and keep them, for heaven’s sake go the distance and develop them into a higher, better use for the organization.

3. Lead your managers, and make sure they have a long-term focus on talent management & development. You simply don’t have room anymore for the rogue manager that delivers performance while leaving a trail of bodies in his or her wake. Make them personally accountable for talent management within their responsibilities.

Not a do-all, end-all, but a start. This situation will continue for at least a couple more years, and may be our way of life for decades to come.

Let me know if I can help in any way.

Warm Regards,


So, what do we do?? Throwing our arms up and complaining are probably not conducive to career advancement or professional success — many operational managers don’t yet “get’ the severity of the candidate problem.

Is there any answer except cussin’, commiseratin’, and drinkin’??

(Please feel free to respond to that question — use the “Ask Kevin” link on the left side of this page. I’ll publish any responses that look good for all to see…)


Kevin Berchelmann

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