Our rock stars arenít like your rock stars

Take a look at this 2009 global branding campaign from Intel, the Silicon innovator and computer chipmaker, using the theme “Sponsors of Tomorrow”.

In a series of commercials, Intel made a very clear ‘competitive differentiation’ statement based on the high-performance (rock star) capabilities of their staff.  Apart from promoting their brand, the commercial creates high appeal for attracting the ‘best-of-the-best’ emerging graduate talent as well as experienced IT professionals.

Fast-forward to the present time to read local Australian and New Zealand business news headlines in the past month featuring comments such as: -

“When CEOs were asked which of three issues were most likely to keep them up at night, ‘sourcing and retaining skilled staff’ was selected by almost 50 per cent.”

“Australian CIOs faced by dual challenge: staff acquisition and retention.”

“91 per cent of Australian CIOs find it challenging to source qualified IT professionals — while conversely, 84 per cent are concerned about losing their top IT staff to competitors.”

“Increased investment and further initiatives in both technology and non-technology businesses have however compounded a talent shortage, leaving companies vying for top IT talent”.

Weren’t there similar headline stories in 2009 and every year since? Not much has changed. So why do some ‘rock stars’ remain with a single company like Intel?

Let’s say there is a cluster of 10 specialised people working at their respective office cubicles – they each collaborate with their neighbours for innovative ideas and learning opportunities. They are all high-performing rock stars, and have worked together for over 18 months. This is an ideal environment for talent to grow, engage, and collaborate.  Now let’s imagine this group of high-performers has new members joining their group in a period of rapid transformational growth linked to any combination of: new client projects, new product development, geographic expansion, or mergers and acquisitions. What can happen?

Well, to support the pace of organisational change, new resources are essential. This has resulted in the recruitment of people who are ‘not-yet-rock-stars’ and others who are ‘good-rock-star-support-acts’, yet don’t have all the ‘rock star’ elements.

And herein lays a possible ‘rock star’ retention problem. If the original ‘rock star’ team starts to change its office ‘neighbourhood’ network with the inclusion of new ‘not-yet-rock-stars’ and ‘ good-rock-star-support acts’, then the original ‘rock stars’ are no longer closely aligned and matched to their former ‘rock star’ peers. Recent ‘peer-effect’ modelling by the University of Michigan, reveal that individuals will make decisions to remain or leave their work ‘neighbourhood’ if the ratio of ‘rock stars’ to ‘non-rock stars’ changes to less than 3:7.  This peer-effect ratio becomes a vital career decision threshold and trigger point for the rock star. If organisations fail therefore to focus on maintaining an optimal balance between high performing individuals and other talent, then organisational retention rates will decline and the ability to attract new high-performers will also diminish.   

Most companies will try to retain their many ‘rock stars’ and this is clearly top of mind for many CEOs and CIOs from the above press headlines. As Bruce Springsteen said, ‘rock stars are people who talk about a dream, and try to make it real’.

For information on how Peoplogica can assist with ‘rock star’ attraction and selection to support transformational growth, please contact us at 02-9936-9000 or info@peoplogica.com .    

To enjoy another Intel ‘talent’ commercial click here .