It was just 12 months or so ago when human resource professionals and line managers were busy preparing lists of staff who they intended to lay-off. All over the globe, employees were dreading that telephone call asking them to go upstairs to a meeting room.
And lists are once again being drawn up now, but this time, staff will be only too happy to feature on them. Just short of a year after the financial crisis rocked the markets, financial institutions are making money again. And despite setbacks like the possible Dubai World loan default, the mood going into 2010 is generally bullish. All of a sudden, firms are now looking to beef up headcount, and, even more importantly, are keen to ensure that they do not lose their own key staff to rivals.
One banker told Here Is The City: 'Most firms don't want to be in a position where they are forced to respond to the resignation of a key staff member. No-one wants to be on the back foot anymore. The smart organisations are trying to get ahead of the game, and are identifying those staff they can't afford to lose, snuggling up to them and trying to make them feel loved'.
An HR professional at a top US investment bank told us: 'Although most firms will be more aggressive on the hiring front next year, no-one is prepared to sit back and watch top talent already on board walk out the door. We are being much more pro-active about retention now'.
And it's not just about increasing base salaries and giving key staff promotions. 'It's also about the little things', our HR professional told us, 'Encouraging line managers to talk more often to key staff, and keeping them in the loop about plans and developments at the firm is so important. We are making serious efforts to lock key staff in emotionally, as well as financially'.
Jeffrey Kamada, from Here Is The City Careers IT, said: 'It does look like the financial crisis has had a positive impact on the way that firms are managing headcount. In the old days, they seem to have accepted that key staff would move on, but now they are being much more forward-thinking in the way they go about retaining personnel vital to their continued success'.
But what about the foot soldiers, the bulk of headcount who come in each day and do a decent job, yet remain generally unnoticed ? 'Unless you are a star in the making', our banker told us, 'You are not gonna get much loving. Firms still accept that, especially after tough times, many of their support staff will move on. In fact, in certain circumstances, they encourage this, as it provides an opportunity to upgrade and get new ideas and experience into the organisation'.